Album Review: Red Green Blue

We may only a week in from the release date of Hanson’s newest album, Red Green Blue, but yet somehow I feel like I’ve been agonizing over how to write my review for months. I lost my bragging rights and finally caught Covid, which means I spent the whole release weekend in isolation; I had nothing better to do than pour over the lyrics of these songs ad nauseam. By mid-Saturday night I already had a whole theory going about half of the songs. I’m fully convinced that some songs are in response to other songs, (especially since I recall Taylor saying Red was recorded last) and because of that, nothing below will be in track list order.

I also need to throw in a disclaimer: there is a lot of speculation involved and I apologize in advance to Hanson (especially Zac) as I play armchair psychologist. I actually debated not saying the things I’m about to say because of this. But then I remembered that’s the point of music and art; the artist pours their heart and soul into something and then puts it out in the world for people to interpret for themselves. And that’s what I’m doing here. For all I know, none of these songs are biographical. After all, we already know Hanson can write great songs that have nothing to do with their real lives. (Exhibit A: “White Collar Crime”. I hope.)

Now let’s dive in.

Rambling Heart

Hands down, “Rambling Heart” is my favorite song on all of RGB. It’s no secret that I love to travel, and this song is an anthem for anyone with wanderlust. There are also a couple lines that I believe are nods to one of my favorite brands of travel, going from concert to concert. “And we’re all here, but nobody’s home” can be an easy reference to a venue full of people who literally do not live there and also likely traveled to get there, including the band. “The world is at our feet” to me both represents the travel itself and also the crowd standing at the feet of the performer.

Favorite Lyric: “Every note is my home sweet home”

Semi Hollow

“Semi Hollow” has a fun groove (one that is, shall we say, “slow and low”) that has been stuck in my head more than once already. The brass adds a great rhythm which has me wishing that Hanson would just add a permanent 6th band member at this point. I can’t pin point what it is about it, but this song feels to me like “Come Over” and “Man On Top” had a semi hollow baby.

Favorite Lyric: “You’re more than air but you sure ain’t solid

Greener Pastures

Green opens with a cover from Other Brother™ Mac (of Joshua and The Holy Rollers)’s song, “Greener Pastures”. I had previously listened to the JTHR version, but I do like Isaac’s better. This is such a great style for Isaac’s voice. I’m always excited to hear him branch out from his typical ballads.

Favorite Lyric: “It’s all the same, we’re all searching for the truth”

Write You A Song

“Write You A Song” was the first single for Green, and again I was excited to hear something more upbeat from Isaac. This is such a cute song written for his daughter, and it’s catchy enough that it is fact “something sweet that [I] can hum along to”. I was surprised to hear he had written this with Paul McDonald, because it sounds so much more like Stephen Kellogg to me. I know he did write with SK around the same time, and now I’m curious what will come from that, either for Hanson’s or Stephen’s catalogue (or even if we ever get to find out).

Favorite Lyric: “Dancin’ round, you were always cutting loose”

Cold As Ice

Just… wow. This is such a fun song! Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only other song we’ve ever heard from Hanson with quite this much funk (besides maybe some covers) is whatever jam session song they were playing during the credits on The Road To Albertane. (Also you’re welcome for that flashback.) It’s hard to believe this started as a ballad. The callbacks to Tay and David invoke some “Run Rudolph Run” feels (“Tay, kick one for Christmas, baby!”) At the Hanson Day show they used this song to introduce Andrew and Dimitrius and I hope they keep that up for tour. What a gem of a jam!

Favorite Lyric: “She pawns my watches to buy me time”

Wake Up

Zac loses about 500 points for naming a song the same as an already existing Hanson song. That aside, this version of “Wake Up” reminds me of “Reading Your Mind” from In Real Life. This song is Exhibit B in my disclaimer that we know Hanson is capable of writing songs that are not biographical. “Wake Up” seems to be a love song to someone the protagonist has not yet met (“Every night I’m waiting just to learn your name”). As a 39-year old single woman? Relatable. From a man who has been married for 16 years? I’m not so sure. That said, there is a part of me that wonders if this song is not actually about a hypothetical love interest, but I’ll get to that later.

Favorite Lyric: “Would it change a thing to learn that you’re not real?”

Don’t Let Me Down

The first single from Blue, “Don’t Let Me Down” is probably the closest to what we’re used to hearing from Hanson. Zac has said that he wrote this to himself as he faced the pressure of writing Blue without the support from his brothers that he’s used to. This might be a stretch, but I can’t help but think it ties together stories from two older Hanson songs: “Broken Angel” and “The Walk”. In “Broken Angel”, we hear Zac pining to be something that the world says he’s not ready for, he’s too small to be the high flyer. Fast forward to “The Walk” and despite the odds, he’s up in the sky ready to take his chances. Now here we are with the world watching, and “Don’t Let Me Down” is what he’s singing to himself as he walks out on the tightrope. Everything he has been through has led him to now.

Favorite Lyric: “It’s not a question of whether you’re ready, only of what you’ll allow”

Bad

“Bad” has grown on me significantly since my first listen. At the listening party, I really only noticed the chorus. But once I did a deep dive on the lyrics? Oh man… I had a hard time narrowing down a favorite so I’m just going to go through some of these one by one.

