Hanson: Power-Pop and “MMMBop,” 11 Years Later
Isaac, Zac and Taylor Hanson
Isaac Hanson and his younger brothers, Taylor and Zac, are men unstuck in time. It doesn’t mean that they choose to live in their ’90s pop-idol past, but their reference points are from another era. And it all comes down to the Time-Life Music collection of classic rock ‘n’ roll that the boys constantly played before they formed Hanson and tipped over the pop world with “MMMBop.”
Over a decade after the Jackson 5-like “MMMBop” and “Where’s the Love” bounced through pre-teens’ personal soundtracks, those classic R&B artists, doo-wop vocal groups and rock ‘n’ roll pioneers remain imprinted in Hanson’s DNA. In 2008, it’s as if these men in their 20s started out in 1956 and lived every musical transformation that followed in the next 15 years: Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, girl groups, the Beatles and the singer-songwriter boom that was launched by James Taylor and Elton John.
“I joke that we’re not dissimilar to a rock band in the ’70s,” said Isaac Hanson, who will perform with his brothers at 7:30 tonight at the Toyota Stage at the Oklahoma State Fair.
“I kind of feel like every single time we sit down and play with one another we rediscover how elemental it (the Time-Life collection) was, and how elemental it still is. You can’t get away from the fact that what we were listening to was two minutes of straight-to-the-hook rock ‘n’ roll,” he said. “It was the birth of modern music in many ways. It helped us hone what we thought was a good song and helped us understand what song structure was all about at an early part of our lives.”
That knowledge served Hanson well when 1997′s “Middle of Nowhere” sold 10 million copies worldwide and made them, at least for a while, superstars. It also kept them steady when the music business ripped the rug out from under them. When their label, Mercury Records, was folded into Island Def Jam during the spate of mergers that resulted in the Universal Music Group, Hanson soon found itself without the leadership of the core people who helped shepherd “Middle of Nowhere.”
Compounding their problems was the state of pop music as Britney Spears, ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys took over not just radio, but most record executives’ idea of how Hanson should progress. Isaac, Taylor and Zac weren’t ready to grow sculpted facial hair and do synchronized dance moves in videos.
“I certainly feel like where we were going musically was not where pop culture was going,” said Isaac Hanson, now 27. “As much as we were very proud of being a pop band, I know we never felt like we fit into that category. We felt like, first and foremost, we were songwriters. That was a big difference between us and a lot of things that happened at that point.”
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