Don't Judge a Song By Its Chorus: Reasons Why 'MMMBop' Is Misunderstood

By | April 23, 2013

Huffington Post

Hanson released “MMMBop” as a single when I was about eight-year-old. Like most little girls of the mid-90s, I developed a crush on a member of the band. For the record, my favorite Hanson brother was (and still is!) Zac. I think it was because he was the one who was closest to my age. Anyway, I digress. “MMMBop” was Hanson’s breakout song. It was the source of a lot their instant fame, but also their future humiliation. “MMMBop” is a song that one hears at every Bat or Bar Mitzvah, Sweet 16, and barbeque. You name the event, and that song will probably be played at it. Why? Because it is a fun song. It is a pop song. It is happy. For people who are in their 20s and early 30s, it is reminiscent of the simpler days. That said, the song is also kind of a joke.

Its popularity 15 years later stems from the fact that the song is by definition, silly. The name is silly. What does “MMMBop” even mean? Nothing. It means nothing. The chorus consists of this meaningless title being repeated over and over again. And, let’s face it. The chorus is the only part of the song anybody ever remembers or cares about. Actually, that is the problem. The chorus is the only part of this song anybody knows. The shallowest part of the song is its legacy. I was part of the group that only knew the chorus until about five years ago when I took it upon myself to the Google the lyrics one cold winter night. Here is the back-story on that. The song came on my iPod shuffle and I realized that I no idea what they were saying, so I decided to look up the lyrics. Not only did I finally shed light on what the words of the song other than the triple-M threat that makes up the entire chorus were, I also discovered the rest of the song’s lyrics are actually pretty great, and, dare I say it, send an important message to young people. Don’t believe me? Well, keep reading and you might just learn new something about your favorite love-to-hate 90s song. The one thing I can guarantee is you might finally learn some of the lyrics other than chorus. Lets start from the beginning, because as we know from Baronin Maria, that is a very good place to start.

“You have so many relationships in this life, only one or two will last. You go through all the pain and strife, then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast. So hold on the ones who really care, in the end they’ll be the only ones there.”

The song opens with the idea that it is important not to take people for granted, that everyone who comes into your life is not necessarily going to be there forever, and that you find out who really cares about you when you go through hard times. Hanson is also alluding to the famous saying about being lucky if you wind up one or two really good friends in life. After the first chorus, there is flower and gardening imagery.

“Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose. You can plant any one of those. Keep planting to find out which one grows. It’s a secret no one knows.”

In my opinion, this stanza is metaphoric for the future. Suggesting you can plant a seed, flower, or a rose is the equivalent of suggesting that you can do anything you want. In fact, you can try out multiple careers until you find out what you are good at and what you love to do. The future is truly life’s best-kept secret, but it does not mean you cannot be anything you want to be as long as you work hard. The rest of the song is a repetition of various parts of these two stanzas and of course, the beloved chorus… MMMBOP!

Ultimately, this song is all about doing your best and treating your friends and family with respect. At the same time, it paints a bleak, but realistic portrait of the future. What the future holds is uncertain, and when things become rough it will turn out that many of the people you thought loved you did not. So while the beat is very poppy, some the ideas are slightly darker. This is another reason why the song is not as one-dimensional as its reputation suggests. I could easily be reading into this too much. The Hanson brothers could have just wanted to write an upbeat song with a catchy title. They succeeded. One thing I will say is, regardless of whether or not I am overthinking “MMMBop”, I think it is important to give props where props are deserved. At end of the day, the Hanson brothers wrote this song all by themselves at a young age. Something not many young artists, save Taylor Swift, do today. Even if you still think “MMMBop” is a complete joke after reading this, just remember that three teenage boys wrote it, and that, in it of itself, is pretty impressive.

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