“Moth to the flame, march to the drum.” This makes me think of the keyboard warrior world we live in, and I have to admit that I sometimes fall victim as well. We see something political that lights a fire we feel we have to run to, ready to march. I do think there is good that can come from political debates, and it’s usually better than staying silent, but we do still need to be careful with the words we choose.

“What you believe is what you become.” I think we all tend to wrap our identity up in the things we believe about the world. This lyric is gold.

“We all retreat to our sides and give into our lies, ’cause it’s easier than seeing my reasons in what you believe.” What a powerful statement about conflict, especially when the conflict is based on the stories we write in our heads about others without knowing what they’re really thinking and feeling. 🙋🏻‍♀️ Guilty

“The tightrope is frayed and it’s wearing me thin.” Hey remember my reference to “The Walk” above?

Favorite Lyric: “No one can change the worth of a life”

Truth

If you’re involved in the Hanson fandom enough to be reading a fan’s blog, it’s probably no secret to you that there has been conflict within the band for at least a few years now. In fact, they even mentioned during the Hanson Day HTP Live. And I believe “Truth” is Taylor’s response to a lot of what has been happening. He even admits that he’s had one foot out the door. Where “Bad” talks about writing false narratives, Taylor is asking us to humble ourselves and realize that we don’t know the whole truth to the story. And if we can set our pride aside and have an actual conversation about our conflicts, it will expose the truth.

Favorite Lyric: “So don’t hold on to bitter, it’ll come home to roost”

No Matter The Reason

Much like I think “Truth” is Taylor’s response to the conflict in “Bad”, I think “No Matter The Reason” is Isaac’s response. The lyrics speak to both parties having said hurtful things, and we see Isaac wrestling with the pain he has caused as well as the pain he has felt. In the end, he recognizes that the love they share is strong enough to heal the pain, and so he declares that he won’t be leaving.

Favorite Lyric: “God has made no better good, than you for me”

World Goes Round

“World Goes Round” is another track that sounds like classic Hanson, and is the song that has gotten stuck in my head the most over the past week. I think this song can be seen as a response to “Truth” and “No Matter The Reason”. Where the other songs show signs of a potential break-up, “World Goes Round” is a song about putting the past aside and taking the risks of moving forward. They’re going to “take [they’re] chances together” and start again.

Favorite Lyric: “Does the end of the rope mean hell or hope”

Where I Belong

TW: Suicide, Depression

This is where my earlier disclaimer comes in. I may be way off base here, but I can’t not hear this song as suicide ideation. If I’m being honest, it seems Zac is no stranger to songs about depression (“In A Way”, “Use Me Up”, “Save Me From Myself”, “Siren Call”, “I Lift You Up”). In “Where I Belong”, we see him alone, in the dark, “hoping someone will hear [him] call”. He talks about wanting to be taken home, and I get the sense he means “home” in a more permanent sense. And remember earlier when I said I wondered if maybe “Wake Up” was about something other than a love interest? There is a part of me that wonders if the someone he’s longing to be with is death, or perhaps the afterlife. (“Would it change a thing to know you’re not real”?)

These lyrics are a heavy subject, no matter the interpretation. But the song itself sounds more like Digital Pants material. In fact, the “honey honey honey” and “loving loving loving” in the background immediately made me think of all the “yummy yummy yum yum”s from “Where You Want To Go” off Edible Digital Pants. The instrumentation sounds like it was pulled straight out of The Machine. If you read my review of White Rabbit, you might recall that I mentioned Zac’s Enneagram is a 5w6. When Fives are in stress, they go to Seven, which is where we often see the goofy stage version of Zac. I have a theory that “in stress”, Zac went to Seven and made the overall sound of this song a little silly to try to cover up the vulnerability of the lyrics. And unlike his sadder songs from the past, this time he didn’t have a supportive cowriting brother around to tell him no. It’d fall higher on my ranking if not for this.

Favorite Lyric: “I’ve been lost so long I can’t remember anymore”

The Gift Of Tears

“The Gift Of Tears” sounds to me like a response to “Where I Belong”. The song speaks to someone who is in a dark place, and is a reminder that even in that darkness, not all hope is gone. He even makes a specific reference to “get down on your knees, brother, and kiss the ground”. I know many people use the word brother in a nonliteral sense, but I can’t help but make all these connections with these songs. As someone who tends to bottle up her feelings, the line “the gift of tears will calm your fears” is very real to me. When I do finally cry over something, it’s centering and helps me see things clearly.

Favorite Lyric: “When all hope is dead and gone, pray on”

Child At Heart

I can’t help but think “Child At Heart” is at least partially in response to “Where I Belong”. Taylor has said that he was inspired by listening to his two-year old talk about what he had hoped to do that day. As Taylor put it in American Songwriter, “the message is ultimately about staying hopeful and pure, in spite of the challenges life can bring.” What greater challenge is there in life than our darkest moments when we feel we’ve lost all hope? He’s literally encouraging the listener to not be afraid to face another day. They’re hurting, but Taylor wants them to not let that stop them from opening their heart back up to the world.

Side note: how cute is the demo? Does anyone else think it sounds like Indy is saying “you don’t have to do that”? I’m laughing at the idea of Taylor being like “oh hey I gotta write this song” and his two-year old going “no you don’t.”

Favorite Lyric: “Breathe. You are no mistake.”

We Belong Together

I saved “We Belong Together” for last, because a) I think it too is a follow-up of all the previous songs I’ve mentioned and then some, b) it might be the song I end up having the most to say about, and c) it’s the first song that tipped me off that these might all be related (brother band pun unintended). I think like “Bad”, I’m just going to have to go line by (most) line through this song.

