Saturday, August 30, 2014

Answering the A.V. Club: Hanson edition

A few days ago, I began writing a blog about lines I hated in my favorite songs, so this is well-timed. Honorable mention goes to any lyric that refers to love as a transaction or as an obligation. There are so many lame lyrics in great songs that this blog will always be incomplete, but these are the two examples that inspired my would-be piece:

• "Oh, I'll be workin' from nine to five / To buy you things to keep you by my side" — Michael Jackson, "The Way You Make Me Feel"

• "Look around for a wife to start a family, my boy" — Men at Work, "Settle Down My Boy"

But to answer the A.V. Club's question, "Man From Milwaukee" by Hanson immediately leaps to mind.

When Hanson first burst onto the scene in the summer of 1997, I dug them strictly on what I heard. By then I had stopped watching MTV and was too busy in the weight room training for football season (no, seriously) to interact with the 14-year-old girls (or even my 7-year-old sister, apparently) who could have told me this wasn't music 17-year-old guys were supposed to like. All I knew when I first heard "MMMBop" on the radio was that it was fun and catchy as hell. I went to the mall and bought the CD Middle of Nowhere with no shame, the clerk presumably waiting until afterward to laugh himself into six-pack abs.

Even after I figured out I liked every freshman girl's favorite band, I still listened, if I did keep it on the down-low. My dad heard them on a radio show and was impressed, so I figured they were just a good band who happened to be kids. Nothing wrong with that.

Anyway, "Man From Milwaukee" instantly became my favorite track on the album because of its riff. That riff would have rocked in any song. 

I'd still say it's one of my favorite tunes.

But there's one part of the song that made me cringe. 

The cringeworthy moment was the bridge, when this walkie-talkie exchange occurs between Taylor and 11-year-old Zac (or maybe it's just Zac, not sure):

This is Mother Bird calling Baby Bird 
Baby Bird come in, come in Baby Bird 
For the love of Pete come in! 
This is Baby Bird ... sorry I was watching Court TV 
Do you copy? Do you copy? 
Of course we copy ... 24 hours a day ... in color!

I was never in a position to judge this, because when I was 11 and younger (and older), I spewed similar silliness on tape all the time. It was fun. And I was already lip-synching to songs at school events and parties will full appreciation of detachment and irony. But at the time, I found this verse hard to justify, especially the Court TV line, because it was a reminder that if Hanson's musical abilities defied their years, ultimately they were kids still finding their lyrical voice. And maybe there was a bit of, "I don't want to be a 17-year-old laughing at childish randomness." I'd save that for when Family Guy began two years later. 

I don't cringe over it so much now, because I'm more mature, appreciative of art and have a to-hell-what-anybody-thinks-of-my-tastes attitude now. I feel a little guilty for citing it, really. But in doing so, I'm blogging about how I like a Hanson song. So there.

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