Hanson – Red Green Blue

3CG Records

Release Date: May 20th 2022

Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre

Hanson Red Green Blue (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing: [lead singer]

  1. Child at Heart [Taylor Hanson]
  2. Child at Heart (Demo) [Taylor Hanson]
  3. Rambling Heart [Taylor Hanson]
  4. Truth [Taylor Hanson]
  5. We Belong Together [Taylor Hanson]
  6. Semi-Hollow [Taylor Hanson]
  7. Greener Pastures [Isaac Hanson]
  8. Write You a Song [Isaac Hanson]
  9. No Matter The Reason [Isaac Hanson]
  10. The Gift of Tears [Isaac Hanson]
  11. Cold as Ice [Isaac Hanson]
  12. Bad [Zac Hanson]
  13. World Goes Around [Zac Hanson]
  14. Wake Up [Zac Hanson]
  15. Don’t Let Me Down (feat. Zach Meyers) [Zac Hanson]
  16. Where I Belong [Zac Hanson]

Hanson has been in and around the music industry for a loooonnng time. Yes, a long time, and it was actually only recently (middle of 2020) that I explored their music on a regular level. I wrote a blog about their musical influence and impact, and how I outlined in that, that the band that I assumed, and thought were a boy band, turned out to be a rock band through and through…and that wasn’t a bad thing at all. Throughout their tenure as Hanson, these three brothers, Zac, Taylor, and Isaac, have given to us heartfelt and compelling melodies that have come to shape and mould people’s experiences around the world. Tracks like ‘MMMBop’, ‘Where’s the Love’, ‘If Only’, ‘Penny & Me’, ‘Lost Without Each Other’, ‘Go’, ‘Give a Little’, ‘Get the Girl Back’ and more recently ‘I Was Born’; have challenged us all to look outside the box in terms of what we ought to believe rock music should sound like. For Hanson aren’t really as popular…I mean they were when songs like ‘MMMBop’, ‘Where’s The Love’ and ‘I Will Come For You’ were in circulation on the radio, but now in 2022, it’s unfortunate that a band that was at their perceived pinnacle throughout the 1990s, seemed to have faded away now; even though they have released albums steadily throughout their career and haven’t really changed their musical sound or messaging throughout their 25 year run thus far.

They are literally what you’d call an underdog within the realms of music- because they are. Those who have discovered their music and discography are in for a real treat- they were in fact one of the most surprising and left-field artists I explored in my blog series, when I wrote about them around a couple of years ago. Fastfoward to 2022, and so much has happened to the band, ever since I wrote about them in my blog post in 2020. Upon the heels of their successful live CD/DVD String Theory back in 2018, Hanson released their 7 song EP Against the World in November 2021. Delivering their music with their trademark rock appeal, Zac, Taylor, and Isaac gifted to us, 7 songs of hope, encouragement, motivation, and perseverance. With songs like the anthemic title track, alongside the rock collaboration ‘Don’t Ever Change’ and the storytelling piece of work in ‘Only Love’; this EP reminded us all, of how we appreciate and respect this underrated band. Now around a year later, Hanson are back at it again- this time, unveiling a 16 track project titled Red, Green, Blue, comprising of three mini-albums of 5 – 6 songs each; each ‘album’ led by Taylor, Isaac, and Zac respectively.

I guess you can say that this album is Hanson, but it isn’t at the same time. Yes, these songs seemingly have Hanson’s distinct, trademark pop-rock sound, but one look at the track list, and the album cover, and you can tell that this album release is beyond anything this trio has ever done. They’ve in fact each recorded solo EPs- the first 6 songs, titled Red, are led by Taylor Hanson, while the next 5 songs are titled Green and are led by Isaac Hanson. Zac Hanson takes the final 5 songs on his Blue EP, and together as a 16 track album, this Red Green Blue project has become Hanson’s latest album…even though each of the brothers only worked on their allotted set of songs, and they didn’t really collaborate with each other on another brother’s track…in essence, this is actually 3 solo projects rolled into one, and now marketed as a band album. Sneaky? Yes. Marketable? Most definitely. Does this spell the end of Hanson as we know it? I hope not. But what this 16 track project does do quite nicely, is the fact that it places Isaac Hanson firmly on the map, as a capable and competent singer-songwriter- usually a lot of Hanson’s material in the past, has been Taylor and/or Zac leading the songs, so it’s good in this project, that Isaac get’s some ‘alone time’ leading 5 songs, so that we can know and see that Isaac is just as much a capable singer-songwriter compared to his brothers.

