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Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday Jukebox - Weird by Hanson

Welcome to Sunday, November 6th, and to those of you who turned your clocks back one whole hour, I hope you all survived...though given that you got an extra hour to rest and relax, I can't see how any of you would have struggled.

For today's topic, I have a story about a band who seemed to come out from the 'middle of nowhere' and dominated the charts throughout much of 1997 and 1998, then seemed to disappear for a while. The band of brothers certainly hasn't given up on their musical dreams and still tour today, but they're not quite as popular or successful as they were back in their heyday.

But before we get into further discussion about this band, as well as the song that I plan to feature, I want to tell all of you a little bit of a story about my life and times that is linked to this Sunday Jukebox entry.

I was what you would consider to be a rather...upon lack of better word...whimsical kind of kid. I tended to like things that other kids had no use for, and partook in activities that not a lot of other kids wanted to take part in.

I mean, a few days ago, I wrote about how I ended up getting the ancient game console known as the Intellivision, when everyone else in my class had a Nintendo. And, I also talked about how I was made fun of and ignored because my video game system was one that was older than even I was. They had thought that I was weird for not having a Nintendo. But that's fine. That was their opinion. My opinion clearly didn't match theirs as I loved my Intellivision. But, no, I was the weird one.

There were other instances in which I was classified as being the weird kid in the class though. By the time I was in sixth grade, I was the kind of kid who basically stuck to himself, doing solo activities. Of course, there was nothing wrong with this, as many kids probably did a lot of things by themselves all the time. I know when I was younger, one of my favourite activities was to stick around the house, grab my favourite book, and sit on the front porch to read it. Another favourite activity involved turning on the garden hose on hot summer days to cool off in the backyard. Yet another activity that I took part in was getting an early interest in writing by using Crayola crayons and lined paper in the house. Again, I thought they were typical activities that most kids my age did.

But according to some of the neighbours that lived on my street at the same time my family did, they considered it weird that I chose to spend my free time off to myself rather than around other kids. One nasty woman who lived across the street from us even went to my parents, and told them that she thought it was strange.

I mean, first of all, who the hell asked her opinion? I was only a little kid back then. Secondly, I did have some childhood friends but the problem was that they all lived quite far away, and it wasn't exactly ideal to drop in on them all the time, and lastly, a lot of the kids who did live close by me (with some exceptions) were the ones who used to beat me up or made fun of me. Whatever would make me WANT to have anything to do with them?

I guess in some way I was too young to understand what the nosy neighbours were like back then because admittedly I was in my own little world back then. It's not until becoming an adult that I realized that the neighbours opinions about me were anything but justifiable. They may have thought that I was weird for not playing with other kids when I was younger (a blatant disregard of fact-checking, by the way), but you know, I find their opinions just as weird right back. To make judgments on someone without even getting to know the people they are...yeah, that's weird to me.

You know what else is weird? Today's blog subject.

ARTIST: Hanson
SONG: Weird
ALBUM: Middle Of Nowhere
DATE RELEASED: March 16, 1998

You know, the song 'Weird' by the band Hanson (who you may remember as the band behind the infectious 1997 single MmmBop), may not be their most well-known, or even their highest charting single ever released. But of all of the singles that Hanson has released, I would say that this one is probably my favourite single by the group, just because the lyrics really hit close to home. Even the video has examples of people, places, and an underwater subway car scene...things that some people may consider to be weird.

But, is this really the case?

I mean, let's take a look at how Hanson came to be. Hanson is made up of a trio of brothers, who all happen to have the last name of Hanson. (Go figure, really?)

Anyway, the trio is comprised of Clarke 'Isaac' Hanson (30), Jordan 'Taylor' Hanson (28), and Zac Hanson (26). When the band was at the height of their success, they were aged 17, 14, and 12 respectively. They started out performing in and around their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma when they were young children. Their first performance in front of a crowd was back in 1992 at the Tulsa Mayfair Arts Festival. The three boys all began learning music the same way that a lot of kids learned music, which was through piano lessons. Shortly after, Isaac got his hands on a guitar, and Zac borrowed an old set of drums, leaving Taylor to assume the role of keyboardist. The band started up the way many bands did back in those days...rehearsing and playing in the family garage. The group even managed to release a couple of independently produced albums in the mid-nineties before getting their big break in the summer of 1996.

