August 2, 2015
Todd plays "MMMBop" on the piano
HANSON - MMMBOP
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: I did not want to do this.
- Video for "MMMBop"
Todd (VO): When I sold my four exclusive One Hit Wonderland requests on Patreon, I did not really think it through. And that's how we got here.
- Hanson: Mmmbop, ba duba dop
- Ba du bop, ba duba dop
- Ba du bop, ba duba dop
- Ba du
Todd (VO): The reason I didn't want to do this is not because I don't like "MMMBop"—you'll hear my opinion on the song in a second. I didn't want to this because Hanson...
Todd: ...are not one-hit wonders to me.
Todd (VO): Yeah, I've bent the definition of "one-hit wonder" more than once doing this show, but I would never even have considered Hanson for this. I asked my requester if she could please pick someone else, but she really had her heart set on me doing a Hanson episode, and...
Todd: ...you know me, I'm a soft touch, I'll do anything for my fans if they give me money.
Todd (VO): So, yeah, we're doing this, even though again, they are not one-hit wonders.
Todd: [beat] Or are they?
Todd (VO): I mean, I know they had other hits. I do. But if you asked me to name any of those hits or sing them, I couldn't do it. Most teen pop stars can point to an array of hit singles. [Album covers of "greatest hits" by...] There were a ton of Backstreet Boys songs, NSYNC songs, [clip of "Story of My Life" by...] when the whole One Direction thing is over—...
Todd: ...which maybe it already is, I don't know.
Todd (VO): But when it is, people are still gonna be able to remember more than one song by them. You know, there's the one about how they love you, girl, [brief clip of "What Makes You Beautiful"] the other one about how they love you, and so on.
The Hanson discography, meanwhile, is completely dwarfed by this one solitary tune whose name isn't even a real word. So it's really no surprise that I get this request so very often.
Todd: Still, like I said, I'd never do it usually.
Todd (VO): Because I totally remember them having other hits, even if no one else does. So this is a one-time thing here. I am breaking my rules just this once to bring you the biggest...
Todd: ...not-really-but-kinda one-hit wonders of the '90s, [picture of...] except for Vanilla Ice. Let's do it.
- Hanson: Mmmbop
Before the hit
- Early picture of the trio, followed by picture around the time of their breakthrough
Todd (VO): Hanson: Zac, Taylor, and Isaac. Three boys from Oklahoma who made it big.
Todd: And what was their story before the hit? Well, before they became superstars, they had other interests, like [pictures of...] Mr. Potato Head, Sesame Street, chocolate milk, Zac got an award for perfect attendance in second grade. Look, they were kids; there's not a lot there.
- Clip of early performance in mall
Todd (VO): They got piano lessons, learned some instruments, started a band, cut a demo, got a record deal. Pretty straightforward. (Nice dance moves, though.) Although you should check out the demo sometime.
Todd: It starts out like a slow Stone Temple Pilots song or something.
- Early version plays over cover of demo
- Taylor: Oh
Todd: [singing in Scott Weiland-like voice] Mmmbop, ba duba dop
Ba du bop
The big hit
Todd: I wasn't listening to pop music in 1997, so I didn't really know anything about Hanson. I just knew I was supposed to hate them.
- Video for "MMMBop"
Todd (VO): Really, really hate them with all of my heart. You remember how much people hated Justin Bieber at the height of his hatedom? Hanson was pretty darn close to that. I mean, look at them! They look like girls! This observation was hilarious in 1997, by the way.
Todd: Making jokes about Hanson looking like girls was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Todd (VO): Maybe a lot of the backlash came from just what a shock they were in the gritty grunge and G-funk '90s. Nowadays, when people think of the late '90s, [brief clip of Britney Spears - "Baby One More Time"] they think of TRL and the teen pop boom. But before Hanson, there hadn't been a teen pop star in years.
Todd: Look, [cover of 16 magazine] here's a Tiger Beat from 1995. [Arrows point to Jonathan Taylor Thomas...] Actor, [...Devon Sawa...] actor, [...Rider Strong...] actor, [...and Andrew Keegan] I actually don't know who that one was. But the point is, not a single musician.
- Clip of live performance
Todd (VO): Then Hanson comes along and becomes everybody's pretty-boy, long blond-haired brothers band of the '90s. [Picture of...] Sorry, Nelson.
- Hanson: Mmmbop, ba duba dop
- Ba du bop, ba duba dop
Todd (VO): And all the complaining the Hanson haters did that year look pretty sheltered now 'cause Hanson were very quickly replaced [brief clip of NSYNC - "Bye Bye Bye"] by a horde of dancing castrati with even stupider hair and didn't even play their own instuments.
