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Kirk and I have very different taste.
He prefers to wear black whereas I go straight for super bright colors. He prefers a sporty car whereas I’m just looking for something reliable that gets good gas mileage. He prefers to watch “American Pickers” or old comedies or dramas on television, whereas I just want to watch something that is going to make me laugh.
But one of the most noticeable differences is our taste in music. Sure, we overlap on some things, but for the most part, we gravitate toward different artists. Kirk’s a fan of classic rock… The 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are his jam. And who DOESN’T love that? But he definitely goes looking for much deeper cuts than I do.
Me on the other hand? I listen to a little bit of a whole lot of things… Bluegrass (Trampled by Turtles and Punch Brothers are definite favorites), Americana, classical, jazz, disco, and a whole lot of 80’s and 90’s music. In general, I appreciate music for the way it makes me feel.
Which brings me to one of my favorite acts of all time: Hanson. Yes—Mmmbop Hanson. Now stick with me, because the history of my relationship with Hanson and their music is a little bit complicated.
I graduated from high school in 1995. Grunge was king, R&B was a big part of pop music, MTV’s Unplugged was huge, and Alanis Morrissette’s album Jagged Little Pill was about to become the soundtrack of every young woman’s personal angst. By the end of my freshman year of college, pop music was starting to evolve away from the sounds of Seattle while acts like Sheryl Crow and Celine Dion.
So the summer after my sophomore year of college, I wasn’t paying much attention to a lot of pop music—especially if I thought it was marketed toward someone younger or less sophisticated than me. Full disclosure here: I was still a music major at the time, and I was a bit of a snob about music… I loved They Might Be Giants, Abba, Duke Ellington, Tchaikovsky—I was kind of all over the map.
But I still watched VH1, because that’s what you did in 1997. A show called “The List” was on where different artists were tasked with coming together to create a list of the best ______ ever. The one I happened to see Hanson on was something related to the best pop album of all time. I remember thinking, “Oh… I think I know these kids. How much could this gimmick of a band possibly know?” In truth, I’m only about 3 ½ years older than Isaac (the oldest brother), but they just seemed so young. Honestly, though, I was impressed with their picks. I remember them talking about a lot of classic R&B artists and just seeming to be very knowledgeable for their ages. But I would never acknowledge that—as I said, I was much too cool.
Fast forward to October of the same year—I grabbed a teen heartthrob magazine to decorate with for Halloween… They terrified me. Of course, by then, those magazines were about 92% Hanson, so I decorated the door to my dorm room with Hanson. It quickly became a running joke that they were my boyfriends.
But life moved on, and music and my tastes both changed.
Then 2008 happened.
Early that year, it was announced that Hanson would be kicking off their upcoming tour with a stop in our town. Of course I knew I needed to go. I figured it would be a blast, so of course I bought tickets. Sometime between then and April 9th (the concert date), it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard anything they’d recorded since 1999. I feared showing up to a show that was full of their actual fans as the asshole who had no idea what they had done with themselves for the last decade… So I picked up a couple of their albums, and I started listening.
Then the end of March happened. I doubt Kirk would argue that this was one of the hardest few days that we’ve been through together (or even before). Nolan’s sleep had become erratic, and something just seemed very off, so I scheduled the appointment with his pediatrician where the idea of Nolan having autism first came to light. It was the next day that Kirk told me his mother had found out that her cancer had returned and was terminal.
Needless to say, that was the beginning of a long road.
But when I turned on some music to clear my mind that evening, there was Hanson. Specifically, there was their newest album, “The Walk”. Somehow through all of the worry and stress of that night and the many long weeks that followed, a theme of that album emerged for me: Hope. Now, I can’t say if that was their intention at the time, but as far as what that album means to me? It’s all about hope.
Not only did I have a bit of a bright spot to look forward to in the upcoming concert, the lyrics of these songs were urging me to not live in the darkness but to look for the light. For example, the song Great Divide features a chorus with the words, “I find hope,” repeating at the beginning of several lines. The album had also been recorded with the help of a school choir in South Africa, and one of the tracks on the album was the children singing, “Ngi ne themba,” which translates from Zulu as “I have hope.”
But the song “Blue Sky” has to be my favorite from the album—or maybe any of their albums. And I say that on a level of pure emotional connection. I mean, in the almost 25-years, these three talented guys have written some seriously amazing songs that you’ve probably never heard (seriously—google “Penny and Me” or “Nothing Like a Love Song”… or so many others that I want to mention), but this one caught me right in the feels. Somewhere during those incredibly hard days and weeks, this one found me in the perfect moment. The lines that did it for me? “I know there’s got to be a blue sky out there to see- A blue sky waiting for me.”
It was exactly the reminder I needed that we would get through these challenges. We knew that we would have to say goodbye to Kirk’s mom. And we knew that there would be extra hurdles in Nolan’s lane on the track—though we didn’t know yet just how many or how high they might be. But now I also knew that every day would not be as dark as those. Logically, I already knew it… But it gave me the boost I needed to believe it in my heart.
Since then, I’ve kept listening. That concert was so much fun that I ended up seeing two more—including one at the Minnesota Zoo in the pouring rain (which is still one of my all-time favorite concerts) and another at the infamous First Avenue in Minneapolis. Hopefully I’ll get to see them again soon.
A friend and I at the Minnesota Zoo for a Hanson concert before the rain REALLY came down. (Apparently when you procrastinate you forget to ask the friend you went with for permission to use their photo on your blog, so you just pretend you went with a Ninja Cat instead? Whatever works...)
And the more music they keep making, the more I grow connected to it… Their newest single, “Don’t Ever Change,” is a great example of that. I’m paraphrasing here, but the lyrics are essentially saying, “You are worth every bit of effort or hardship involved in our relationship, and please stay the person you are.” Obviously they’re more eloquent with their words than I am, but the line that hits me hardest is, “You’re the reason I can soldier on- don’t ever change.” I fully expect myself to put together a sappy photo montage for Nolan’s high school graduation or other such event to this absolutely rocking tune…
I’m grateful to have their music, though… It’s always there if I need to go back to that album or any number of their others. They not only continue to provide a bright spot when I need it, but they still remind me to keep hoping, keep looking for the blue sky that is yet to come, and to appreciate Nolan and Kirk for exactly the guys they are. It’s the greatest gift a trio of brothers from Oklahoma could give a girl.