“I can see the empty in your eye” – the sign of someone’s depression

“The world has come to push you down again”/”Now you wonder why the world’s closing in”/”You’ve been holding up the world alone” – DLMD has the lines “you can’t let the world consume you” and “they can’t push you around”

“It’s hard to breath you count your beating heart” – in “Child At Heart”, Taylor is repeatedly reminding him to breath. In “Wake Up” there’s a reference to “your hand on my heart”

“Alone in darkness and you’re lost again” – WIB says “it feels so dark”

“Cause we belong together” and “If you call my name I’m never far away” both feel very much like a direct response to the cry of “hoping someone will hear me call from where I belong”

“The waves keep coming” – I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but Zac has a whole heck of a lot of song lyrics that reference water/drowning. “Save Me From Myself”, “Fire On The Mountain”, Siren Call”, “What Are We Fighting For”, “Compromise”, to name a few, and even says in WIB “let me float away”

“All of this living has been taking your life… but don’t forget we’re still alive tonight” sounds like a response to someone who has been thinking about death

“If you’re feeling lost because you fell off course” – there’s a line in “What Are We Fighting For” that says “with nobody watching no wonder we got off course”

“You don’t have to break to break alone” – a response to “somewhere that I won’t feel so broken” in WIB

“Your skin is aching and you’re wondering why” sounds like a response to “So many thins you can’t tell from just the scars on my skin” in “Bad”

At its core, this song is a clear message that he cares for the person he’s singing to and that no matter what, he won’t leave them. He’s there for them in the darkest of moments and they’re better together. One last note: at the listening party, the very first thing I noticed about this song was that the muted percussion sounds in the background reminded me of the breathing sounds in “I Lift You Up”.

Favorite Lyric: “On the mountain top you feel your brave heart drop”

In Summary

I don’t know, y’all. Either I’m on to something here or they’re all just that good at writing songs. Or both. There is a part of me that I hopes I’ve taken this too far, and again I want to clarify that this all just pure speculation on my part. But if there is any chance that I’m right here, I really hope there’s therapy involved. If you’re reading this and have resonated with any of these feelings, please reach out to someone.

At the listening party in Tulsa, I couldn’t hear the lyrics well enough to fully appreciate this album. I was too thrown off by how mellow it was compared to the Hanson we know and love. But after spending time digging deep into how well crafted these songs are, I can’t get enough. It’ll never quite reach the level of “I can’t wait to jump and dance to this at a Hanson concert” but it’s top shelf for sure. Five Stars. 15/10 Recommend.

I’m a spreadsheet girl


Hanson Day 2022

May 11 – 16, 2022

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d guess that if you are reading this, you remember clearly the day in April 2020 when that year’s Hanson Day celebration was “rescheduled to 2021”. (If not, you probably gave birth to me.) And if you’re reading this and not my mom, you probably also remember that Hanson Day 2021 wasn’t a normal Hanson Day with all the add-on events. So here we are, a full three years after the last real HDay, finally getting back to normal.

I flew in late Wednesday night, but with the extreme heat and loss of will power, my friends and I opted to skip waiting in the typically forever-long registration line this year. We all agreed that the only reason to register ASAP was to get into the store ASAP, and that there wasn’t anything we needed to buy that badly. I don’t regret this decision at all, although it does mean that in the end I missed out on that little green crossbody bag.

Instead, we spent Thursday sleeping in and grabbing brunch from Chimera. We finally made our way over to registration just in time to get signed up before the volunteers shut it down for a lunch break. Since the Hanson store line was still long, we spent the afternoon wandering around some of the local Tulsa shops. I bought a few books from Magic City Books and some stickers and a coffee mug from Ida Red. And then the real fun got started.

HTP Live

They added a new in-person event to this year’s lineup by offering a live version of the Hanson Time Podcast. When they announced this, we weren’t sure how exactly this would play out. But then about a week ahead of Hanson Day, my friend got an email saying she and one of her other friends had been chosen as tag-team reporters, and that their theme would be the new Fan Club EP White Rabbit. I might be biased, but I thought they both did an excellent job coming up with questions, especially considering we had only had the EP for two days by the time HTP Live rolled around.

If you’ve ever listened to Hanson talk then you’ll know they have a knack for getting off topic. One thing that was brought up, but not asked by the reporters, that I found very interesting was because you cannot evenly divide dollars by three people, Isaac earns an extra penny to every dollar the band makes. My accountant brain immediately started trying to add up how much extra he has earned over the past 30 years and while I obviously don’t know Hanson’s finances, I think they might want to consider switching that up soon.

They also opened up by talking a bit about how the past five years have been hard for them as a band. While I don’t think that’s any secret to anyone who has been paying attention, I found it refreshing to hear them acknowledge it. We now know they almost broke up back in 2012, and I think one of the main differences is that now they’ve stopped trying to pretend that everything is okay. At the risk of digging into pure speculations, I’ll probably talk about this a bit more when I write my review of Red Green Blue (because spoiler: have you read the lyrics?).