Todd: Which mattered, for some reason, I don't really remember why.
Todd (VO): But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The point is that the '90s were about to take a sharp turn to the teenybopper, and Hanson were the first ones to make that breakthrough. Why? Is it because the song is so good? Well, in my opinion...
Todd: ...no. No, no, no.
Todd (VO): I didn't like it back in '97 because I was told not to like it. But the shine of '90s nostalgia that has kept it popular for so many, does absolutely nothing for me. It still turns me off. I honestly never listened to it the whole way through until doing this episode. I had no idea, for example, that all the choruses had DJ scratches between lines.
- Hanson: Ba du bop
- [DJ scratch]
- Ba du bop
Todd: God, the '90s are overrated.
Todd (VO): But listening to it now, I think I at least do understand why "MMMBop" got so very big. It has a lot to do with the earwormy nonsense chorus, but it's also more than that. There were plenty of stupid, nonsense songs in the '90s, but they were all pretty straightforward. [Clip of...] "Blue (Da Ba Dee)," for example, doesn't jerk you around. It announces right away that this is gonna be one of the stupidest songs you've ever heard. "MMMBop," meanwhile, yeah, it's bright and it's cheery, but it starts out sounding like it's a real song with lyrics and everything. Something about the fleeting nature of human contact, looking for a genuine connection, something like that.
- Taylor: You have so many relationships in this life
- Only one or two will last
Todd (VO): So what's the chorus that's gonna make this all hang together? Something like "I love you," "I'll be there for you, will you be there," "is there someone for me?"
- Hanson: Mmmbop
Todd (VO): Nothing but "mmmbop."
Todd: "Mmmbop ba duba dop, ba du bop." That's all you get. It's a trap!
Todd (VO): That swerve that makes the hook stay with you. You expect a real chorus, and you get a face full of "mmmbop" instead. Your brain gets fixated on it 'cause you can't handle the dissonance.
By the way, this video is hilariously bad.
"MMMBop" feels like I've been ripped off, like I paid for a finished song and got this instead. But obviously, there are tons of people who disagree, and I do see why. There's something just ridiculously natural about "MMMBop," some kind of accidental genius about it. The hook, it gets into you. And say whatever else about it, it sounds great. The production on this song is fantastic.
Todd: But...look, I try not to be a snob about this stuff, but if you're gonna make this song so frothy and happy, for me, it needs to be at least about something.
Todd (VO): This is just too cute, too chipper, too empty, like a Shirley Temple song with extra frosting. Like, "ooh, look at us, we're young and adorable, so we can get away with this. I'm Nermal, the world's cutest kitty-cat."
- Hanson: Tell me who will still care
- Video for "Where's the Love"
Todd (VO): Obviously, like I said, Hanson didn't fail, at least not right away. But I get why many might have thought that.
Todd: Because "MMMBop" just seems like a one-hit wonder, right?
Todd (VO): Just like "Blue (Da Ba Bee)," "Steal My Sunshine," "Mambo No. 5," a billion other songs of the late '90s; it practically had "one-hit wonder" pre-stamped on it.
Todd: They actually did stick around for a few years, but the way everyone remembers it, mmmbop, they were gone.
- Hanson: Where's the love
- It's not enough
Todd (VO): So, on one level, I think their follow-up single "Where's the Love" is a better song than "MMMBop." But it's just nowhere near as much of an earworm. It was always gonna seem like a poor man's "MMMBop," no matter how much their rabid fans shrieked at them. After "MMMBop," "Where's the Love" is the only song people seem to remember if they remember any other songs.
- Video for "I Will Come to You"
But that album, Middle of Nowhere, had several other singles as well.
- Taylor: I will come to you
- Oh, I will come to you
Todd (VO): As is standard for pop acts, the third single was a ballad. Technically, this is their biggest hit after "MMMBop." I have never heard this song ever, not at the time, and not since.
Todd: And once I'm done with this episode, I'm fairly certain I will never hear it again.
- Video for "This Time Around"
Todd (VO): And while it's tempting to say after their first album, they disappeared, I was paying attention by this point, and I remember their second album being really successful.
- Hanson: You can't say I didn't give it
- I won't wait
Todd (VO): Not on the radio, not in album sales either, but...
Todd: ...they were on Total Request Live a lot.
- Clip from TRL
- Isaac: ...top ten videos...
Todd (VO): At the time, TRL was the center of the pop universe, so to me, it seemed like Hanson were still quite successful.
- Video for "If Only"
In retrospect, that probably wasn't true. By 2000, Hanson were yesterday's boy band. Also, by then, they had all passed puberty, and the littlest one, the one that got joked at the most, [picture of Zac Hanson] was bigger than I was, and we were the same age. [Clip of "Runaway Run"] I also remember they got Weird Al to shoot one of their videos because they did it as a Titanic parody.
