Hanson Is Cool. . . Seriously, Part One
2 June 2010
By Brenna Chase
To celebrate the upcoming release of Hanson’s newest album, Shout It Out, and to commemorate their recent “5 For 5″ concerts, here is part one of our series on Hanson. Yes, Hanson.
Unless you are a Hanson fan, you may not be aware of these simple facts:
1. Hanson is still alive.
2. All three of them are of the male gender.
3. They are still together as a band
Allow me to clear this up for you. Yes, Hanson is very much alive and writing and performing songs—successfully enough, in fact, to make a living from it. Though you may assume they went out of style back in 1998 (if they were ever really “in style” at all), their new material is actually better than most of today’s mainstream pop music.
While most of the millions of people who bought their first release stopped caring over a decade ago, Isaac, Taylor, and Zac have been steadfastly honing their skills as songwriters, performers, and entrepreneurs. They’ve been consistently putting out genuine, pleasing pop music at the independent level—music praised by fans and critics alike—even if their MTV and radio glory days are long over.
These efforts have culminated into their most recent (and arguably best) recent album Shout It Out. Take it from someone who didn’t always believe—it’s time for the rest of the world to start paying attention to Hanson.
You probably pretend you don’t know their names, so let me refresh your memory. The most recognizable—and the most often mistaken for a girl—is Taylor. He looks like David Cassidy and Kurt Cobain, sounds like a cross between Bono and Thom Yorke, and dresses like a metro-sexual. Taylor writes perfectly catchy hooks and has the strongest voice, so it’s his lead vocals and melodies that make up the most recognizable “Hanson” sound. His piano skills are slightly better than average and the lyrics to his usually sappy-sweet, generic love songs are often indecipherable, but he gets an A for effort and an A+ for charm.
Zac, the drummer and the youngest of the three, used to be the spunky, annoying 11-year-old whose prepubescent falsetto provided the high harmonies in the band’s early days of fame. He’s since grown up (and cut his hair) to become an impressive songwriter and percussionist and a handsome guy. Zac has developed into a major creative force in the band’s later years and sings more lead as he writes more (impressive) songs on his own and, luckily enough, he’s still got the pipes to sing the high harmonies.
The oldest, Isaac, is the most awkward of the bunch. His guitar solos need some (okay, a lot of) work, but his solid rhythm guitar playing and evident man-love for Chuck Berry bring a nice rock and roll flavor to the bubblegum-sweet Hanson sound.
Separately, they’re each a bit corny, and they’ve got their apparent weaknesses, but together they blend into this unyielding dynamic of an indescribable something else. For those who aren’t fans and have yet to understand the magic of Hanson, it’s best to study the parts that form their ineffable whole.
Isaac, Taylor, and Zac are weird. Not like Jim Morrison or Marilyn Manson or Lady Gaga, just. . . Hanson weird. The oddity began when they formed their own cheery Jackson-5-meets-Partridge-Family band in the middle of the 90s post-grunge era, and it’s never really stopped. They’re a cheery family who lives, works, and plays in their own bubble separated from the rest of the cynical modern world.
The brothers are the oldest of seven children, all of whom were born, raised, and home-schooled in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the early days, when they took their multi-platinum debut album on the road and played to theaters full of thousands of screaming girls, they also took their entire family with them. Their touring entourage included their four young and non-famous siblings, their mother Diana, and their father/behind-the-scenes manager, Walker.
The entourage soon grew in size when Taylor and his girlfriend married when they were both 19 and had a child that same year—a bit of a shock to the outside world’s perception of the Hanson’s as an upstanding, conservative unit. The trend continued, with Zac marrying at age 20, and then Isaac marrying last before he became an old maid at the withered age of 25. They’ve since continued to have children with their wives, all of whom are pretty brunettes from the South. Now ages 29, 27, and 24, Isaac, Taylor, and Zac have a total of seven children among them. . . so far. And they all still travel together. In a few years, their children will start to reproduce and they will still tour as a pack of 50 Hanson’s.
Hanson seems to follow their own paradoxical creed, though I’m still not quite sure what the creed is. As if the fact that the band agreed to go on Howard Stern back in 2007 isn’t unusual in itself, Taylor and Zac admitted on the air that they were virgins before they met their wives. I have also spotted two nuns in the VIP section reserved for friends and family at a recent concert, sitting motionless beside the Hanson wives while hundreds of aroused young women screamed about the sexiness of their husbands and Taylor instructed everyone to “shake your asses!” Nuns, people! It’s not unlike an X-Files episode: they may be aliens who travel in pods with their wholesome procreating life-mates and provide their followers with pop music that went out of style over a decade ago.
So Hanson has always lived the antithesis of the pop/rock star lifestyle. They’ve experienced years of super stardom before they even hit puberty, had trillions of screaming female fans reminiscent of Beatlemania accompanied by lots of public ridicule, followed by intense periods of frustration and obscurity, all of which they endured without any substance abuse or arrests.
The Hanson’s are genuine and far from being anything close to egotistical assholes. They’ve constructed their own levelheaded family compound for themselves while they continue to make music and tour, with thousands of now twenty-something female fans still following and worshiping them as gods. If nothing else, take a second look at the band as a fascinating psychological case study. They’re so overly normal, they’re abnormal.