Monday, July 26, 2010

In an mmmbop, they're gone. (But now, they're back).

I got to do something I haven’t done in a looooong time Friday night (the extra o’s are to emphasize exactly how long it’s been): I found myself awake, slightly drunk and in front of a television with a cable package that features VH1 at three in the morning. This, of course, provided me the opportunity to take in this week’s VH1 Top 20 Countdown, a countdown that has seen more hosts than the Game Show Network.

This is important because it allowed me to see the Hanson video for “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’” for the first time in a long time. Because of this, as I traveled over the weekend, I made sure the band’s latest album, Shout It Out, was by my side as I drove down whatever road I happened to be on. Very, very manly, I know.

But it’s just so damn good. The music is happy. It’s got a little bit of soul to it. The sound is pure pop, and the kids’ voices have all matured (we think). Sprinkle in a horn section here and there, a few songs about how damaging a romantic break-up can be, and what you have is a serious candidate for Album of the Year. Or, well, to me, at least.

What adds to the album’s goodness is knowing that those dudes still make music. We’ve never seen them caught up in any type of scandal. They are all married, now. This is something like their 93rd record. None of them opted for a solo career. And, most importantly, they bring a glance back to what will end up being the last golden age of pop music that dominated the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

The other acts that shared the radio space with them around that time simply proved to lack substance and staying power, while these kids were taking time to hone their skills. Think about it. The Backstreet Boys? Sure they are still at least trying to have a music career, albeit with only four members, but did you honestly know that they released an album last year? (Side: Once interviewed A.J. for a piece I was working on and the entire experience couldn’t have gone any worse. It was a few days after Brian came down with the Swine Flu, and he happened to be sick as well. Oh, and so was I. Each question turned into us complaining to each other about what it’s like being sick. The piece ended up being awful.) ‘NSYNC? Remove Justin Timberlake from that equation and what you have is a bunch of guys who have absolutely no idea what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. Besides, they could never churn out anything better than “Pop,” so why try? 98 Degrees? Wait. Who?

Yes, I know these comparisons are boy band heavy, but remember, that’s what Hanson essentially was when “MMMBop” first hit. Plus, they were young. And heartthrob-y. You can’t name a 15 minute span of radio between 1997 and 2003 when you didn’t either hear any of the aforementioned groups, Savage Garden or Britney Spears. It was all pop, all the time, regardless of if you played your own instruments or not (which, I remember thinking it was possible none of Hanson actually did at the time, anyways).

So what’s my point? Well, Hanson wins, and they made it look easy by simply sticking to the book. They slowly got better at what they wanted to do for a living, they kept their respective lives in check, and seemed to have decided early on that they didn’t really care if it all went away tomorrow (which it did) by continuing to make music today. It still might not be completely cool to be a fan of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, group, but to say you don’t respect them would be a bit unfair. Besides, I could post this video every day for the next six months and never get sick of it…

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