- Rose (Gloria Stuart): I'll never forget that night. It was right after I got my Hanson tattoo.
- [Weird Al tosses the picture]
- Clip of "River"
Todd (VO): Like I said, I was the same age as Hanson, and getting Weird Al to direct one of my videos is absolutely something I would've done if I were famous. Shockingly, the overlap between Hanson fans and Weird Al fans was...
Todd: ...quite small, so this didn't get them much play either. Sad.
Did they ever do anything else?
Todd: I...don't know how to say this exactly, but...I'm a huge Hanson fan, and I have been for years now.
- Clip for "Strong Enough to Break"
Todd (VO): See, Hanson never actually went away. Once the teenage girls stopped screaming, they just kept on keepin' on, making music, releasing independent albums pretty consistently over the years. [Clip of "Lost Without Each Other"] When they released one a while back, I decided to check out their entire discography, and I realized, wow, Hanson are actually, like, a real band. A good real band.
- Video for "Penny & Me"
And while their second album This Time Around, I mentioned it, it's actually really good, and I liked those songs even at the time, I think their follow-up in 2004 was their best, especially this single, "Penny & Me."
- Taylor: It's always Penny and me tonight
- Hanson: Cause Penny and me like to roll the windows down
Todd (VO): Apparently, VH1 tried to make this one a thing for a while, but they couldn't make it take off because, I don't know, we were all listening to whatever Lifehouse's current audio turd was at the time.
Todd: Can you listen to this song and tell me that [album cover for Hoobastank's...] "The Reason" deserved to be a hit and this didn't?
- Clip of "Give a Little"
Todd (VO): But yeah, they are just an absurdly good power-pop band, and I feel like if they hadn't started their careers as teen idols, more people would take them seriously. Matter of fact, liking Hanson is something you have to hit mega-hipster points to reach. Anyone can say they were into a band before they were famous.
Todd: I was into Hanson after they were famous.
- Video for "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'"
Todd (VO): I think I said Semisonic never got their due for similar reasons. The hit changes the way people see you. And to be fair, they're still pretty much the same band that made "MMMBop." I mean, they're older now, they're more mature, but they never really changed; it's just their songs are a little less adorable and precocious, and they're more fleshed-out and more soulful.
- Hanson: I've been thinkin bout somethin
- I've been thinkin bout somethin other than you
Todd: And one thing Hanson especially deserves credit for—they have never once done a single thing to embarrass themselves. Isn't that amazing?!
Todd: All you have to do is look at how [Still shot of CNN coverage of trial of...] Justin Bieber is currently dealing with fame, to see how easily fame screws you up.
- Clip of "Get the Girl Back"
Todd (VO): The Hanson brothers have given every indication of being utterly normal kids who happen to have once been famous. They got married, have kids. Also Isaac grew a beard [side-by-side pictures of Isaac and...] that makes him look like James Hetfield, Jr. [Brief clip of "T.G.I.F. (Last Friday Night)" by...] They were in a Katy Perry video once and seriously deserve way more screen time. Corey Feldman doesn't need more attention, seriously. [Back to "Thinking 'Bout Something" featuring...] And they still work with Weird Al, occasionally, which is certainly...
Todd: ...a plus in my book.
Did they deserve better?
Todd (VO): After I became a Hanson fan, I checked to see if I now liked "MMMBop" and I didn't, but I'm glad they used the success of that song to keep their career going instead of fading away like billions of teen pop stars before them. If they didn't have "MMMBop" in their past, I think people would talk about them in the same breath as, you know, cooler bands like Spoon or Fountains of Wayne or the Fratellis or bands like that. So yes, they deserved better, but it's hard to feel bad for them. Maybe they're not as famous as they were in '97, but they've used that momentum to propel what can only be considered a strong career. And they certainly don't seem like they resent their one big hit either. Truly, one of my favorite bands I've ever covered on One Hit Wonderland.
Todd: So yeah, this was a bit of a format change for the show, but no more freebies from this time out. Next request is the last one, and it'd better be a real one-hit wonder this time.
- From Aldan Martin: "So after doing a lot of research and discovering that a lot of the acts I'd like you to cover had more than one hit in this cover - shame upon us! The most interesting One Hit Wonder in Britain came from an American band: Killing in The Name by Rage Against the Machine. It might play havoc with the timeline of the video, but it's an example of the Internet using its power for good."
- Zoom in on "Rage Against the Machine"
That's a flat no, dude.
- Hanson: Ba du
Closing tag song: The Vamps - "Mmm Bop"
"MMMBop is owned by Polygram Pictures
This video is owned by me