Angela and I

Angela and I

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

25 Years, 6 Albums - THIS TIME AROUND

In celebration of their 25th anniversary as a band, and the release of their forthcoming Greatest Hits compilation (which is only like...a week away aaagh), I’m working backwards through Hanson’s discography and discussing their music and what it means to us.  We’ve already covered ANTHEM, SHOUT IT OUT, THE WALK, and now it’s time to travel all the way back to 2000 (can you believe that was 17 years ago??  That feels fake to me) for the release of their sophomore album.  THIS TIME AROUND.

I have much less of a personal connection to Hanson’s first two albums, simply because I didn’t come into my own as a fan until the release of Underneath in 2004.  That’s not to say I don’t absolutely love this record.  In fact, I think this album is the best example of Hanson really firing on all cylinders.  I actually remember the premiere of the This Time Around music video CLEARLY.  I remember seeing it on MTV and being like...oh my god they’re older (revolutionary, I know.  Time passes!  Who woulda thunk).  I also remember watching the If Only video, recording it on a VHS tape, and rewinding a certain scene over and over again because it was the first time I realized that boys were cute and I liked them.  It’s true.  Thanks for ruining my life, Taylor!!  I remember going to Disc Jockey in November of 2000 with my friend Natalie and buying both Black and Blue and This Time Around. Since I was still a die hard Backstreet Girl, Hanson was slightly overshadowed at the time.  But I jumped around my room to Runaway Run like any other self respecting girl in the early two thousands.  

I won't sit around just thinkin' ‘bout
the troubles that tomorrow brings...

This Time Around was Hanson’s last album on Island Records, before the company’s merge with Def Jam Recordings.  As I discussed in the previous post, the creation of Island Def Jam Music Group began a period of turmoil within the band and their collaborators which ultimately led to them creating their own record label, 3CG Records.  For this album, however, they were still signed to a major label and that fact can easily be heard in the production of the album (Produced by Mark Hudson and Stephen Lironi!!!!). First of all, it’s mixed really well...probably better than any other Hanson album.  The production is dense.  There are countless tracks on each song - doubled vocals, scratch tracks, clap tracks, harmonica, heavy bass all in addition to the regular guitar/keys/drums that the brothers themselves play.  It’s sonically cohesive, but much different than Middle of Nowhere - grittier, more mature, more rock, more blues, less funk.  It’s totally different than any other record that was released during that time.  

Goodbye, childhood!!! 

This album is also the beginning of Hanson’s habit of writing “we’re here, we’re older, we’re still awesome, get used to it!!” songs.  
This Time Around was a reinvention of sorts, proving to the general public and media that they were more than the angelic, baby faced brothers who sang MmmBop.  They definitely proved their chops, both musically and compositionally.  Listen to songs like Can’t Stop and In The City and tell me that THESE are the dorks you picture singing those gritty, sexy lyrics.  Or listen to Hand in Hand, one of my very favorite (and extremely underrated) Isaac leads while knowing that THIS is who is serving you that perfectly placed rock tone!!  Like damn, boys!!  

Speaking of vocal PLACEMENT, let’s take a moment to appreciate the voice of one Jordan Taylor Hanson.  His voice is unique, there is no denying it.  He became globally famous RIGHT as his voice was changing, which is literally a disaster waiting to happen.  Like...okay I’m a voice teacher and I mainly teach 10-14 year olds and every boy I have in my studio is right on the verge of a voice change and it makes me have anxiety dreams because I don’t want to mess anything up.  It’s no joke.  I have to give it to whoever was coaching Taylor during the MON era (I refuse to believe that he didn’t have a vocal coach, the way he retained his tone is not NATURAL) because somehow he came out of a rigorous touring schedule with incredibly demanding vocal gymnastics with a voice that was EVEN BETTER on This Time Around.  His vocal agility on this record is INSANE.  The best example of his prowess is on Dying to be Alive.  In a different context (like...if he had decided to pursue musical theatre instead of pop/rock) he could have been just as successful as a vocalist.  The riffs that are buried in the production of that song are AMAZING.  He’s also up against a powerhouse choir and he holds his own. He's a force to be reckoned with vocally. On tracks such as In The City he flies through his entire register like it ain't no thang, and let me just explain to you that that isn't NORMAL for a seventeen year old. It's truly incredible. Taylor muscles through notes sometimes when he’s singing lead which causes some throat tension (which results in his bluesy growl and at this point, that’s kind of what he’s known for so whatever)  but his placement on those top notes are legendary; honestly fight me.  Also, when he’s NOT singing lead, his falsetto is so pure and straight, telling me that he knows when to turn on his solo voice.  What a good choir kid!!!

I'm looking for a song to sing
Looking for a friend to borrow
I'm looking for my radio
So I might find a heart to follow

I’m glad that in the years since its release, I’ve come to appreciate this album more and more.  It really is a great record, with some awesome songs.  The strings on Runaway Run make my heart explode.  Save Me, Dying to Be Alive, and Song to Sing are Taylor Hanson’s best vocal work.  Seeing Hand in Hand  live is like...a religious experience.  Their harmonies are fuller, the musicianship is better, and the energy is higher.  It really was the perfect sophomore album, and a very obvious attempt to further their craft and be respected as musicians, which was something that the critics noticed for the most part.  It definitely wasn’t playing into the sound at the time, and set the band apart from the rest of their contemporaries (for better or for worse).  It let everyone who took the time to really digest the music know that these brothers are songwriters, and they are here to stay.  Even now, seventeen years later, they’re always looking for a new song to sing.  

Peace, Love, and Blue yonder dreams,

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