Songwriting UK — Winter 2017

(Axel Boer) #1



hen you think of the band Hanson,
the first song that springs to mind
is MMMBop. Having crashed into
our musical consciousness in April of 1997, this
catchy pop brainteaser quickly took on a life
of its own, reaching No 1 in 27 countries. In
the UK alone it sold over 700,000 units - thus
making Isaac, Zac and Taylor, the three Hanson
brothers, household names.
Few could have predicted the impact
this song would have had around the world,
especially the brothers themselves, and after
20 years its melody and chorus remain as
catchy as ever. When you study the melancholy
nature of the lyrics it’s hard to believe that it
was actually written in 1993/94, before any of
the band had even entered their teenage years.
We chatted to the eldest Hanson bother Issac
about how the song originally came together...

“Interestingly MMMBop kind of came
together in a very similar way to Thinking
About Something, which was written in 2007
during the writing of our album The Walk.
We were just goofing around and this idea
came about, we originally thought about it
being a 50s vocal group style thing in the way
that it had been arranged. It was just this fun
little passing idea but it just stuck in our heads
and then fans would come up to us and say
‘you guys really need to put that on the next
“MMMBop was the same kind of process,
it was an idea that we had when we were
making our album Boomerang back in
1993/1994. It was a vocal idea we thought
was going to fit in another song called
Boomerang, but it didn't fit. It was too
complicated, it wasn’t a background part it
was a foreground part and so it got put to
the side, but it was a thing that we all kept
coming back to.
“Interestingly, and this would be the only
degree that I could take credit for this process
moving forward, I was definitely the one who
kept bringing up the idea, ‘hey remember
that idea, that was really cool.’ By saying that
enough times Taylor then went ‘you know
the idea that you keep bringing up? how
about this?’
“We had talked about the idea a bunch

Isaac Hanson, the eldest of the sibling trio, tells the story of his group's
chart-topping blockbuster with the super-catchy chorus

by Hanson

Originally Released: 1997
Artist: Hanson
Label: Mercury/ PolyGram
Writers: Isaac, Taylor & Zak Hanson
UK Chart Position: 1
US Chart Position: 1

"it was a

thing that

we all kept


back to"


and were talking about making another
independent record, we were starting to get
things together and that idea came up again.
Taylor said ‘you know that background part,
hey what if you did this with the first verse?’
and I was like ‘dude that’s really cool.’
“I remember really clearly Taylor sitting
down in our living room at the keyboard as
I was walking. It was late afternoon and the
sun was still up. Taylor was sitting at the
piano and he basically played what was mostly
the first verse for MMMBop, and it was like

‘ok, that works, that makes sense.’ But he
was like ‘you know we’ve got to start it out
slow because its a bittersweet idea, more
melancholy, and then we work our way to
the chorus.’
“In its original form, it was a little
bit more campfire and a little bit more
That original version is on MMMBop
[demo album released 1996] and 3 Car
Garage: The Indie Recordings ’95–'96. When
we did the final version it was very clear
that it was very catchy and really stuck
out as an idea and melody that was going
to stick in people’s heads. It stuck in our
heads, so its reasonable to think it would
stick in other people’s heads too. But
knowing whether or not it was going to
have the level of success it had, there’s no
way anyone could have predicted that.
“Also in addition to that, at least for
me, especially at the very beginning, I
remember still feeling that even though
I was very happy with the final version I
did find myself wishing that we had more
of the tempo swell from the beginning. By
starting off at the full BPM right from the
beginning, there was a little bit of, well
people won’t fully understand the message
of the lyric and I remember feeling that
people wouldn’t understand what this
song is about and all they’ll hear is the
“To some degree that is true, which is
that the chorus is such a specific thing,
because it’s scatty it’s not a lyric. It
goes back to what I was saying before,
unfortunately the lyric in the verse gets
lost because the lyric in the chorus is just a
vocal riff.
“I think a lot of the music that we make,
despite its pop and R&B roots, there’s a
lot of different songs that a lot of different
people have connected with over the
years. We feel very happy with everything
that we have done, whether it's MMMBop
or anything else.”

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