MTV Asia: Underneath

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Underneath (Sony)

Choice Cut : “Strong Enough To Break,” “Dancin’ In The Wind,” “Lost Without Each Other,” “Penny And Me,” “When You’re Gone”

Sounds Like: Hanson are known for their vibrant pop bounce and catchy melodies, and their debut hit “MMMBop” paved the way for their overnight success in the ’90s. Hanson’s music was in stark contrast to the doom and grunge of mainstream rock, and perhaps it was for this reason that the public so welcomed them.

You May Have Heard: Hanson’s musical career was based on the singing family tradition, from the Jackson 5 in the ’60s and the Partridge Family in the ’70s, to the sisters-cousins in Destiny’s Child. Hanson are Isaac Hanson (guitar), Taylor Hanson (lead vocals and keyboards), and Zac Hanson (drummer) — brothers who grew up in their Tulsa home singing ’50s and ’60s rock, R&B standards, and gospel songs around the family dinner table. The trio was constantly performing at schools, local festivals, and around their hometown. In 1992, with the help of their manager, they started shopping for a record deal. The next three years were disappointing as they were rejected by label after label. Undeterred, the brothers decided to independently release the album Boomerang in 1995, which revealed their knack for slick pop. Following this, Hanson began sharpening their musical skills, which aided their songwriting considerably. The single “MMMBop” was a testament to Hanson’s new hip-hop and soul-influenced sound, and the rest is history.

We Fancy: After Hanson’s initial success, their follow-up This Time Around, released in 2000, failed to chalk up any big hits despite a stronger and more defined sound. Shortly after, Hanson were dropped by their label, but their resolve did not falter. Now, Hanson’s perseverance has paid off with Underneath, which reveals their maturity. Opening track “Strong Enough To Break” isn’t a cracker but states their intention clearly — they are here to stay. “Dancin’ In The Wind” and “Lost Without Each Other” are good-time rock tracks with sing-along hooks. “Penny And Me” and “When You’re Gone” ride the roots-rock trail with tales of heartbreak. The final hidden track, a sweet little ditty with shades of Brian Wilson, says that the brothers have bounced back.

We’re Not Sure About: Underneath is unapologetically polished rock-pop. Perhaps if it had been a little dirtier, the songs would have a stronger grounding. However, that wouldn’t have been the Hanson sound.

Verdict: The brothers are on the right path, and they have always been since their irresistibly bouncy debut. They haven’t crafted that essential album yet, but for now, Underneath will do just fine.

— Joe Ng

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