By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
In underground rock and roll clubs, they are referred to in snarky tones as Marilyn Hanson. The Internet is infested with hate pages aimed at them. And media outlets such as VH1 found ways to simultaneously bitch-slap the boys of Hanson while playing their videos all the while.
The omniconspicuous Hanson does deserve attention (as opposed to hype), fan reaction (good art provokes that), and critical consideration (the reviews have been shockingly positive). What the perky, Rollerblading brethren don't deserve is the smug dismissal and public slander being dished their way by the legions of cool.
It's forgivable that hard-working and underappreciated musicians might feel jealous and resentful of the can't-swing-a-dead-VJ-without-hitting-them success of Hanson. The fraternal trio from Tulsa has appeared on every TV talk show currently airing, their video for the hit single "MMMBop" won't go away, and their first major-label album, Middle of Nowhere, sold wildly right out of the box. But what naysayers overlook is that this is the bros' third album. They released the first two on their own, without the support of the musical-industrial complex. And they gathered their share of rejections before earning (via more than 200 live shows and their own recordings) a deal with Mercury.
Much more baffling at this point is the unrestrained rage against the mmmpop sensations one encounters on that electronic repository of profound thought, the Internet. The recurrent (read: obsessive) theme of Hanson cyberbashers is that the three pubescent boys are, in fact, gay fag girls. (Personally, some of my favorite people are gay fag girls, and I'd be surprised if any red-blooded American male wouldn't want to fur the frog with Taylor, the middle and sexiest Hanson.)
Alas, enlightenment comes hard in the age of convenience. Check out Zacky's stridently incoherent anti-Hanson home page: "By the way, 'Taylor is hot' is not a reason to like Hanson and neither is I'm gonna MMMBop. Hanson fans are so stupid." Hmmm. I think that's a slag. The Hanson Sucks page lists these incisive reasons for dogging Hanson: their songs, their video for "MMMBop," their Website, they look like girls.
The We Hate Hanson Girls page incites Americans to "kill the virus that is Hanson." Several of the pages morph the musicians' heads onto female bodies, add makeup, that sort of thing. One page goes on and on and on about the size of oldest brother Isaac's mouth. The sickest page, by a wide margin, is the subtly titled Hanson Ate My Balls, which features a series of Hanson promo shots adorned with thought bubbles along the lines of "God I wish I had balls," and "I'll never be a famous supermodel if I keep munching on these balls!" Part hate crime, part wish/fantasy, the page is intended to voice "freedom of speech," according to its author, Charles Whitman, who goes on to admonish readers that "ITS [sic] NOT A JOKE." All of which makes me feel a bit like Holden Caulfield when he sees that "Fuck you" scrawled on the elementary school wall.
Predictably, Howard Stern, the nation's premier arbiter of cultural taste, has spearheaded the hate campaign. He recently proclaimed that "'MMMbop' is a fag song. It's for gays." Gee, that sums it up for me. Why can't all critics be so articulate and insightful?
Such Hanson slams are ludicrous, of course. They are generated by illiterates who clearly have spent more time listening to Hanson (how else to write spoof lyrics in perfect meter?) than most admitted Hanson fans have.
An avowed heterosexual teenage female named Elle vents on her page, Humans Against Hanson. She also confesses that her musical faves include the Wallflowers (the most derivative and substanceless three-chord pony since Bush), Jewel, Third Eye Blind, Meredith Brooks, and the Beatles. Sadly, Elle's page is as substanceless as, well, the Wallflowers, Jewel... A psychologist might be helpful in explaining dichotomous comments such as "'MMMBop,' the song is not actually stupid, just the people who like it are." Before the psychologist, though, call an English teacher. And have both pay Mr. Charles Whitman a nice long house call.
These Net screeds also include plenty of in my days -- the lost-youth syndrome, caused by walking through too much snow on the way to school. The only spiritually troubling blip in the electronic world I found was a skewering of the group's use of flower imagery (for rebirth, growth, beauty, love). The author implies that the bros don't even know why they use such imagery. Uh, dude, try reading the fucking liner notes: "Our deepest thanks to the One who plants and waters and causes all things to grow...." These kids are serious gardeners, so anti-flower types are welcome to all the manure they can eat.
Universally absent from the backlash is any cogent commentary about the music on Middle of Nowhere. Geographically excluded from the dreck dominating North American airwaves during the last decade (much of which the Hansons spent in Trinidad, Ecuador, and Venezuela), the boys cut their teeth on a Time-Life compilation of tunes from 1957 to 1969.
The R&B influence is inescapable: Motown and Tulsa brought together in a unique marriage that also leaves room for the boys to adopt everything from an Eagles-inspired closer, "With You in Your Dreams," to the Jacksonesque but funkadelecized drive of "Look at You." (Imagine Morris Day and Don Henley working together.)