In the music business, there are inherent pitfalls in becoming too big, too quickly. This is something that bro-band Hanson know all too well. In the 1990s, these cute, long-haired Okie teens had a whole generation of tweens “MMBopp”-ing along, their posters plastered across the bedroom walls of almost every young girl in America.
But eventually teen heartthrobs grow up, and when the Hanson boys outgrew their teen sensation persona, they set about trying to prove themselves as legitimate adult musicians in an adult world. It’s a quest that continues to this day, and their latest album Anthem shows they’ve got the chops to do it.
The problem is—they can’t really shake their dated young-boy image that their collective name so indelibly established in American culture not that long ago. The teenage girls who once couldn’t live without them have grown up and moved on, many of them having now married guys who are not named Hanson. They are over the crush.
This is where Hanson’s early stardom is working against them—and that’s unfortunate, because behind those cute faces are some guys who can really play and sing. The image of Hanson the heartthrobs so overshadows Hanson the band that it’s difficult to get anyone to listen with an unbiased set of ears.
But if people were able to listen to Anthem without knowing who it was, chances are it would gain a lot more traction. As a pop/rock act with funk-soul influences, they have really developed musically. The record lives up to its name quite well, with plenty of big-sounding moments and hooky melodies that could easily captivate the listener within a couple of spins. Even better, their sound actually carves a bit of a niche for them, influenced by the more classic sounds of pop and rock rather than copying the electro-dance vibe echoed by the status quo of twenty-teens pop. From the high energy opener “Fired Up” to the grooving, chant-able “You Can’t Stop Us” to the power ballad “Lost Without You”, there is plenty of production value on this album for Hanson to be proud of.
But the obstacles facing the record are glaringly obvious, and much of it has nothing to do with the record itself. Essentially, it’s a one-two punch: first, the bigger-than-life teen image of Hanson still haunts them like a caricature; and second, there’s really nothing on this record that can combat it or overshadow it. That’s not really a criticism of the record, because landscape changing, image-altering albums are actually few and far between. The Hanson brother simply have a lot to combat, and I’m not sure that Anthem does enough to overcome. If this had been the brothers’ debut record, I think it would be a completely different story.
That being said, as a music lover, I’m all about the music first; I usually can care less about the celebrity and hype surrounding it. And from a musical standpoint, Anthem definitely deserves a listen. My hope is that this record will find a fresh audience with people who are willing to hear the music for what it is.
Hanson, after all, have grown up, too.