It’s hard to believe that Taylor, Isaac and Zac Hanson started playing music over 20 years ago. What’s even harder to believe is how Hanson’s hit song “MMMBop” has stood the test of time throughout the last two decades. While the Hanson brothers have pursued music since their 1996 demo album MMMBop, they’ve been able to capitalize on the success of their first hit constantly throughout the past 20 years. They even created a beer called Mmmhops based off of their iconic track.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the band’s demo album and hit song, we spoke with Taylor Hanson—now 33, and having spent well over half of his life living with a certain smash—about the meaning of “MMMBop,” navigating the group’s career and how the song shaped their entrepreneurial spirits.
FUSE: It’s 20 years since “MMMBop” came out. Can you believe it’s been that long?
HANSON: Time is a strange thing—it definitely catches you off-guard when you realize that time can pass like that. We still love what we do—we’ve been able to play music for more than two decades.
The one interesting thing is the anniversary this year is 20 years since we made the MMMBop independent record. It was made for local fans here in Oklahoma. No one knew it existed outside of that little group. A summer later, we were introducing ourselves to the world. I think it’s a cool time to reflect on where we were at 20 years ago—thinking about being 13 at the time and making a record in a garage, crafting songs, dreaming of impacting the world with your ideas and believing in something. To be 20 years after that and to have lived such a challenging, but really rewarding, life as a musician is pretty incredible.
When I was a kid, “MMMBop” didn’t really have a meaning to me. To you guys, what did it mean then, and what does it mean now?
Musically, the song started as a background part. The chorus was meant to be a background part, but the part was too catchy to be a background part. The story of the verses and the song is really about how we were seeing relationships with each other and our friends be challenged by the fact that we were choosing to dedicate ourselves to this music thing as kids. The song talks about how relationships come and go and few things last.
The chorus is like C’est La Vie: You can’t change these things. You have to celebrate what you can control. What you do control is finding the things that matter and making them important. It’s a pretty serious subject. In a way, that song is a great metaphor for how we’ve done things and how we write. We’re always optimistic, but if you look within the songs there’s a challenge or a real issue, but we’re looking for a way through it. Music is a great mechanism to pull through.
Twenty years later, do you get annoyed talking about the song?
As a lifelong entrepreneur, you always want people to get interested in new things, but we’re really proud of “MMMBop” and its story. We’re always striving for introducing people to new music. I would say, it’s not about not wanting to talk about “MMMBop,” but you want to talk about where you’re going.
Do you think the success of “MMMBop” made you guys grow up faster than you would have?
Well, we were choosing to grow up—otherwise you wouldn’t have heard our songs. So, yes, choosing music as a career as kids makes you grow up faster, but we chose it because it’s who we are. The idea of not working towards that at that time would have been more toxic and more destructive than anything. I think we’ve been blessed and lucky that we’ve been able to take that chance and have some success with it. Whatever path you take has its pluses and minuses. It’s really been a hell of a ride.
Do you guys listen to “MMMBop” while drinking your beer, Mmmhops? If so, did the beer taste better with the song?
Actually, we have. Everything is a little bit better with an Mmmhops in your hand—as long as you’re of age.
Personally, if you didn’t see the success of “MMMBop,” what do you think you would have been doing?
Well, music and creativity is in the blood, so if we didn’t have that breakout success as a band, I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t be doing music or other creative endeavors. I love design and music. There would be some creative expression out there, but it might look a little different.