Karaoke

Night one of Hanson Day (really why aren’t we just calling it Hanson Week at this point?) typically is karaoke, and this year they added a ’90s theme, with some more current Hanson songs mixed in. While I have no interest in singing (and no one else wants that either, I promise), I always look forward to being a spectator, having a drink, and dancing around, especially because you never know when Isaac is going to start singing along with some fans. Highlights of the night included Isaac singing “Sweet Child of Mine” and “River of Dreams”, a fan singing the ’90s staple “My Heart Will Go On”, and a friend ending the night by absolutely killing “I Will Always Love You”.

Hanson Day Gallery

Friday morning was rainy, which meant we spent a good portion of the day lying around our hotel room. I did pop into the store real quick to buy way more shirts than the zero I told myself I would buy. But then once the skies cleared out, my friends and I popped into the gallery. This year, Zac opted for more drawings than paintings. It was fun to see a different take on things this year. There was only one painting: a red tree growing on green grass with a blue starry sky in the background. I absolutely loved it and would have bought a print of it if I actually had somewhere to hang it, but my walls are getting full.

For that same reason, I did not buy any of Taylor’s photos this year. They were all a play on Red Green Blue, with each brother playing around with colored lights in a dark room. They also had a stage set up with some of the props from the “Don’t Let Me Down” music video. It reminded me of the little museum they had in 2017, and I’d still love for them to do a bigger, more full museum with fewer video props and more awards, instruments, and things of that nature.

RGB Listening Party

Just a few weeks before Hanson Day started, they added another new event to the lineup: a listening party for RGB. My friends and I signed up for the last time slot, since one of our friends was flying in that day and wouldn’t be able to make the earlier times. As someone who tries to avoid spoilers, this meant I had to stay off social media for the first part of the day. My intention was to take notes on my phone during the listening party of my first impressions, much like I did for White Rabbit. However, I immediately realized that was going to be too much work to keep up with, so I simplified my notes down to a single hand gesture emoji for each of the non-single songs. I’ll leave you with these notes for now until I get to the review blog for RGB.

Storytellers

Normally we’re given a theme for the Storytellers show, but this year we were just told “we’d find out when we get there.” I prefer being surprised by set lists, so this was good news to me! Looking back though, I’m still not sure what the theme was supposed to be (and we were specifically told there was one that was “too hard to explain”). They pulled out songs from almost every album; Middle of Nowhere and Shout It Out being the only exceptions.

The absolute highlight of the show was when they started telling us the story of how “MMMBop” came to be. It wasn’t any new information as they explained this way back in 1997, but if you happen to be reading this and didn’t already know: a few years before they became famous, they were writing another song (“Boomerang”) and started singing “mmmbop ba duba dop ba du bop ba duba dop ba du bop…” as a background vocal. But they decided they liked the way that sounded too much for it to not be its own song, and thus “MMMBop” was born.

When they started telling this story, they actually sang the chorus of “Boomerang” in the process, which is something they had never done before. Then they stopped and continued on with the story, and I thought for sure that little tease was all we were getting. But, no! They actually sang the entire song! I never thought we would actually ever get to hear it, and I’m so glad I got to be there when we did. They also played “Watershed”, a very short song from the 2007 fan club EP, which had only ever been played at Back To The Island in 2014. The moral of the story is: you never know what you’re going to get at a Hanson show so you might as well do your best to never miss one.

Dance Party: Part One

After Storytellers, we had some time to go get changed for the Dance Party. They’ve added themes to the Dance Party at the last couple BTTIs, but I think this is the first time they had a theme for Hanson Day: dress as your favorite era. I honestly don’t have a favorite and at one point in time was considering just wearing my pajamas and joking that 2020 lockdown was my favorite era, as I’m not big on costumes. But I recently acquired my first jumpsuit, and I was talking to a friend here in Nashville and realized I could easily (and lazily) dress it up to be the ’70s by adding a gold chain belt and a scarf around my head. I think we got about five or so intermittent songs in to the dance party before Taylor announced he wanted to punch his computer in the face as something was clearly not working. He ended up calling it a night and said we could try again the next night. I usually look forward to the dance party and was way too tired to be into it, so I was honestly glad we were getting a do-over.

I Heart To Bowl

Bowling has been a consistent event at Hanson Day, but one that I had never signed up for before. I’ve never been great at bowling; my all time high score is 83, and the last time I went I won a trophy for most gutter balls. But one of my good friends loves to bowl and I figured it’s time I give it a go at HDay since I never had before. My one goal was to not be the worst on my team and sadly, I did not meet that goal; I scored a whopping 40 points. But we all had fun and that’s the most important part. I’d happily sign up again in the future, but if you’re wanting to be on my team, you’ve been warned.

After bowling, I had thought about scootering around Main street to see if Hanson was out and about talking to fans, but it was too hot outside and I was still feeling tired from the late nights (going to bed at 2am vs my usual 9pm), plus I had been doing a lot of extra exercise over the week. My roommates were all working their volunteer shifts, so I decided to take advantage of the quiet room to myself and took a long, much-needed nap to gear up for the concert and dance party do-over.

Hanson Day Concert

Typically, the Hanson Day concert is full of fan favorites, members’ only songs we don’t get to hear anywhere else, and that year’s fan club EP in full. However, a few weeks before Hanson Day, they announced in their newsletter that this year would be a preview of the RGB Tour. I’m sure they had been practicing hard for the tour and didn’t want to be sidetracked by rehearsing a bunch of unique songs for a one-off members’ show. While I’m disappointed that this means we didn’t get to hear White Rabbit (and I’m still waiting to hear 3/7 of CBIB), we still got a really good show and it certainly whet my appetite for my shows this summer. “Against The World” makes for a great show opener (possibly my favorite since “Great Divide”), and when “If Only” popped up only three songs in, I had no idea where the rest of the show was going (which again, I love). The show continued to be full of surprises when they went from solo to full band and back a few times. “Cold As Ice” was a great choice to introduce Dimitrius and Andrew during, and they managed to cover every studio album.