As the album is broken down into three subparts, we must note, that no two ‘EPs’ sound the same, and within each set of 5-6 songs, each of the songs don’t always follow the same ‘formula’, as Taylor, Isaac, and Zac curate a sound within and around their own 5-6 tracks, that is distinctly and uniquely them. Considering that up until this point, we haven’t heard much of Isaac leading any song in Hanson’s discography thus far, it comes to an understanding, that the Red and Blue portions of the album sound more ‘Hanson-like’ than the Green portion…and that’s ok. All the brothers have tried their hand at undertaking things that make their style more unique compared to each other, and we as listeners are able to marvel with joy, as we see the end result of an album that’ll have to be one of the most musically different albums 2022 has given to us so far.

Starting off Taylor’s EP with ‘Child at Heart’, we as listeners hear, what I reckon, is one of Hanson’s strongest songs to date…ever. The song itself lends inspiration (I hope…maybe) from the Biblical text of Mark 9:33-41, where in it, we see Jesus impart this message that is indeed timeless, and maybe even across religions, denominations, creeds and cultures- that in order to come to God and seek His face, we must first submit and become child-like in our outlook and faith, that if we long to be great and lead from the front, we must first know what it is to become last, to serve, and to be humble. Whoever welcomes children, and whoever abandons their own presupposition of what ‘great’ people should act like; and humbles himself like a child before God…well, they will indeed be welcomed, treasured, adored, and respected by the Heavenly Father. In the same way, Taylor Hanson’s song ‘Child At Heart’ alludes to these similar themes, not explicitly, but implicitly very much so. The chorus specifically reminds us of who we are in Christ, even though Taylor himself doesn’t say it outright- ‘…you can just breathe, you are no mistake, though you’re feeling strange, just give your heart away like you’re not afraid to face another day, though you’re feeling far, you can chase a star like a child at heart…’ Being able to breathe and knowing that we are no mistake (because God doesn’t make mistakes), is something that can only be done when we realise that we come to Christ like a child at heart- for being child-like is to have our innocence intact, to see the world from a place of wonder, joy, hope, and optimism, rather than looking at life through a lens of condemnation, shame, pessimism and hurt, things that cloud our judgement and outlook on life when we grow older. ‘Child at Heart’ attempts to rectify how we see the world, and to remind us that looking at life through the lens of a child is the better way to go- for it is when we see our lives through the humility and grace that we have been given through Christ Jesus; we can truly live with no expectations placed upon us- just live life fully, because that is what we have been given through Jesus’s death (and subsequent resurrection) on the cross. And that ought to be reason enough to see ourselves like a ‘child at heart’, right?

‘Rambling Heart’ follows along from ‘Child At Heart’ and speaks about the lifelong pursuit of searching for happiness, purpose and meaning, and reminding us that we all have a rambling heart to a certain extent- that our hearts won’t rest until we find meaning and purpose. For Hanson, such a meaning and purpose is found in the travelling life that accompanies being that of a performer and a singer-songwriter, but our rambling heart may find peace and contentment in other things- in Christ, in our friends and family, shudder to think, in our 9 to 5 job…whatever the case, we have to look after our ‘rambling heart’, knowing that at some point in our lives, it’ll feel ‘at home’ and ‘secure’ and will stop it’s rambling and settle…somewhere. We just need to know where, before time passes us by. ‘Truth’ is Taylor’s next musical offering, and reminds us all, through light acoustics and a bluesy atmosphere, that ‘…that a little bit of humble goes a long way, to bring a little peace at the end of the day, so don’t hold on to bitter, it’ll come home to roost, and nothing can set you free like a little bit of truth…’ The truth does set people free- us and the other person. The truth, even if it could look painful, ugly and messy, is much more healing (in the long run) compared to lies concocted over time to make it seem like a certain image (or a fabrication of said image) is more important than who we are as people. Truth isn’t relative, even though people in this post-modern society tell us so, and thus, a song like ‘Truth’ ought to remind us of this ‘debatable’ truth, that truth is paramount to any relationship- familial, platonic, or romantic or otherwise.

‘We Belong Together’, at face value, is about a relationship that is starting to blossom, as the persona longs to be ‘this person’ or their potential ‘significant other’, declaring that ‘we belong together’, and offering their help and assistance to the other person who is seemingly struggling at certain aspects of their life. But this song is so much more than the romantic trope that is seemingly the first thing people can gleam for a song like this. ‘We Belong Together’ speaks about friendships too, and maybe, just maybe, a song like this, can encourage more solid boy-boy, girl-girl and even boy-girl friendships. A sign of a true friend is to rejoice and mourn during both moments of their triumphs and struggles (respectively), people who don’t instinctively ask ‘what do I do’ when you have a crisis of ___, they are just there for you, regardless. ‘We Belong Together’ is about relationships, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about good friends, and even good family too. Once you find your people that you know are going to back you up, through and through, then that is a good feeling. Hopefully, ‘We Belong Together’ can bring us on such a journey. ‘Semi-Hollow’ closes out Taylor’s portion of Red Green Blue with a keyboard-synthesizer styled musical backdrop (a la 70s or 80s) to create a mid-tempo anthem about…stating that the person that they are with are ‘semi-hollow’? Is that either a compliment or a criticism? Whatever the case, we see Taylor state very plainly, that this other person is neither air (or just bubble & froth), nor are they solid…and I don’t think that’s actually a compliment or a criticism…it’s just an observation. Sometimes people can just be full of hot air, talking and talking and talking about…well, nothing, but then on the other end of the spectrum, people can appear as though they have a lot of firm and concrete ideas in their brain about almost every topic, and therefore, no level and room for nuance in their set of beliefs and understandings about _____…maybe being semi-hollow, like someone in the middle of both extremes, is actually the better way to live?

