Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can't You See That I'm Stuck Here Underneath

From the first 2 Hanson albums, i gathered that we would be seeing something different every time they recorded a new album.  And I was right.  But in the years between This Time Around (2000) and Underneath (2004), a lot more changed than any of us expected.  For one, Mercury Records/Island Records/ Island Def Jam Records was trying to make the band something they were not.  As we all saw years later in their documentary "Strong Enough to Break", they struggled trying to find a balance between contractually fulfilling their obligations with the record label and making the music they loved and maintaining their creative freedom.  This band had been together making music longer than these record label execs had been in the music industry, and from what we have seen in the last ten years, all they really cared about was making money.  We all witnessed the struggles they went through to remain true to their art, and as much as we hated to wait for new music, i honestly say we all agree were glad they did.  These years were also the years when napster and music downloads really became a part of the mainstream music world.  I know it was wrong, but i loved listening to the unreleased Hanson music that leaked.  Yea, some of it wasnt great, but for the most part, it was phenomenal and it really made me a bigger fan; if this is the music they rejected to make their albums, one can only imagine what we can expect from their records.  So in 2004, Underneath was released.  I remember listening to it on my walkmen nonstop for about 3 weeks until i knew every song and digested every harmony.  This album had a little bit of everything.  The happy pop rock from "Penny and Me" and the truly dramatic (in a good way) ballads like Underneath and Broken Angel.  One song that has stuck with me from this album is Believe.  We all go through tough times and there are always various things that help us through them, and this song was truly inspiring.  there really is more to life than depression and hard times.  If anyone knew that, it was Hanson.  Underneath was released on Hanson's independent label 3CG Records (hey Hanson, if you need artists, you know where to reach me :)) and went on to become the most successful self-released record of all time; it debuted at #1 on the top independent albums chart! The band continued touring non-stop promoting the new music. I was still in high school and unable to drive myself the 3 hours down to LA to see a show so i had to follow their tour online via what other fans would talk about.  although i wasnt happy about it, i had to deal with it.  That September 2004, Hanson performed on the sun dial at Columbia University, and really triggered my desire to go there.  I've never told anyone that.  I had already wanted to go, i had visited the school, was impressed with their academics and location, but this one event (which happened before i even set foot through the doors) really made my decision.  So in the fall of 2005, I moved to New York City to attend Columbia University and that is where my Homeless for Hanson adventure began.

Friday, December 10, 2010

We're on our way this time around

The post Albertane Tour years were the turning point in Hanson's career and in the lives of their fans.  There was a period of time before This Time Around came out where the music business began to change.  The boy band epidemic really took off all over the world.  We have the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, 98degrees, Five, Westlife, Boyzone, No Authority, really, the list goes on and on. We had the Britney Spears' and Christina Aguilera's and we had the beginning of the downfall of hip hop (at least in terms of authenticity and originality).  The music business became very watered down with happy pop music.  As Isaac, Taylor, and Zac continued growing as artists, the music industry was stagnant.  I don't think anyone was ready for their creativity.  So in 2000, This Time Around was released.  In my mind, this album as a significant change from Middle Of Nowhere.  Obviously at 11, 13, and 16, writing Middle Nowhere was a different experience to being 14, 16, and 19 and writing This Time Around.  As we all know, Hanson had already differentiated themselves as artists because they were musicians in the true essence of the word.  They wrote their music, played it, produced, it, the whole enchilada.  So with This Time Around, we were really able to see how much they had grown musically because the record was much more mature in terms of the content, vocals, and ability.  With songs like Dying to Be Alive and A Song to Sing and If Only, we saw so and felt so many more dynamics than we did with Middle of Nowhere.  Hanson once again went on tour in 2000, except this time the venues were much smaller.  August 8, 2000 i dragged my dad and my sister 3 hours out of our way to LA to see Hanson perform live once again.  These were still seated concerts so we couldn't fight our way to the front (but i still had awesome seats from being a MOE member). The show was great but the difference in crowd size was definitely surprising.  While the album was received well by the critics, fans seemed to fade away.  I cannot to this day figure out why.  The music was evolving yes, but that's what you want, isn't it? You want your favorite artist to get better and continue to impress you.  Maybe it was the 3 years in between albums? Unlike most of the other artists at the time, Ike, Tay, and Zac had to take time to write and record everything; other artists had other people write the songs for them, how much easier would that be! I really cannot think of any other explanations for the drop off. Nevertheless, This Time Around surprised us and I was happy with it. This is still long before I joined the insanity of their tours though.  And I havent heard too many stories about the first two tours as I have heard about the rest, granted we were all teenagers at the time.  So I guess this is really where the story begins.

