JUSTIN JOHNSON: In an mmmbop

By | June 1, 2017

SC Now

First in the (Not Technically) Summer (Yet) Music Series

I remember it like it was 20 years ago. (I mean … because it was.)

In 1997, my seventh-grade class went on a trip to Atlanta for a few days. It was — at the time — the longest I had ever been away from home.

My parents and little brother were there to pick me up (as parents and little brother are wont to do) after we got back and stretched our legs as we climbed off our charter bus.

When I crawled into our green Dodge Caravan, my mom said, “We have a surprise for you!”

My brother handed me a cassette tape, a black, two-sided single of “MMMBop” by Hanson.

(Remember them? The trio of puberty-adjacent brothers with high voices and long blond hair?)

(Yeah, you ‘member.)

Now, this cassette single — which included both the Radio Version and the Dust Brothers Mix of “MMMBop” (as well as short previews of three other songs from the soon-to-be-released album) — might not seem like a big deal now. But at that time, to me: it was huge.

When I was a kid, I didn’t practice a ton of musical autonomy. I listened to what I was raised around — country, gospel, motown, and a little ZZ Top — and that was pretty much it.

When I got to preteendom, I began to expand my horizons. Slightly, at least.

Our local pop radio station was Mix 97.7, and in the mornings before school my mom would turn it on while we ate sausage biscuits from Shorty’s Grill.

(The bottoms of the biscuits were usually burnt, but it wasn’t a huge deal. They were delicious.)

So that was when I got to hear the songs that would pave the way for my soon-to-be musical interests.

(Some key songs from those mornings: “I Want You” by Savage Garden, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” by Paula Cole, and Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing” (which … this is the second time I’ve mentioned that particular song in this column, so …).)

But — “MMMBop” was something different for me. It was the gateway drug, my official head-first entry into the world of pop music. I mean, we’re talking a full-on deep dive here.

I remember buying the full album (on CD this time!) at what was then Camelot Music (which later became F.Y.E. which later closed) at what was then Briarcliffe Mall (which later became Colonial Mall which later became (and is still (for now)) Myrtle Beach Mall) in what people say is North Myrtle Beach but is technically Myrtle Beach (it’s definitely north Myrtle Beach, though … just … not capital n North Myrtle Beach you know what whatever shut up leave me alone).

Hanson’s “MMMBop” was the song that kicked the door into my music hall.

Catchy hooks with singalong harmonies and layers? That’s that good stuff, and it’s still the good stuff, two decades later.

It’s no surprise that a lot of what I like now is traced back to this era (it’s complex and biological … no time to get into it here), but my tastes have matured (naturally).

Also, I’m not listening to mainstream pop music like I did back then, either, but there are other factors involved.*

*(See: I’m more into indie pop rock than anything slash I’ve aged (way) out of the demographic for mainstream pop slash too many singers sound like robots now Get off my lawn you robot kids! )

But it’s also funny how our tastes change over years and years but we’re able to (somewhat) trace where it all began. For me, that was “MMMBop.”

And it’s easy to goof on the lyrics now — “In an mmmbop they’re gone / In an mmmbop they’re not there”  — but back then, it was just what I needed to start discovering myself for myself, realizing what I actually liked versus what I was just used to liking.

And if you tried to tell me then that “MMMBop” was a bad song, I’d argue back and forth with you until you simply got sick of hearing me talk about it.

(Oh … and I still will today.)

(You don’t outgrow some things.)