Isaac’s portion of the EP lasts from track #7 to track #11, and while these five tracks aren’t necessarily the style of songs you may be accustomed to if you were to have heard a Hanson song in the past, Isaac does deliver melodically, thematically, and stylistically, as these set of five songs are much more reflective, pondering, and in some cases, more refreshing that the rest of the album. Nevertheless, what we hear from the get-go are songs that need to be heard a few times for us all to really understand their messages, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Isaac’s ‘EP’ portion starts off with ‘Greener Pastures’, a blues anthem about greener pastures, and speaks to this understanding and notion, that to dream of greener pastures can either be a good thing or a bad one. For greener pastures in folklore and history, always implies to people looking beyond the plot of land that you have and searching for something ‘greener’ and ‘better’…thereby one day, leaving what you have in search for what you think is greener, only to discover that once you got to your ‘greener pastures’, it was indeed a mirage, and something that was fooling you all along. And yet, a greener pasture can also mean to think upon good things (this song of ‘Greener Pastures’ is about someone dwelling, thinking, and praying upon greener pastures when they are on the verge of sleep every night), to long for and yearn for something greater than what you have right now. And that isn’t a bad thing, per se. There is indeed merit to strive and to want something better than what you have now. The issue is to abandon everything you have, for the sake of whatever this elusive thing is, only to discover that abandoning what you have wasn’t something that could be done on a whim or in haste. Isaac reminds us to carefully consider these greener pastures, and to really ponder- do I really need to venture out to find these pastures, or do I need to water and sow the ‘grass’ where I am first, so that it can become greener in time? It’s ok to dream and to hope that one day, you’ll get to those ‘greener pastures’, but sometimes, you just need to be faithful where you’re at, at the moment.

‘Write You A Song’ is the second Isaac Hanson offering on Red, Green, Blue, and delivers a much more brighter and upbeat tone and atmosphere, as Isaac specifically writes the song for his daughter, a song that allows her to feel safe, comforted, loved and appreciated. Personal and heartfelt, ‘Write You A Song’ is by far the most personal song out of the Isaac Hanson ‘EP’ selection, as we see a song that has the potential for showing his own daughter, the reason as to why the band members do what they do. As spoken by Isaac himself, ‘…[my daughter] was having an existential crisis, like, ‘My dad is a songwriter and a musician, and he doesn’t have any songs that are just for me. So, she said that to me, and it happened to be a few days before a good friend of ours who lives in Nashville [Paul McDonald] was coming through town and stayed with my family. He came in and said, ‘What if we wrote a song about writing a song for somebody? So, they will always have a piece of you with them everywhere they go…I think this song is written for her to listen to throughout her life. Potentially, when I’m not around anymore. It is special in a unique way. I have songs that are inspired by my people and my kids, but not many for a gift or permanent memory…in so many ways, this [music] video [of the song] is the story of the song. The song is about making memories and remembering them vividly through song. It is about making sure that you remember the preciousness of everyday interactions and how beautiful so many of them are…[the video itself] had four different concept ideas that were trying to tell the story of the song by using actors, but the final video idea was to make the song personal and real. I decided the best thing to do was to put Odette in the video and just have fun together. The first cut was almost perfect, and I knew from the first few minutes of filming the video that it would turn out great!…’ ‘No Matter The Reason’ carries on from ‘Write You A Song’, and continues the poignancy and the emotive nature of Isaac’s portion of the songs on this album. ‘No Matter the Reason’ alludes to a persona, stating matter-of-factly that they are not going to leave the other person (most likely their significant other), no matter the reason, alluding to the fact, that fighting for a relationship (if you know that what you’re fighting for is worth it in the end) is far more satisfying, fulfilling and enriching to both people in the relationship, than throwing in the towel ever is. In this day and age, people divorce for a million different small-ish reasons, and yet, this song offers us something that is counter to the culture- to fight for you relationship and to fight for each other.

