Sit down, my babies – I’m going to tell you a story.
Back in 2008, I was at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA on the night that the Phillies would end up clinching the World Series title. A dangerous day to be out in that city for sure, what with the local sports fans’ penchant for setting cars on fire. But no matter. I was there to see the band I’ve loved since I was but a preteen – live. For the first time. Ever.
Between the opening band and the main act, two couples in their early 20s walked in. These dudes were bros to the max, and completely decked out in Phillies gear. They’d almost certainly pounded a few beers already. As they walked to their seats two rows in front of us, the guys would periodically get into someone’s face and ironically yell, “HANSON, YEAH!” My friend Becky and I were rolling our eyes, sure that these morons were about to ruin the night for everyone. Their girlfriends clearly dragged them here, when they’d much rather be in a bar, covered in wing sauce and watching the game.
And then, something magical happened. The lights dimmed. The band walked out. The music started. Taylor Hanson started singing.
And so did the bros.
For the next two hours, our dudes sang every word of every song from Taylor, Isaac, and Zac Hanson’s flawless, career-spanning set. They twirled their girlfriends and high-fived strangers. They were having the TIME of their LIVES. My heart grew 3 sizes that day.
If you want to see my head explode, go ahead and talk shit on my favorite band. My desert island band. I mean, I will get UGLY.
Because 99.9999% of the people who rag on Hanson have zero knowledge of their career after “Mmmbop.” Yep, they were kids. Sure, they had long, straw-blond hair. And, unfortunately yes, their first videos featured them dancing in a field of giant sunflowers.
But they grew up, just like you. Would you like public opinion of you to have stopped evolving after you turned 13? Because I can call your mom and dig up some photos. Didn’t think so.
But what’s so FANTASTIC about Hanson, is that they’re proud of their history as a band. And thus, do not give one iota of a fuck what you think. Since my first show in 2008, I’ve been to half a dozen more, and they’ve played their breakout hit at every single one. (And they kill it.) When I was wearing out my Middle of Nowhere album back in the day, I never dreamed that 17 years later, I’d be standing in a venue, shoulder to shoulder with other fans, singing along to “Where’s the Love?” live. We leave so many things behind when we grow up. And it sucks. But Hanson has always honored their fans’ relationship to their music. We’re privileged that they haven’t internalized all the baseless ridicule they’ve had to deal with into some artist ego bullshit.
I’m not saying that they’re living in the past. Hardly. Since Middle of Nowhere, Hanson has released four more studio albums, a Christmas album, three live discs, and five EPs.
They were the subject of a documentary called Strong Enough to Break, about their decision to cut ties with their label to self-release and documented the recording process of The Walk with a serial podcast. They performed and recorded 5of5 – a concert series where they play their five studio albums over five consecutive nights. For years, Hanson has been raising funds for aid groups in Africa through merchandise, music, and a one-mile walk the band would take with their fans before every show on “The Walk Tour.” They put on the most fun shows, livestream their backstage antics, and design the best and most original band merch ever. (Anyone for a game of Hansonopoly?) They’re constantly innovating and looking for new ways to entertain and connect with their fans. They’ve also produced in, ahem, other areas and have a total of roughly 47 children between them. And hello, they’re gorgeous.
And they know their way around a Taylor Swift cover:
This is the career I wish for every recovering teen idol: artistic freedom, a solid, passionate fanbase, and the ability to support yourself as a musician without having to fear being trampled to death by little girls. Turns out it’s those Philly bros you gotta look out for.