Angela and I

Angela and I

Friday, August 11, 2017

25 Years, 6 Albums - ANTHEM

In about a month, Hanson will be releasing their first Greatest Hits album, and I’m feeling a lot of things.  So...I thought it was time for a little series on the blog about their music.  Because we all know I have way too much to say about...well, everything, but especially music.  And more specifically, Hanson’s music.  So join me as I go backwards through their six major studio albums: Anthem, Shout it Out, The Walk, Underneath, This Time Around, and Middle of Nowhere.  

The other night, my friend and I watched “Remade in America”, the documentary about the making of Hanson’s sixth studio album, ANTHEM.  Anthem isn’t usually the album I choose to listen to when I’m like “wow I’m in a Hanson mood”.  My love for Underneath and Shout It Out kind of overshadows everything else, but the documentary made me SUPER emotional.  There are a few reasons for that.  Let me explain:

  • While they were working on this album, the boys almost called it quits as a band.  So like, that information alone is...a lot for me to handle.

  • 2013 was a bad year for KT Berger.  I was at my lowest of all lows.  I was planning my suicide.  I went to the doctor because my body was literally breaking down and a few days and an intervention later I decided to check myself into treatment for my anorexia.   

  • Because of my illness, I definitely wasn’t on my fandom A-Game.  I had fallen away from the Hanson fandom for a few years (not completely, but I just wasn’t really into anything at that point, nothing got me excited anymore). Anthem came out in the summer of 2013, and I didn’t even bother to listen to it until October. I heard Anthem and I had the same moment that I had with Underneath in 2004.  I felt understood and heard and shaken to my core.  Already Home had me sobbing on the floor of my bedroom.  It was a lot.  But I needed it.

But enough about me!  This is about the let’s get to it!  

You better run and hide
Cause we're about to bring the fire

Hanson’s musical catalogue is full of “eff you, we’re here, get used to it!!” songs, starting with This Time Around, the titular song from their second studio album, and continuing from there.  When they were teenagers, coming off of their success as the angelic boys who sang Mmm-Bop, the rebellious lyrics seemed to say “we’re a little older and a little wiser, our voices have changed, and we’re not scared of our future.”  The meaning might have changed slightly over the years, but the core sentiment is still similar.  Against all odds, we’re still here.  And you can’t stop us.  That’s a powerful message for anyone, but especially when it’s coming from your peers.  Hanson has an incredibly dedicated fanbase, and I think a huge part of that dedication is the fact that we (the fans) are ultimately their peers.  Every time they sing a song about being able to do something they were told they couldn’t do, we feel it in our bones (“Hey!  Us, too!”).  In a way, we grew up with them. We came of age with them.  Anthem is brimming with these kind of lyrics.  From Fired Up to You Can’t Stop Us, from Already Home to Tonight.  Hanson wants us to know that even when the odds are stacked against you, you can’t wait ‘til tomorrow, ‘cause it just might be tonight.

Sing it if you know it
Scream it if you feel it

One of the reasons I love Anthem is because the mixing and production came a long way since Hanson’s beginning as an indie band in the early 2000’s.  Even I, Underneath’s biggest fan, can admit that production of that album is SUH-LOPPY, but they have learned a lot over the years.  There are a few weak spots in Anthem production-wise, but I know that there was a bit of a rush to get the album done.  Sonically, the album is pretty cohesive, and arguably one of their all-around best (even though it isn’t my favorite. There’s a difference).  Their previous record was more on the soul and blues side of the spectrum, and this one is more traditional, aggressive, in your face rock.  True, it does have it’s soulful moments (I mean, there is even a song called I’ve Got Soul).  It’s like this weird, hybrid, funky rocky...thing.  Anthem gives us the cowbell and horns of Shout it Out, while offering us a completely different feeling with arena-rock moments and sweeping, stacked harmonies.  If anything, the vocals are almost too perfect and polished (Hanson problems, am I right?) in some of those choral break-down moments, and it doesn’t exactly fit the grittier rock vibe they were going for.  But, that’s what happens when there are three brothers whose voices blend seamlessly. *shrugs*

You can come home to this town…

I think that, for the most part, all three brothers can write a damn good lyric.  I will literally stand by the fact that I think Zac is actually a lyrical genius until the day I die (a lot of people get on him for his ballads but those LYRICS YOU GUYS.  Like...I just....I dream about writing lyrics like that).  There are a few incredibly cheesey lyrical moments in Anthem, but underneath every sappy turn of phrase, there is a blonde boy from Oklahoma who means what he’s singing with every fiber of his being.  If nothing else, Hanson is about as sincere as you can get (which is probably another reason why we all follow them blindly).  Lost Without You was supposed to be the single, after all. Honestly, I just think that Hanson is better at writing story songs than anything else, so their lyrical prowess doesn’t exactly shine in big anthemic songs.  

What does shine, however, are their vocals.  All three of them have incredible rock tones, and while I could wax poetic about Taylor Hanson’s voice for literal hours, I have to say that Zac and Ike blow me away on this record.  Zac’s voice is just like...ridiculous.  It’s actually insane.  He belts B flats and then sings in flawless falsetto like he’s never used his chest voice a day in his life.  He places his rock screams perfectly so that they are healthy and supported and you can’ can’t teach that!!! You can try!! I think that Zac got famous young enough that he’s never had that glimmer of self doubt that most singers always have in the back of their minds.  He just goes for it, and it’s amazing.  Isaac, who only leads in one song on the record, really doesn’t get enough vocal credit.  His verse in You Can’t Stop Us is one of my favorite moments on the whole album.  That growl!  That placement!  I’ll get more to him in the earlier albums, but boy can SING.  

Anthem isn’t my favorite Hanson album, and it does have it’s moments of “Lol y’all are corny” but at the end of the day, I’m so grateful it exists.  Sometimes, seemingly small things can keep us a song telling me to scream and be free, or some of my favorite voices saying that I shouldn’t care what has come before, tomorrow’s an open door. I’m grateful that they put up a fight and stayed together as a band.  I’m grateful that they gave us this music, and I’m grateful that we get to share it with them.  Anthem is full of fighting and war-like metaphors and imagery, the words dripping the challenges and battle cries. It’s very “me vs. you” (with all of us listening being the ME, and all of our opponents/demons/etc. being the YOU).  It tells us to fight for what we want like there is no tomorrow...but this isn’t the end of the story. It could have been, but amazingly, inexplicably, it’s not.  Not for them, not for me, and not for you.  This is just the beginning.

Peace, Love, and Tragic Symphonies,

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