I’ve had the privilege to watch Hanson twice in my life. The first time was just last year at the House of Blues in Anaheim on their 25th Celebration Tour. I was eight months pregnant and still having “morning” sickness, but I promised myself and swore to others I would attend no matter what.
I also managed to throw up and was moved to the handicap section. Although I was much farther away than my heart imagined, I was still transformed to a giddy school girl admiring her musical crushes, screaming and dancing when I could.
The second time was just this past October at The Greek Theatre in Los Angles as I was blessed by my sister with tickets. I didn’t know at that time just what String Theory was about, but I knew of the added symphony. I had such an amazing time at this concert and being able to see String Theory performed live was something special. I was truly able to appreciate the musical arrangements and the power of the symphony.
Not to get off topic, but I was ridiculed growing up for being the only girl at my school who liked the band of brothers with the long blonde hair – because in the 90’s long hair was rare? Coming from a Hanson fan of 23 years, I have not only watched them grow up, but I grew up right along with them. Most bands don’t last five years. Most bands don’t truly find themselves. Hanson continues to devote themselves to their craft, executed by their love and talent.
Fittingly so, Hanson embarked on a new journey this year. String Theory is a story about Hanson told by the brothers through their own songs. The album is a mixture of old songs we all love from various albums, as well as new songs specifically written for this vision, played with a symphony arranged by Academy Award Winner David Campbell. The album is not only the musical journey of achievement as a band, but also shows the personal growth of each member from boy to man.
The first song “Reaching For The Sky (Part 1)” gives us an introduction immediately to the theme of this first half, what I have deemed as the dream. Broken into two parts, the album cleverly separates these two halves with each part of RFTS — “There’s a boy I used to know / He was always searching high and low / Others looked and wondered why / He said ‘I am reaching for the sky.’” This song provides the background story to the aspirations the younger musicians had at a very young age. It goes on to suggest that the boys may have been discouraged on having such high expectations in achieving their dreams.
This importance of this may stem from their frustration with record labels. Hanson eventually was discovered and originally signed with Mercury Records, where they released Middle of Nowhere on May 6, 1997 (us Hanson fans know this as Hanson Day) and sold 10 million copies worldwide, yet merging with Island Def Jam added to their departure to pursue creative freedom. So, it’s fitting that songs off this album — “Where’s the Love?” “Mmmbop” and “Yearbook” — were chosen to resurface for String Theory.
Having heard these songs 20 some years ago, I appreciate them on a different level. There’s the nostalgic factor taking me back to when I was a kid, listening to Hanson with my cousin, and watching them on TRL. These songs are milestone achievements in Hanson’s career and continue to stand the test of time.
“Siren Call” and “Me Myself And I” are notably stronger tracks chosen to conclude the first half of the album. “Siren Call” describes a struggle to be free: “Deep down I know that you’re troubled / Living underneath the weight, your chains, your strain.” There’s a determination in this song to survive and stay true to their music, despite the static noise. Whereas, “Me Myself And I,” the last song for the first half, is the departure: “It must be the end of the road / It must be the end of you and I / And forever too.” Personally, and musically, this further touches on the decision to leave their record company, reassuring they would continue to strive and have the freedom they sought.
“Reaching for the Sky (Part 2)” is the second half to String Theory. This song is introducing us to the young men of Hanson, and what I have deemed as the fight: “As the boy grew to a man, he built tall ladders to ascend.” What has been a constant in this entire album is the will Hanson has stated in each song to never give up.
“This Time Around,” appropriately off the band’s second album with Island Def Jam (formerly Mercury records), soon follows RFTS and the second half. “This Time Around” was the title track in which we were all introduced to a noticeably grown-up version of Hanson, not the young boys who sang the bubble-gum pop on Middle of Nowhere, and for the Hanson fans who remember, this was the debut of the guys’ haircuts.
The track marked a change for Hanson. The tone of the entire album was a shift from pop to rock, as well as a lyrical maturity to each song, as heard on a personal favorite Hanson song, “Save Me.”
The second half does show a stronger force with the song selection. The determination to continue to succeed highlighted by songs such as “You Can’t Stop Us” and “No Rest For The Weary.” Questioning how to proceed as a band was brought to my attention on “What Are We Fighting For,” “How Do We Go On,” “Breaktown,” and “Are You Ready to Quit?”
As the story goes, Hanson soon departed with Island Def jam. “What Are We Fighting For” describes the doubt the band faced, questioning this decision, and in my opinion, questioning how to proceed together as a band. In “Breaktown,” there is a shift from doubt to a dose of encouragement; a pep talk Hanson gave to and from themselves.
And then 3CG Records (3 Car Garage) was born. Taking it’s name from reference to the building the band used as a recording studio, and named after the band’s compilation album, Hanson became independent.
The final three songs on the album is the happy ending to the story. In “I Was Born” (which I have dubbed my sons anthem in life), we hear such a positive message of the light at the end of the tunnel for our trio. The indication that even with the sacrifice and the hard times they were faced with, they kept the faith in their dreams, wrapping it all up with the album’s final track, “Tonight.”
Hanson has proven victorious in this story. They remained true to their dream and continued to push through even as obstacles were thrown at them. The message to young hopefuls is to continue to aspire for more: reach for the sky and fight for what you believe in.
There’s a brilliance in the lyrics on the album. The versions of old songs on this album are seen entirely differently now. That fact that these songs are from decades ago to be used to tell their story as something new can only be described as genius.
Hanson’s ever evolving story provides such inspiration to others with a dream, all in song. The idea that as musicians these brothers had a journey. A journey that doesn’t stop, and is always a process to push yourself to another level.
I have admired Hanson for a long time. I say wholeheartedly, I am a fan and truly love the music they have made and will continue to make.