I have been having an insatiable love affair with three brothers for the past 13 years.
In April 1997, three native sons of Tulsa, Oklahoma named Zac, Taylor and Isaac Hanson instantly captivated my ears and quickly settled into a permanent residence within my soul.
Before you cringe at the thought of their first single, “MMMbop,” let it be known that the infectious ditty was ranked No. 1 in 27 countries, was voted best single of the year by the prestigious New York critics of “The Village Voice,” was given high praise by both “Rolling Stone” and “Spin” music magazines and Zac was recognized as the youngest Grammy-nominated songwriter in history.
Blessed with organic talent, the flaxen-haired trio came a long way from its start in 1990, peddling perfect harmonies a cappella at local fairs and carnivals.
During the height of their initial success from 1997 to 2000, the Hanson brothers put out an impressive amount of work – two documentary films, a Christmas album, a 12-issue fan club magazine series, a live concert album, a throwback album of songs recorded before they were signed to a record label and a sixth studio album titled “This Time Around.”
In the summer of 2000, at the ripe old age of 15, I begged my mom to drive two hours from Saucier, Mississippi, to a mall in New Orleans for a “Meet and Greet” with Hanson.
My mom’s car was without air conditioning and the summer southern air was hot, humid and infested with lovebugs.
The only source of music (Hanson, of course) was from a boombox I had running on nine D-cell batteries.
We waited in line for four hours before I even got a glimpse of my beloved Hanson brothers.
And then, I met them.
Yes, I met Hanson.
Taylor was as genuine, gracious and outspoken as I had imagined and I was more than grateful to snag a quick hug before security moved me along.
Finally face-to-face with Zac, I could barely breathe or speak and sheepishly pushed my poster forward for his signature as my mom babbled on about how he was my favorite and how it was my biggest dream to marry him – thanks, Mom.
Isaac was uncouth and didn’t care to look up at me once. Instead, he simply snatched my poster from Zac, scrawled his signature across it and passed it back to me in a cold, robotic manner.
This just emphasized the fact that Isaac was and would always be the oldest, ugliest and my least favorite of the bunch.
The best day of my life soon became the best night of my life when my mom snuck into my first Hanson concert.
I was glad she came along because I ended up fainting toward the end of the show from a mixture of excitement, claustrophobia and dehydration.
That night I knew the Hanson brothers could never be classified as a “boy band” because they wrote their own music, played their own instruments and would never dance in synchronized routines, donning stupid matching outfits.
The combination of meeting them and hearing them live solidified the fact that Hanson brothers were my drug of choice, and from that point on I knew they would have me coming back for more.
Unfortunately, Hanson’s transition from teen idols to adult musicians was fraught with obstacles that would have broken the resolve of many artists.
After the release of “This Time Around,” Hanson waded through a four-year struggle with corporate label Island Def Jam Music Group, whose executives restricted creative freedom and refused to record more than 80 songs, citing a “lack of marketability.”
Unwilling to churn out catchy pop fodder for empty record sales and notoriety, the Hanson brothers stood their ground, refused to sell out and remained true to themselves and their fans.
The struggle was chronicled in a documentary called “Strong Enough to Break,” and eventually led the band to leave the label and launch its own independent record company, “3CG Records,” in 2003.
Amid a crumbling music industry and plummeting indie rocker sales, the Hanson brothers found success on their own terms and a loyal fan following that ate up the two independent studio albums and supported the brothers on their numerous tours.
“Underneath” was a perfect blend of smart, catchy, hook-laden, effortless music complemented by heartfelt lyrics and serious musicianship.
In their latest album, “The Walk,” the brothers used their talent as a tool for raising awareness about the disease and poverty plaguing Africa.
The album sends a powerful, heartstring-tugging journey of awareness, action and hope, and features vocals of an African orphan’s choir.
“The Walk” tour championed calls for action on humanitarian efforts that galvanized tens of thousands of people around the world to participate in numerous, worldwide barefoot one-mile walks to fight HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.
Today, more than 32,000 barefoot miles have been walked – 6,938 for 678 pairs of TOMS shoes for African children, 2,527 for SMS credits for health care, 9,993 for AIDS treatment and research, 8,829 for building schools and 3,968 for drilling clean water wells.
For nearly two decades, my beloved Hanson brothers have been writing their own songs and playing their own instruments in their own brand of soul-inspired American pop-rock ‘n’ roll.
On Friday, Hanson released its latest music video, “Thinking ‘Bout Something,” an infectious slice of ’60s soul-pop and a flawless homage to “The Blues Brothers” musical comedy.
The video has received more than one million views on MySpace and I couldn’t be more excited for Hanson’s ninth album overall, “Shout it Out,” which will be released in early June 2010.
Hanson have reached a level of adoration that few bands experience – I am but one proud voice in a huge community of dedicated fans who are consistently fueled by the fresh energy and craftsmanship emoted by three brothers and their music.
After all, we have helped them beat out “The Who” for the Guinness World Record in loudest screaming concert audience at an eardrum-obliterating 140 decibels.
This summer, I will continue to “shout it out” for my Hanson brothers when I get my hands on their new album and shake it at their concerts.
But no matter how many times I meet them, how many concerts I attend or how much of their music I memorize, the love I have for those brothers will never be satiated.