Dance Party: Part Two

After the show, we grabbed dinner then headed back into Cain’s for another attempt at the Dance Party. I was feeling rested and ready to go this time, but opted out of getting back into my costume (if you can even call it that) from the night before. Strange things tend to happen at Hanson events and this time that included a pirate in spandex and someone dressed as Pikachu all dancing to Taylor Hanson’s DJ set. And if you’re wondering, yes, Taylor did play the obligatory “Another One Bites The Dust”. It was a great way to wrap up the week.

The Rest

While I’ve missed a few events here and there, I’ve been going to Tulsa for Hanson events since 2009. In that time, I’ve gotten to experience so many fun local restaurants, breweries, shops, and museums. On this trip, I somehow ended up going to Nothings Left Brewery twice. The did not have a Hanson Brothers Beer this time around (pun absolutely intended), but they did have a collaboration with another brewery to have Red (strawberry), Green (kiwi), and Blue (blackberry) sours to celebrate the week. I typically prefer stouts to sours, but I liked all three of these, especially the blue. They also had their pineapple dole whip beer slush and I’m so mad I can’t get it in Nashville.

A new museum recently opened called Greenwood Rising, and I had time to pop in during my last day in Tulsa. Just blocks from the Art District where all the Hanson activities happen is a corner of tragic history in Tulsa and in our nation. In 1921, the Greenwood neighborhood was a thriving Black community in Tulsa. Racial tensions were high, a white woman falsely accused a black man of assault, and it all led to hundreds of murders, leaving over 10,000 Black residents homeless with 1,256 homes burned. Due to continued systemic issues, the neighborhood has still not been fully restored even 100 years later. If you ever make it to Tulsa, I highly recommend visiting the museum. It was very well done and quite powerful.

Tulsa is a great little city and it feels more and more like a second (or third) home each time I visit. I was lucky enough to attend most of the shows in Tulsa throughout the past couple years, so it’s weird to know that now I’ll be going back to only having annual trips. (As far as I know anyway.) I’m surprised every year by how many fans say it’s their first trip. If you’ve never been, I hope you get the chance!

Back To The Island 2022

January 5 – 10, 2022

A week ago today I was enjoying my last evening in Jamaica, relieved to have received a negative Covid test to be able to fly back to the US in the morning. Today, I’m sitting in my bedroom in a snowy Nashville, still in disbelief that this year’s trip actually happened. If you’re tired of hearing about Covid, feel free to skip down to paragraph three. Right now, the travel requirements for Jamaica are that you have to have a negative Covid test 72-hours before you arrive, regardless of vaccination status. I’m happy to report that I’m triple Pfizered, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on edge for an entire 6 weeks prior to the trip. I wore my mask everywhere, including in my own house, starting around mid-December, and spent New Year’s Eve alone in my bedroom while my roommate had some friends over.

Maybe I was being overly cautious, but between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, I dodged two roommates, three family members, and more coworkers than I can keep track of who had all tested positive. I was beyond relieved when both my PCR and Antigen tests came back negative and I was clear to head to Jamaica. Even then, I was still worried about the possibility of any of my friends or Hanson testing positive. But eventually, my friends’ tests started coming in one after the other, all negative, and then all three Hansons were on my flight into Montego Bay, which finally put all my worries aside for a few days.

I always opt to travel to Jamaica a day before the event starts because by the time you get through customs, baggage claim, and a 90 minute shuttle ride, it ends up being evening by the time you get to the resort. We finally checked in, dropped our luggage in our room, and then my friend gave me a quick tour of the Jewel. This was my 4th BTTI, but my other three years were at the Melia. I now understand why everyone liked the Jewel so much better: the staff was friendlier, the layout just makes more sense, the beach was 100 times better, and in my opinion, the food was better. The Level rooms at the Melia were pricier, but they were nicer than the rooms at the Jewel, and the Level Lounge had better quality alcohol, but that’s really all it had going for it. We then changed into swimsuits under dresses, grabbed some teppanyaki, hot tubbed, and called it a day.

I inadvertently found myself falling into a daily routine on the island. I’d wake up, put on a swimsuit and coverup, get a cold brew, and go to breakfast. Then I’d grab a frozen drink, get in the ocean and float around until the fish started nibbling. Then I’d go to one of the pools, get another frozen drink and float around there. I’d get a snack from the pool restaurant and a diet coke and bourbon and continue to sit around in the water. Eventually I’d get out and dry off in time to walk over to the stage for a solo show. After that, I’d freshen up, grab dinner, and watch the main show. Basically, I was living my best life as only a half-mermaid Hanson fan can.

I thought each show was far better than the past few BTTIs, despite missing their backup guitarist/keyboardist Demetrius. (Rumor is he didn’t have Covid, but had marked on his travel form that he had been exposed, and thus wasn’t allowed into Jamaica.) They started the first show off with a cover medley of “Three Little Birds” and “Stir It Up”, and then proceeded to play some of the non-single favorites such as “Dance Like You Don’t Care”, “Sunny Day”, “Dancing In The Wind”, and “Tearing It Down”. One Against The World song made the cut on night one, and it happened to be my favorite of the seven, “Only Love”. I just got my first tattoo ever of this song back in November, so it was really special to hear it for the first time since then.