That summer, the band was a scheduled act at the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, where they were signed by manager Christopher Sabec, who promptly tried to get them signed to a record company. Many of the record companies passed on the trio of brothers simply because they declared them as nothing more than a novelty act, or because they didn't believe they could garner the success needed to sell a lot of records.

I guess in some ways, the record companies found them just a little bit too...weird for their tastes.

But then fate stepped in. And fate's name was Steve Greenberg, who was a representative for Mercury Records. He happened to be at the Kansas State Fair at the time that Hanson was performing on stage, and with backing from Greenberg, the band was immediately signed to a contract with Mercury Records.

During the last half of 1996 and first half of 1997, the band recorded their first mainstream album, an effort entitled “Middle Of Nowhere”, and the album first hit stores on May 6, 1997. That same day was declared 'Hanson Day' in Tulsa, Oklahoma by the governor of the state at the time, Frank Keating. The album was hugely successful, with the lead single, MmmBop staying on the airwaves for most of 1997.

But again, we're not here to talk about MmmBop. We're here to talk about 'Weird'.

And, basically, the song Weird is one that has a really powerful message, which is why I enjoy it so much.

And the reason being that it's almost kind of a song that described how I felt as a kid. Particularly the bridge of the song.

Sitting on the side waiting for a sign hoping that my luck will change
Reaching for a hand that can understand, someone who feels the same
When you live in a cookie cutter world, being different is a sin
So you don't stand out, but you don't fit in. Weird.

Boy...if a song didn't speak out like that one, and resonate a chord in me, I don't know what one will.

Do you know how long I waited to try and find people who could understand who I was, why I was the way I was, and still accept me and all my quirks? It took a very long time. Of course, part of that was due to me finally allowing myself to tear down that wall that I had built up to try and deflect all the names and terrible things that happened to be because I was supposedly the 'weird' kid. Still though, to be able to try and find someone who could understand the frustration over being unlike everyone else around me was a bit of a challenge, especially since some of the people who were a part of my life back then weren't necessarily those of the open-minded variety.

So, yeah...I can identify with that song lyric, as I can the following one.

You know, sometimes I consider my schoolyard years to be like living in that very same cookie cutter world that the band sings about in 'Weird'. A world where being different wasn't necessarily a sin, but it wasn't exactly embraced with open arms either.

So, what was the best way for me to counteract that? I tried to hide into the background, stayed away from where the crowds were and kept to myself.

I didn't stand out, but at the same time, I didn't fit in.

Weird, no?

The truth is though that at times, every single one of us feels 'weird' at some point in our lives. And also, keep in mind that the very definition of 'weird' is in the eye of the beholder.

I imagine that when Hanson first came out with the song 'MmmBop', a lot of people found the song to be a bit 'weird' because the chorus was basically just the word 'MmmBop' repeated a whole bunch of times along with some other words that may or may not have been in English. But looking back on the song now, it's actually got a pretty good beat, and surprisingly seems to hold up very well. But while one person may have seen Hanson as 'weird', other people may have deemed them a great band.

I imagine that there were things that I did in my life and times that other people have deemed weird, but there are others who would say that it wasn't the case.

Again, there's nothing wrong with being weird. Sometimes the people who are deemed the weirdest of the bunch can also be the most creative and interesting people one could meet. Conversely, some of those people who take pride in their normalcy could end up being anything but. Again, it's all a matter of perspective.

But just as Hanson says during the song, isn't it strange how we all get a little bit weird sometimes?

I say no. I don't find it strange at all that everyone can have feelings of being weird.

I actually find that quite normal.

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