Justin Bieber, meet your future. Hanson, meet your past.
In one of those fortunate twists of fate that we newspaper people can’t resist turning into a silly story, both the Bieb and onetime teen-pop brother act Hanson are in town this Tuesday night — Bieber at a sure-to-be-swarmed Air Canada Centre, Hanson at Massey Hall. We thought it fun to write him a letter on Hanson’s behalf, since the two acts will soon have far more in common than they know:
We noticed that we’re passing through Toronto the same night and thought we’d take advantage of the coincidence to reach out, say “hi” and give you our information in case you ever want to talk. Because believe us, you’re gonna want a friendly ear in a couple of years when this epidemic of Bieber Fever or whatever the kids are calling it runs its course and suddenly no one’s returning your calls, let alone mobbing your Segway and screaming “Marry me, Justin!” and fainting and throwing panties and stuff.
Do women ever throw panties at you? They never did with us, although I guess it would’ve been kinda creepy back in the day ‘cause Zac was 11 when “Mmmbop” came out, so perhaps that was for the best. We kinda wish they did now, but what are you gonna do? It’s still hard to get anyone to imagine us as anything more than the three cute Christian kids — Isaac was 17, Taylor was 16 and looked like a chick — from Tulsa who released Middle of Nowhere in 1997.
Half the crowd at our live shows these days is still just there to relive what it felt like to be 11 years old and totally crushing on Zac or Taylor and wishing they’d show less of Isaac in the videos. It was the hair. But whatever, it worked out: he looks pretty manly now with that goatee. Zac’s the one who suffers these days. Yikes.
Anyway, think about how you look now, man. People are gonna remember that hair for the rest of your life. Maybe “Baby” if you’re lucky, but even that stuff tends to fade. Your picture’s out there, way more than your music and out there way more than our pictures ever were. There was barely an Internet in 1997, let alone the opportunity to take up three percent of total Twitter traffic. That’s insane. But it won’t last. So we hope you’ve got a few things up your sleeve to keep people interested for a few more years or, better yet, you’re going to prove to us that you really are the career artist your boy Usher keeps telling everyone you are.
We had two indie albums and a reputation as a hot live act going for us before Middle of Nowhere; you’ve got clips of a cute little kid singing Chris Brown songs on YouTube. It’s a start, yes, and with any luck this My Worlds Acoustic album you’ve got coming down the pipe will stop us dead in our tracks at your vocal prowess. We’re not sure, though. It’s a nice voice but it would be nothing special without…well, you know…the hair.
Of course, “cred” doesn’t sell. Island Records dropped us like a sack of foul-smelling hammers when our “mature” album, This Time Around, bombed in 2000. There’s a whole documentary on it you can download on the Net called Strong Enough to Break. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the music business, particularly from the point of view of teen idols who have suddenly become unfashionable. And you, my friend, are a little too omnipresent for your own good. There’s a huge backlash coming.
We, or rather “they,” saturated the market with albums — a Christmas record, a live album, a compilation of our early recordings — and biographies those first couple of years, too. There was even a Hanson Day in Tulsa in 1997, but we never had a Hanson fragrance or a line of nail polish. Taylor said right off the bat: “We’re not going to put out Hanson dolls.”
I guess that’s the thing we’re trying to say, Justin. It’s gotta be hard at 16 to say “no” to all this stuff people are throwing at you, but they’re the ones making money at it. We don’t care how well you’re doing — you’ve got to remember there’s a whole industry out there supported by you, an industry that knows this cash cow has a limited lifespan and that consequently doesn’t have anything but its own interests at heart. Usher’s probably making more money off you than you are, dude. Ask him. We’d bet on it. As you get a bit older and wiser, start asserting control. Get your head around the business and don’t get screwed or forced into situations you’ll regret when you’re 30.
Anyway, there’s life after the platinum records and the hormone riots and the Saturday Night Live spots and the Twitter flirtations with Rihanna dry up. We’re on our eighth indie album, our sixth independent record overall, which gets us a lot of respect. We’re a steady concert draw. We remind old people of Billy Joel and Steve Winwood, so that fleshes our audience out beyond the ageing teenagers of yesteryear and the churchies. Taylor even plays with James Iha and Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick and that dude from Fountains of Wayne in Tinted Windows, which has given him a pretty serious shot of “cool.” Perhaps you can pull yourself out of this, Justin Timberlake-style, but even if you’re playing state fairs and casinos for the rest of your life as a schlocky white-soul singer you’ll at least make a living.
Give us a ring if you want to chat.