I don’t know if this was always the plan, or if it was a last-minute switch after losing Demetrius, but night two was all acoustic. I unexpectedly ended up front row for this one, which I think made it that much better. I wonder if I would have found it to be a bit too mellow otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. They pulled “River” out of the vault, complete with a mashup of Hootie and The Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You”, an acoustic “Runaway Run” never disappoints, and we heard a couple of my favorites “No Rest For The Weary” and “Tonight”.

The final full-band show was all rock no stop, and I loved every minute of it. I could go on and on (no pun intended) listing almost every song they chose as a favorite, so instead, I’ll just let you read the whole setlist:

https://www.hansonstage.com/setlist.php?show_id=1425

Zac started his solo show out with “Change”, which had previously only been played on 2021’s BTTI stream from 3CG. He also played us a brand new (well, brand new to us at least) song called “Magic Man”, and I’m curious if it’ll end up on the recently announced upcoming Red Green Blue, but it sounded to me more like something that would be found on a members’ EP. And speaking of members’ EPs, Zac played 10 songs during his solo set and 8 of them were members’ only! This is the kind of content I like to hear during these sets, so Zac got an A+ from me.

I need to be honest with you here about Isaac’s solo set: I wanted to be able to say that I watched at least part of one of the shows from the ocean, so I chose Isaac’s solo set… and I may have had a little too much bourbon in the process. I distinctly remember he played “Soldier”, which hadn’t been played since 1998, and he played “Begin Again” for the first time, which I love. Beyond that, I had to resort to Hansonstage for the rest. There was a gorgeous sunset happening during his set which took me back to The Albertane Tour. I saw them at an amphitheater, and to this day I have a vivd memory of 18-year-old Isaac telling us all to turn around and look at the sunset as he began playing “More Than Anything”.

Taylor’s solo set was, to me, the best of the three this year. He started with one of my favorites, “Feeling Alive”, pulled “Out Of My Head” from the unreleased-never-been-played*-but-everyone-knows vault, gave us a hint about the now-announced Red Green Blue album by playing its yet-to-be-released first single “Child At Heart”, covered “Dancing In The Street”, and ended with last year’s new song, “Sound Like Joy” which I believe was supposed to be released on some sort of Black Wallstreet Music Project. (What ever happened to that?)

Overall, there was a really great mix of old favorites, unreleased, brand new, and new covers, and everything sounded really well rehearsed too. Aside from the couple new songs, if I had to pick a highlight it would be hearing “Begin Again” and “Change”. Without having Hanson Day in 2020, we didn’t get to hear all of CBIB live, and I had resigned myself to it being the forgotten EP, never to be heard of again. I didn’t go to the July shows last summer, so I still need to hear “Dressed In Brown Eyes”, while “Miss You Like Crazy” and “All I Know” still haven’t been played live. Maybe there’s hope for hearing them at Hanson Day 2022.

This year’s special guest was a local Jamaican band named Raging Fyah. From what I saw on Facebook, people had mixed reactions to this news. I for one was really excited. I don’t know if this was just a result of Covid and it being harder to find a US band willing and able to travel in, but I had actually suggested getting a local Jamaican band on my feedback the past few years. We get to hear Hanson’s friends on almost every tour, so why not take this opportunity to hear something different. And let me tell you, they did not disappoint! I had such a great time listening to them, and everyone seemed to have fun dancing around. I hope we get more native bands in the future, wherever Back To The Island takes us.

This year in general felt different than previous years just due to the ever-present concern about Covid, and this was hit heaviest when they announced that they were cancelling our photos with the band. I respect the choice they made, but I do wish they had announced that decision prior to our arrival in Jamaica. They are making up for it by giving each of us a free ticket and a meet and greet to a show of our choice on the upcoming Red Green Blue Tour, and I think that’s a fair trade-off. For this same reason, there wasn’t any interaction with the band outside of two socially distanced rounds of Family Feud with Isaac and Zac, and a DJ Taylor Up On An Elevated Ledge Pool Dance Party.

Family Feud was split into four teams this year: a yellow Team Zac and red Team Isaac night one, and a blue Team Zac and green Team Isaac night two. I was on yellow Team Zac, and my friends and I ended up being the very first team called up… which was unfortunate as I had too much to drink to be climbing onto a stage without stairs and thinking quick on my feet. A friend captured a very embarrassing video in which I was asked: Name a bad job for someone who is forgetful. I immediately hit the buzzer, and then my mind went blank. Isaac proceeded to yell at me to answer, so I blurted out my own profession (accountant), which was not on the list. The top answer ended up being doctor. I’ll spare you the video, but please enjoy this photo of me facepalming while trying to think of an answer while Isaac is yelling at me. Our team was able to redeem ourselves with our second question: What is something a musician buys when they hit it big.

