20 Albums 20 Years Later

Hanson Crafted One Of Pop’s Best Songs, But Don’t Limit Them Or Your Exposure To Their Music To 'MMMBop’

Hanson's "Middle of Nowhere" turns 20 this year.

20 Albums 20 Years Later remembers and explores the music that touched us back then and still resonates today. Join APlus as we take another listen to albums released in 1997 and celebrate their contributions not only to the charts but to our lives.

Nothing screams '90s pop culture like iconic hairstyles and pop music. But one group with iconic hair and whose members were more into garage band-style rock became unlikely pop stars due to their ages and because people couldn't quite take their brand of rock seriously. It's those moments that sort of sum up — and propelled — the Hanson brothers.

1997 saw the rise of Zachary, Taylor, and Isaac Hanson — three teenage brothers whose long blond hair became one of their trademarks. It was the year their first studio album, Middle of Nowhere, was released, which, along with the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls, helped pop music return to peak-level popularity after years of grunge rock dominated radio and MTV. But Hanson brought some of that to the table by playing their own instruments and providing memorable vocals.

Even as young teens, their lyrics hit home to many with mature subjects about life and relationships. But the lyrics didn't overpower the playful energy they brought to the scene, creating a sort of fusion of pop-rock that appealed to the masses. Nowhere was this more true than on "MMMBop."

“MMMBop”

"MMMBop" made us all thankful for CD inserts where the lyrics were listed. It's one of the catchiest songs still today but also captures the emotions about lasting relationships, proving that sometimes mature lyrics can come from a teenage boy band — but again, with a playful twist. "You have so many relationships in this life / Only one or two will last / You go through all the pain and strife / Then you turn your back and they're gone so fast," go the lyrics. Then things get questionable with their made-up word that would put them on the map and the song in our ears.

Watching the brothers jam together in a house in "MMMBop's" music video takes us on an adventure where we feel like we're right there with them. It also follows them as they take a taxi, play on the beach, stick a flag in the moon, and more. Their boyish charm made it believable, and partnered with this inescapably catchy song, helped them snag the 1998 Kids' Choice Award for Favorite Song.

“Where’s the Love”

The second single from Middle of Nowhere is pure magic for any teen going through their first lost crush. But this playful pop tune turns serious when Isaac takes a full rock approach mid-track in a guitar and vocal solo. While it's not so obvious of the transition on the track, the video shows the once colorful scenery replaced by darker tones as the boys passionately play the tune. Still, the feel-good nature of the song will mostly keep listeners on pace after they've jammed to "MMMBop."

“I Will Come to You”

It wouldn't be a true pop group album without the token slow song, and that's where "I Will Come to You" comes into play. The third single on Middle of Nowhere came in like a bang despites its tender approach. When you're expecting to hear the fast-paced, high-pitched background vocals that the boys sprinkle throughout the rest of the album, you're pleasantly surprised by Taylor taking lead vocals on the inspirational tune, belting out "When you have no light to guide you / And no one to walk beside you / I will come to you / Oh, I will come to you / When the night is dark and stormy / You won't have to reach out for me / I will come to you / Oh, I will come to you / I will come to you."

"I Will Come to You" wasn't the only ballad or introspective tune from Middle of Nowhere that got the video treatment, as "Weird" had the pleasure of following up "I Will Come to You" as a single, but with a curiously intriguing clip.

“Weird”

Not be left out is "Thinking of You," the final single on Middle of Nowhere that's a combination of upbeat pop and boy-band introspection we've come to love from the Hanson brothers. With each on their own instruments, this song has a certain ring to it that's different than the others on the record, but just as addictive.

“Thinking of You”

Within the year Middle of Nowhere was released, the boys were busy with no shortage of press shining on their innocent and energetic personalities. Most memorably, however, may be their skit with Will Ferrell and Helen Hunt on Saturday Night Live. In the skit, Ferrell and Hunt mock the popularity and radio play that the nonsensical "MMMBop" was receiving. Thanks to that single, Middle of Nowhere and the band have had longevity within music, releasing several studio albums since and even getting the rest of the family in on the act. But Middle of Nowhere helped brighten the '90s at a time when so much music was on the verge of being depressing,  going four-times platinum and earning three Grammy nominations. While it may be best known for "MMMBop," it'd be unfair to classify it as a strictly bubblegum pop album, both for them and for listeners who don't explore what else it has to offer.

Middle of Nowhere is available on AmazonGoogle PlayiTunes, and Spotify.

Cover image: Polygram Records / Mercury Records

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