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'MMMBop' At 20—Hanson's Lone Hit Just Never Gets Old

'MMMBop' still sounds as delicious after all these years, an irresistible slice of pop that could still make you bop and bounce like your life depended on it
by Rampador Alindog | Apr 29, 2017
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Ah, to be young and carefree.

It seems like yesterday when we were too cool to care, singing songs like "MMMBop" as if it was the hippest thing in the world, but it has been actually 20 years since, and man, do we feel old.

A trio of brothers who go by the name of Hanson (their family name) released this quirky little single as part of their independent album, also called MMMBop, in 1996. Note they wrote it all by themselves.

Although that version was far different from the one that got stuck in our heads all these years (it was kind of slower), it's basically what snagged them a lucrative deal with Mercury Records.

When the single was re-released worldwide in 1997 (as produced by the Dust Brothers), Isaac Hanson was 16 years old, Taylor was 13, and Zac was 11, becoming among the youngest acts to hit the top of the charts, with "MMMBop" becoming a global smash hit.

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In fact, Zac, at age 12, is the fourth youngest Grammy nominee of all time. He also holds the title of youngest songwriter nominated for a Grammy Award.

But what is "MMMBop" about really?

Here's Zac's take on the matter per Songfacts: "What that song talks about is, you've got to hold on to the things that really matter. 'MMMBop' represents a frame of time or the futility of life. Things are going to be gone, whether it's your age and your youth, or maybe the money you have, and all that's going to be left are the people you've nurtured and have really built to be your backbone and your support system."

Huh? Didn't know the brothers were that deep.

Truth be told, we never really thought of dissecting the song's message, content as we were to sing the all-too catchy chorus that goes:

"Mmmbop, ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop, ba du, yeah..."

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It kind of reminds us of The Police's "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" or Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti"—inane at best yet clever and catchy at the same time. Never gets old, too.

Were they really that astute?

Here's Zac again, explaining how they came up with the tune:

"It started out as the background part for another song. We were making our first independent album and we were trying to come up with a background part. We started singing a slightly different incarnation of what is now the chorus of 'MMMBop.' That sort of stuck in our heads
but never really worked as a background part. Over a couple of years, we really crafted the rest of the song—the verses and bridge and so on. It was something we almost stumbled upon."

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Indeed, cute and young as they were, Hanson were already accomplished musicians before they were able to go on dates unchaperoned, with each of the three being able to play different musical instruments and harmonize like those old Doo-Wop acts of yesteryear—something most
of today's young acts can barely do.

All that said, the song's success actually started a trend then with labels going on a feeding frenzy, signing cute, young acts left and right, allowing for the likes of The Moffatts (remember them?) to have a career.

And yes, millennials probably won't have the chance to hear the likes of One Direction and The Vamps had Hanson failed.

Did you know that both One Direction and The Vamps tried covering "MMMBop"? Well, if you haven't, it's because they weren't able to do it justice.

Isaac has an explanation why: "People can't sing the chorus right. Most of the time they syncopate it wrong."


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Sadly, Hanson's popularity didn't last long, unable to come up with songs that would hit as big as "MMMBop."

Not that they're without careers. The brothers still go on tours, apart from having also carved individual vocations.

Notably, Taylor is in a super group formed by guitarist James Iha, previously of The Smashing Pumpkins called Tinted Windows. Joining them is bassist Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick.

In any case, Hanson's legacy is cemented with all those '90s kids still humming the song they wrote some two decades ago.

Not bad, not bad at all.


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