Mmmbop, ba duba dop Ba du bop, ba duba dop

So this story starts in 1997.  I turned 10 that March, right as MMMBop was released to the radio stations.  I was raised by Mexican parents in East LA and up to that point only listened to Mexican music, classical music (I started playing the violin in 2nd grade), or anything that Radio Disney threw my way.  When i first heard MMMBop, it was like a truck hit me.  I couldn't understand the lyrics because as we all know, our dear Taylor likes to mumble his words sometimes and well, unless you listen to the song a thousand times and read the lyrics, who could ever decipher "mmmbop badu badop badu bop badubadop badu bop, badu badop badu"?  So at age 10 i fell in love with this song.  Of course i went out and bought Middle of nowhere when it came out and listened to it obsessively.  That year i bought the magazines, books, posters, and anything else I could get my hands on.  That album was the beginning of an entirely new life for me.  It marked the beginning of my own identity.  I was no longer just listening to what my parents listened to.  I had my own tastes and my own passions.  Not only did Hanson provide me with music that made me happy (and to this day, anytime i am sad or down, i pop in Middle of Nowhere and everything feels ok again), it also fueled my own passion for the art.  I have been singing since i could talk, i started playing the violin in 2nd grade, i self taught myself the piano in 6th grade, i joined choir all of high school, i self taught myself the guitar Junior year of high school, and i even joined an a capella group in college.  Music has always been in me.  I was blessed with a talent that I have been trying to pursue my entire life and will continue to do so even if i never make it out of my own shower.  Passion like this never dies.  And Hanson showed me that.  1997 and 1998 were incredible years for them.  Not only did MMMBop and Middle of Nowhere rise to the top of the charts, but they were nominated for several grammy's and headlined their own tour.  We all remember the Albertane Tour.  It was July 12, 1998 at the Hollywood Bowl in LA, i was 11.  I had dragged my mom to Robinson's May (now Macy's) to go to the Ticketmaster office to buy tickets.  We bought 3 and she and my sister tagged along to my adventure.  I remember so many girls we wearing heels they could barely walk in and the piercing sounds that emerged from all of those girls when the first notes of "Gimme Some Lovin'/ Shake ya tail Feather" began.  We couldnt see behind that white curtain but we knew what was coming.  I wasnt front row then and i remember wishing i could be closer so i could hear the music better- the screaming of thousands of tweens is far more powerful that people realize.  That was my first show ever and it was really the beginning of a great adventure.

Sittin' on the corner of Nowhere Road

I don't know if anyone has slept out on the street in the middle of a blizzard in early March in midtown New York City.  I have.  For two whole nights.  No, i wasn't doing research for an Urban Studies class at Columbia, i was a political science and history major with a concentration in pre-modern European history.  Needless to say there was no homelessness or research involved in my decision to sleep on concrete in a windchill that hit -27degrees.  The reason for my rash behavior was simple, a 10 year love affair with something bigger and more beautiful than i could ever find in anything else, Hanson's music.  You can go ahead and laugh.  The typical reaction when people find out I'm a Hanson fan is to laugh and say, "oh are they still alive?" "they're still touring?" Yes, they haven't died and they are still making music.  Go ahead and mock all you want, i have always been proud of this love affair. I've spent a lot of money (though not nearly as much as some of the more hardcore fans), I've traveled to places i never knew existed, I've slept on the street, I've been cold, I've been hot, I've been pushed and shoved, I've broken up fights, I've made incredible friends, and most of all, I have grown along with this band and can truly say they are not only incredibly talented and passionate, but they also try to do good in this world, how many twenty-somethings do you know that do that? So this is my story.  I've considered writing a book about it but i honestly don't have time or energy for a second full time job.  So this blog will do.  I've experienced being Homeless for Hanson because it is one of the only two ways that going to their show is all about the music.  Either you fight your way to front row to have nothing but air between you and the music (yes you will have fans shoving against you, but at least there they're only behind you and not in every direction, which i have experienced and let me tell you it is not pleasant), or you hang out in the back and dance like a maniac with your friends the whole time.