Review: Hanson, the kings of ‘MMMBop,’ turn to orchestras

By | November 6, 2018

Washington Post

The Hanson boys have done everything in their power to get you to listen beyond “MMMBop.” They’ve put out solid new music, live CDs, Christmas albums – OK, lots of Christmas albums – greatest hits collections, and even covers of songs by U2 and Radiohead. Now they’ve gone uptown – they’ve gone orchestral.

The 23-track double album, “String Theory,” finds Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson reworking past songs and unreleased ones for swaths of strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. One new song, “Siren Call,” uses a full 46-piece orchestra.

Snark if you must, but anything that gets Hanson’s music a fresh listen is welcomed. Why this talented trio has never matched the success of “MMMBop” is one of those mysteries that go unsolved in the modern music business.

Many of the songs, thankfully, aren’t overwhelmed by the Prague-based orchestra or often see its influence melt away, like on “Where’s the Love” or “This Time Around.” Sometimes it’s all a tad forced, like on “Something Going Round.” And sometimes, truth be told, the original is just better, like “Yearbook.”

“String Theory” is not another greatest hits collection. Some Hanson songs that have appeared on such previous compilations – like “Get the Girl Back” and “Penny & Me” – have not been picked to be orchestra-tracked. New or unreleased songs include “Reaching for the Sky,” “Battle Cry,” “Breaktown,” and the really nice “No Rest for the Weary.”

But you really want to know what happened to “MMMBop,” don’t you? The new version is slower, more complex and yet still fun and catchy, even though it’s been given a lushness rarely offered on other pop songs. We hope you listen. Maybe consider staying awhile?


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