Anthem – Past What is Possible
At the start of Re Made in America, – the documentary that accompanies Anthem – Hanson are seen discussing the lyrics and arrangement of the song Tonight.
Zac Hanson says “push past what’s possible… jump into the place that’s considered No Man’s Land and dream and do it …but if people hear it the way it’s written …it’s sort of like … go for it all and then go further …push the enemy to the wall …and then push him out of the ring…”
Isaac responds with, “I just know how much people miss in lyrics sometimes.”
Taylor then comments that “This is not a song that is like going to be the song that people don’t miss some lyrics on.”
The scene that follows wrestles with the way that the lines of this song are shared among the band for best effect.
And the song continues as the story moves through the tensions experienced by the band and into their resolution to continue to work together and complete Anthem; pushing themselves past what’s possible and into a new place.
The interest here is in the suggestion that Hanson invest deeply in the lyrics of their songs and that while the listener will catch and interpret them to an extent; it may be inevitable that some references and connections go unseen.
Attempting to offer any analysis of the themes running through Hanson lyrics is an ambitious challenge.
The temptation to apply personal interpretation is strong and possibly misguided.
However there are themes that appear regularly in their songs.
From This Time Around, through Strong Enough to Break, Great Divide, The Walk, In a Way, Use Me Up and Waiting for This, Hanson have expressed their intense belief in a life lived to the full, whatever that might mean for individuals, wherever they are and whoever they are.
Yet from the very beginning, Anthem has seemed to capture or express a concept in a way that is different to Hanson’s previous records.
Hanson have mentioned many times that this record has “a harder edge”, “a sense of fight” and “an intangible intensity”, which are right up front. Certainly the opening bars of Fired Up leave no room to argue with that.
In an earlier edition of Tulsa Times it was suggested that the book Anthem by Ayn Rand might hold a key to understanding some of the intricacies of Hanson album 6.
It was a tentative suggestion at the time, but one that stands revisiting – especially as the music is more familiar now and the tour is taking off.
If you are interested in making connections and looking for some possible deeper meaning – then this short story is worth a few hours of your time – for that is all it will take to read.
This 80 page dystopian tale is set in a world where the free will of the individual has been subjugated to the needs of the community. The life of the collective has priority and the committee rules.
But in the midst of this society, where individual experience and capacity to reason count for nothing, one young man aged 21, stumbles across the wisdom of a previous age and he realises that there is an alternative way to live.
His experiences and his desire to value them, push him past what is possible, to a fullness of life and to questioning the rules he has always lived by.
At first he tries to share his discoveries for the benefit of others, but the challenge is too much for those in authority and so he leaves everything behind and walks into his own No Man’s Land – The Uncharted Forest – the only place he can go.
Here he discovers the raw beauty of the senses, love and the freedom to choose.
“Ultimately the story is about finding freedom as an individual in a collective world, where originality is perceived as dangerous. It is about discovery, the nature and power of self belief and commitment to a different sort of future”.
Themes of fire, light, freedom, responsibility, love, wonder and genuine compassion for others are themes throughout this story.
Similar themes appear in the music of Anthem and the songs on Anthem continue to explore the things that Hanson care about.
Hanson have always sung their own song, followed their own inclinations and created their own visions.
They have never bowed to the committee, even when they had much to lose.
This stubborn determination to be true to their experiences has given their music tremendous authenticity – even to the point of almost not making music for this album.
That decision and the music that emerged from a reunited Hanson have a clarity and edge that are unique.
Not only do Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson have an independent approach to music making, they have a respect for each other as individuals that makes it possible for difference and the associated tensions to be highly creative.
As individual people and artists, they arrive at things differently, look at things from different perspectives and yet they make music which does justice to the talents of each – which has a sense of unity but never compromise.
The reality of singing along with Hanson on tour, the lyrics and rhythm, melody and harmony, the energy and fight of resilient music is set to excite established fans and capture new ones.
And many roads across the US, Europe and the rest of the world, will carry that inspiration like veins – containing the beating pulse of Anthem – and an experience of life lived to the full.
A braver person than myself might suggest direct connections between messages in songs and themes in a book, but if two pieces of unrelated artistic endeavour ever had the power to compliment each other, I think that Anthem the album and Anthem the novel could do it.