Hanson Wraps a Decade into a Complete Sound Ten years ago, Hanson's "MMMBop" was a massive hit among teenage girls. But unlike most "boy bands," the trio wrote its own songs and still does. The Hanson brothers are in their 20s now, they run their own label, and they just released a new CD, The Walk.

Great Divide

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(Soundbite of song, "MmmBop")

HANSON: (Singing) Mmm bop, ba duba dop. Ba du bop, ba duba dop. Ba du bop…


You may have heard this tune 10 summers ago. It was hard not to. "MmmBop" was all over the radio in the summer of '97. Hanson and their mega-hit were the most popular among teenage girls. But Hanson was different from the other boy bands of the time. The Hanson brothers wrote their own material. They still do. Just about everything else about the trio has changed, though — even "MmmBop."

(Soundbite of song, "MmmBop")

HANSON: (Singing) Mmm bop, ba duba dop. Ba du bop, ba duba dop. Ba du bop ba du. Oh, yeah…

HATTORI: The Hanson brothers are in their 20s now. They run their own label. They're on tour again behind a new CD. Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson are at WQED in Pittsburg.

Hi, guys.

Unidentified Man #1: Hey there.

Unidentified Man #2: Hello.

Unidentified Man #3: Yeah.

HATTORI: Let's get right to the music. Your new CD, "The Walk," is out on 3CG Records. Let's play a small clip.

(Soundbite of song, "Great Divide")

HANSON: (Singing) I find hope and it gives me rest. I find hope in a beating chest. I find hope in what eyes don't see. I find hope in your hate for me. Have no fear when the waters rise. We can conquer this great divide.

HATTORI: It has a little more of a rock and roll feel than your earlier work -your stuff way back in Tulsa. How would you describe the progression of your music from then to now? Obviously, you've matured, not only physically but musically. Isaac?

Mr. ISAAC HANSON (Guitarist, Hanson): Well, you know, I would definitely say that, you know, 10 years has evolved the music. I think on this particular record, we actually really aggressively tried to take the previous, you know, 10 years worth of material and wrap it up into one complete sound. And I think you hear some of the Motown and R&B influences of the first record - "Middle of Nowhere," the kind of more gospelly and blues elements of the second record "This Time Around." And the third record, "Underneath," was kind of a more mellow record, more mellow textures. And I think you definitely get a bit of all of those albums in this new record, "The Walk," as well. I think it's a little bit more aggressive than any of the three records have been. As you were kind of referring to, a little bit more rock per se.

HANSON: Zac, back then, you probably sang a little bit less - as I understand or as I recall. How do you view the changes of the group over the years?

Mr. ZAC HANSON (Drummer, Hanson): Well, I think, you know, the changes of the group are probably more physical than they are mental or actually with the music. I think the biggest change is the voices.

(Soundbite of song, "Running Man")

HANSON: Too bad for the running man cause he waits too long so he can't come back again. Too bad for the running man cause I'm right here waiting to make that girl forget. Too bad for the running man, goodbye.

HATTORI: You guys were labeled for your sweet songs, your pop music and your androgynous appearance. Do you get sick of that? How did it affect you?

Mr. TAYLOR HANSON (Keyboards, Hanson): Wow. You know what? We've always been proud of what we've done. And I think what we've always done is make music that we are, you know, passionate about. And what we've seen is that fans have been genuinely impacted by it. And the idea, I think, of making music that is, you know, brings people up or, you know, engages them, which has always been our approach of music is - is it should affect people. That's what we do. You know, that's what it's about. And so kind of getting wrapped up or getting sort of, you know, caught up in, you know, whatever misperceptions there are, we never spend a lot of time on that.

HATTORI: Speaking of fans, you know, we went to one of your concerts and talked with Brian Campbell(ph) from Germantown, Maryland, who was at your concert. He's 49 years old. Here's what he say.

Mr. BRIAN CAMPBELL (Resident, Germantown, Maryland): I love their music. They played their own original music of reminiscent of the 1960s, 1970s, rock and roll, R&B, soul, Motown. And that's the type of music I grew up with.

HATTORI: Well, the stereotype of your audience is probably a lot of, you know, a sea of young girls. But here's a guy who's in his 40s or late 40s. How unusual is that to find fans, you know, who are not in their teens or 20s?

Mr. T. HANSON: Well, it's, you know, that's not the core of the audience. But I think what's interesting about that and it's so cool that that was the particular fit because he, you know, he's talking about the music. He's talking about the influence. And that's what we've, you know, that's where we came from. And I think that is really what is sort of the biggest testament to somebody. It's like what is Hanson really about? I mean, the '60s and '70s and sort of classic rock and soul music, that's sort of the thing that has always been a thread in our songs. And I think also, for that matter, the way we perceive the idea of hooks in pop music.

HATTORI: Zac, do you guys think you're more serious musicians now?

Mr. Z. HANSON: You know, I really don't think we're more serious. It's kind of a weird thing to look back at the music. And I think often, because we were so young, the nature is to, in some way, discredit it because of the age. And when you look at the lyrics of a song like "MmmBop," which was written when I was eight years old, you know, before we were signed, before we got - released that song and it became so successful.

Mr. T. HANSON: And Zac is the number - the youngest Grammy nominated songwriter for that song.

Mr. Z. HANSON: That's - but when you look at that song and you read the lyrics, you know, it talks about you have so many relationship in this life. Only one or two will last. You go through all the pain and strife then you turn your back and it's gone so fast. You know, that's the first verse of "Mmmbop." And so I think going forward, I think, the music is mature. I mean I think the messages we talk about go from things like, you know, faith and, you know, conquering great challenges and, you know, the title track from the new album, "The Walk," is all about how you have to live your life by conquering fears or you, you know, it's all about the choices you make.

(Soundbite of song, "The Walk")

HANSON: (Singing) Everyone waits on the walk. Some are long and some small. But all of them are tall. Everyone must make a choice. Will I go for it all and possibly fall? The tightrope is thin. I could possibly win on the walk.

Mr. Z. HANSON: You choose to be in the spotlight. You chose to live within the crowd and the shadows. And so, I think, honestly, the biggest change is our voices and those kind of outward things and the messages behind our music and the way we've written them. They've kind of been - I don't know - they rung through, I think.

HATTORI: Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson. The new CD is "The Walk," out on 3CG Records.

Thanks so much for joining us on WEEKEND EDITION.

Mr. Z. HANSON: Thank you.

Mr. I. HANSON: Oh, thank you for having us.

(Soundbite of song, "The Walk")

HANSON: (Singing) The goal is quite clear. And don't lose yourself in your fear. Fear. Whoo. Fear. Ooh.

HATTORI: To hear songs from "The Walk," Hanson's latest album, and discover more pop music, go to npr.org/music.

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