 📸: Laura Thorp

Despite the lack of interaction and photos with the band, this was probably my favorite Back To The Island that I’ve been to, save for maybe 2019 which was my first year that didn’t get ruined by four days of monsoon. I do think this year objectively might have been better than 2019 (other Islanders, I’d love to hear your thoughts!), but 2019 I was just so overly excited about everything because it felt like my first real time going. As a 4th year attendee, I begrudgingly packed a bag with room to bring home an ugly, red visor and was pleasantly surprised to see that this year they switched to a pretty blue full cap that I will actually wear! Here’s hoping for a smooth, rain-free, pandemic-free 2023 Back To The Island where I can finally receive the coveted 5th year gift of a passport cover and luggage tag, and I hope any and all future BTTI DJ Taylor dance parties take place in the pool. In the meantime, you may now return to your regularly scheduled RGB tour planning… will I see you on the road?

*”Out Of My Head” was actually played one other time, over 20 years ago.

ATW² + Underneath + The Walk

August 6-8, 2021

The Travel

In my experience, some of the best adventures and subsequent memories start with the phrase, “I wasn’t going to go, but…” and this weekend was no exception. When Hanson first announced this 4-month ATW+ series, I decided no thank you to Oklahoma in August. (Though to be honest, it wasn’t any different than Tennessee in August.) This decision was cemented after I had a work event scheduled for the day of the Friday show.

But then.

But then I got to work on Thursday morning and was told our event needed to be rescheduled. I messaged a couple of my friends and said that now that there was no work event, I wished I was going to Tulsa. As all good Hanson friends do, they reminded me that technically it wasn’t too late, and one of them had space for me in her hotel room. This wasn’t my first last-minute decision to go to a Hanson concert two states away, but it was the first time it involved booking a last-minute flight… I bought my plane ticket 27 hours before departure time… and I only told the one friend who had a hotel room, intending to surprise the rest of my friends.

I still had a work meeting to go to on Friday morning, and there was only one flight option that left late enough for me to not miss the meeting and still arrive early enough for me to get to the show on time (read: landing at 5:48pm for a 8pm show). I arrived at the Nashville airport 90 minutes before my flight, but as soon as I stepped out of the Uber I got an alert that it was delayed 15 minutes. I’ve had worse delays, but this took my layover time down from 50 minutes to 35 minutes. By the time I got to my gate, we were delayed an additional 15 minutes… so now I had a 20 minute layover at DFW, which is not a small airport, and at the time the airline app was telling me I’d need to get from the A terminal to the C terminal.

While waiting for my flight, a woman walked up to the gate agent and started asking her questions. I couldn’t hear their exchange, but from their body language I could tell things were not okay. I assumed she was just stressed or upset about the delay, and the agent eventually asked her to please have a seat. She came and sat next to me, reeking of alcohol, and started ranting to me about the agent being rude to her. A few minutes went by, and she went back up and started asking the agent some more questions, and was again told to please sit down.

After she said back down next to me, a manager came out to talk to her. The woman kept saying she needed to get to Austin, insisting she was “okay to drive”, and that they could take her “blood alcohol” because she doesn’t drink. Thankfully, they told her she would not be allowed to get on the plane and that she could try again later in the day. She stormed off saying she’d just go to another airline, but I’m guessing that didn’t work out too well for her either. All I could think was that if they had let her on the plane and she had started acting up mid-flight, I would have been grounded somewhere and most definitely would not have been at the Friday concert.

Once we got off the ground, most of my flight to DFW went smoothly, other than half the plane being stressed about making our connecting flights. But toward the end of the flight, the woman next to me started having a panic attack and kept saying she was going to throw up. I felt for her, but was scared for myself that she would get sick – thankfully, she did not. Then, as we we’re descending, I heard a thud followed by people yelling. That is a terrible thing to hear when a plane is going down, so I immediately started thinking the worst. As it turns out, someone’s cat managed to get out of its carrier, and the owner was able to get it back in. When we landed, I noticed we were taxiing to gate C, not A like the app had told me, and I could see the plane I needed to be on to get to Tulsa. But then we stopped just shy of the jet bridge – and sat there waiting for a good 10 minutes because there was a baggage cart blocking it.

I only had to get from C15 to C8 to catch my flight, but I still literally sprinted through the airport and got there while they were boarding group 4 – and I was group 6. The flight from DFW to TUL is a short one, and I let my one friend know that I had made my connection and would be there as planned. I’m one who typically gets to shows early – even if they’re seated – so walking off the plane exactly 2 hours before show time was a new one for me. My friend was already at the venue when I landed (which I suspected she would be), so I grabbed an Uber, dropped my luggage off at the hotel, and took a Lime scooter to the venue. All the hassle was worth it when I got to surprise my friends by showing up at the venue just a few minutes before doors.

ATW+ Underneath

I’ll be honest, one thing I don’t like about “themed” concerts is that it usually leaves little room for set list surprises. However, the good part of that theme being one album+ is that there’s a good chance they’ll play some favorite songs that are rarely heard live. One of those songs for me is “Dancing In The Wind”, although I did hear it a couple times last year. It was a great opener for this show, but I do wish Taylor would pull the electric guitar out for it like he used to back in the day. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know the story behind Underneath. (If you don’t, and you’d like to, the documentary Strong Enough To Break is available for free on YouTube, though it’s broken into several parts.)

Despite knowing what they went through during the season of recording this album, and on top of knowing all these songs by heart for 17(!) years, I still never really realized how depressing some of these songs are until I heard them live this weekend, in non-album order. Putting “Underneath” and “Misery” back-to-back later followed by “Believe” and “When You’re Gone” back-to-back was a lot to process. I love all those songs, but I was thankful for the energy to pick back up at the end as they played the four released Against The World tracks. Until this show, I had only previously heard “Annalie” and “Don’t Ever Change”, but I didn’t know “Don’t Ever Change” well enough at the time. “Don’t Ever Change” and “Against The World” both sound like songs that will become future live staples, and I hope “Only Love” sticks around for a long time.

ATW+ The Walk

The Walk has always been my favorite Hanson album, and lot of the songs are ones I haven’t heard live in quite some time. That alone is reason enough that I did almost consider attending these shows from the day they were announced, and this is the one I was most excited about once I did finally decide to go. The Walk Tour in the spring of 2008 wasn’t the first time I saw Hanson live, but it was the first time I really started to “do tour” and go to multiple shows in a row. So maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I don’t think any song can beat “Great Divide” for the best set opener. As soon as the first bar dropped, I started crying happy tears.

Maybe it’s because it was my first front row general admission show since Covid (and first front row GA in Tulsa), but I think it was more than that. Part of what keeps me coming back for more (pun absolutely intended) is that you never know what show is going to do it for you… but every once in awhile that feeling pops up. I don’t mean this to say I don’t have fun at every show (I wouldn’t keep going if I didn’t), it’s just that some of them have some sort of way… the band’s energy and the crowd’s energy match in a unique way and everything is just surreal. After talking to my friends, I definitely wasn’t the only one who felt it this time, and many of us have decided this was one of the best Hanson concerts we’ve ever been to. Since it’s not on Against The World or The Walk, I wasn’t expecting to hear “A Minute Without You”, let alone as Isaac’s solo choice. It’s a song I’ve heard live almost as many times as “MMMBop”, but the crowd sang along so loudly that it caught Isaac off guard and he forgot what he was singing half-way through the song.

I absolutely loved getting to hear some rare songs like “One More” and “Your Illusion”, and The Walk also has some old staples that haven’t been played much lately like “Blue Sky” and “Running Man”. I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a (probably insensitive) joke about Hanson playing “Something Going ‘Round” during a pandemic, but let’s just say I don’t have it (but maybe I don’t know it), and I definitely don’t need it. And we could get this herd immunity thing in motion if you’d stop acting tough and get vaccinated. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Moral Of The Story

If you’re on the fence about doing something, no matter how last minute the planning is… I highly suggest you just do the thing. You never know what concert might be your new favorite, or if whatever your version of a Hanson concert is will be your favorite of whatever it is. Buy the ticket. Book the flight. Run through the airport. Make the memories. Blog about it later so you don’t forget when you’re old and start losing all of your hair.

Only Love Is Gonna Save Us Now

When Hanson announced their new project Against The World would be released one song at a time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do my blog review. Would each song get its own post? Would I wait until November when they’ve all been released? As you may have noticed, I finally settled on one blog post for all the songs combined, but that I would update that post each month as songs are released. After all, I usually only have a little snippet to say about a song anyway.

But then I heard the third track, “Only Love”, and I knew this one was going to use a lot more words than the first two songs. I decided to keep my review brief for the Against The World blog, while also making a separate post to go on a deep dive for this one.

Whenever I first listen to a song, I mostly hear how it makes me feel overall, not paying much attention to the specific lyrics. This song was an exception to that. There were several lyrics that jumped out to me, and then I listened to the song, on repeat, for my entire flight to Chicago. The first line that hit me was “she headed south, without a care, without a clue, didn’t give a damn.” What, you might wonder, could be so significant about that lyric? Well, it’s me. I’m coming up on my 15-year “Nashiversary”. I grew up in small town Michigan and went to college in small town Indiana. Then, that summer after college, I packed up my Camry, had $500 to my name, no job, and no place to live, and moved south to Nashville. I never imagined I’d be here for so long, but here we are a decade and a half later, and I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon. This lyric hits home because not only did I head south, but looking back, at a mere 23 years of age, I certainly had no cares, no clues, and no damns to give.

But as much as that lyric hit home, it wasn’t the one that made me realize this song was going to need a full blog. It was the third verse that stood out to me the most:

I know all too well my demons, and broken dreams, and running head-long into false plans
I get bogged down in self-doubt, dying inside, bleeding out, yeah
So whether hipsters or holy-rollers, we find ourselves holding court on our knees
But broken won’t define you, ’cause love can always find you
Only love is gonna save us now

Hanson – “Only Love”

I was immediately reminded of a book I read several years ago by Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. It’s a short little booklet that only took me about 20 minutes to re-read before writing this blog. The premise of the book is that true humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but rather thinking of ourselves less. But what this song reminded me of was how Keller says we can get to a place of thinking of ourselves less. He references 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7, in which Paul says “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.” In Keller’s book, he runs with this analogy. He says that if our self-esteem is too high and we are prideful, we have put ourselves on trial and found ourselves innocent. And on the flip-side, if we find ourselves guilty, our self-esteem will be too low. So, what then? To quote Keller:

Here is Paul’s answer: he is out of the courtroom, he is out of the trial. How? Because Jesus Christ went on trial instead… As our substitute. He took the condemnation we deserve; He faced the trial that should be ours so that we do not have to face any more trials. So I simply need to ask God to accept me because of what the Lord Jesus has done. Then, the only person whose opinion counts looks at me and He finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth.

Tim Keller – The Freedom Of Self-Forgetfulness

I know not everyone reading this blog has the same belief system, but this is what I believe is true: that “only love is gonna save us now”. And in fact, it already has.