‘The Gift of Tears’ and ‘Cold as Ice’ both round out Isaac’s ‘EP’, and both continue to impart to us, wisdom, and encouragement in a soothing ‘Isaac Hanson’ way. ‘The Gift of Tears’ is a soulful prayer about taking each moment as they come, acknowledging the fact that tears are a gift, that they can help heal situations, circumstances, and relationships, and can also heal us of profound hurts that have often come to the surface, because we’ve not allowed ourselves to feel profoundly (and yes, that does include tears!). ‘Cold as Ice’ rounds out Isaac’s portion of the album, with a fun-filled jam reminiscent of something that Stevie Wonder would undertake- the message of the song is about a persona who seems to be confused about where they stand with their ‘significant other’- one moment they can be in sync and relate well to each others quirkiness and idiosyncrachies, and in other moments, the connection isn’t there and she’s ‘cold as ice’.

Zac Hanson imparts to us the next 5 songs, and immediately from the outset, a song like ‘Bad’ has a much better outlook than ‘Cold As Ice’. ‘Bad’ the song speaks about drawing hard lines between yourself and the other person on…well, every issue under the sun, and believing things about the other person, only based upon heresay, the media, certain assumptions, and even certain exaggerations, instead of just having a conversation and talking, instead of believing the worst about someone, and drawing lines because of association. ‘Bad’ reminds us all, that we all have a little bit of ‘bad’ in us- no one ‘side’ of the story is perfect, no one political slant is correct, that there are good and bad bits to every individual and whatever ‘cause’ they side themselves with. Zac displays an avenue of hope in the song ‘World Goes Around’, a song about acknowledging that even though you have trouble in this life, the matter of the fact is this- that the world goes around. That no bad thing in your life lasts forever. That everything changes and that a new day is a chance for us all to start again with different opportunities. That the sun goes down and the sun comes up again. That the Lord uses every circumstance that we face, for His glory and our good. We have to live with this mindset, that we believe into the fact, that nothing bad can last forever, because if we don’t, then we’ll just be consumed with the here and now. ‘World Goes Around’ is heartfelt, but it can also be a framework in how to approach life and how to live in the months and years to come.

‘Wake Up’ is Zac’s own way of trying to reconcile the distance between two people and to make sense of why this person is no longer waking up next to them in the short term. ‘Wake Up’ then states in the chorus that ‘…wherever you are, you know I’ll keep on waiting, cause I can’t shake the feeling, maybe I’m just dreaming that someday you’ll be right here in my arms when I wake up…’, and maybe it’s just wishful thinking that someday, the special someone will come back and you’re lying next to them again, and maybe it’s hoping against hope, but it’s still ok to wish and hope and dream, right? ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and ‘Where I Belong’ round out the album Red Green Blue in your traditional anthem fashion. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ is an advice-song that you are giving towards someone else- either a family member or someone that you’re mentoring, as you say to them ‘don’t let me down, your moment is now’. Yes, those words can seem pressurising, but sometimes, you need expectations like those, so that you can rise to the occasion and undertake what needs to be done. ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ is a song that allows listeners to do things in spite of fear and hopelessness, rather than do things in the void of fear- because if we’re just waiting to undertake things when we don’t have any fear of ____, then we’ll be waiting forever. ‘Where I Belong’ ends the album as Zac unveils one of the most personal songs ever sung in this set of 5 songs- in this track, he unveils this theme of belonging, and reminding us that this is what people long for and want- to find somewhere to fit, to be accepted and loved unconditionally for who they are. Zac delivers this track with much honesty, as we’re reminded that to belong, is to find common ground with someone, to acknowledge that someone else has the same life experience to you, and to be reminded that you are not alone in what you’re going through. To belong, is to be loved no matter what, and to be free to just be, without any pressure to perform. What a way to end such an album, and with this song mirroring and echoing a similar theme, present in Switchfoot’s song of the same name (Switchfoot’s ‘Where I Belong’ is also an album-ender, on 2011’s Vice Verses); Hanson encourage us to belong somewhere, and to be reminded, that where we belong, and who be belong to, has a big impact on how we act and our behaviour.

So, there you have it…Hanson’s Red Green Blue. 16 tracks full of hope, poignancy, emotion, heart, enthusiasm, passion, intentionality, and honesty. Something that is definitely not seen that much in the current state of pop music today. Hanson’s career, in an overall sense, has been a journey of creating songs that delve into the human experience, trying to make sense of topics like grace, hope, forgiveness, and fearlessness. In a music industry that hardly touches on these sensitive topics, kudos for Hanson for deciding to take the plunge and deliver music that allows people to think and ponder about life and all the things that we ought to think about, this side of eternity; and this album included. An album that is indeed one of my favourites of 2022 thus far, we’re reminded through these 16 songs, about themes and messages like unity, hope, searching for a better tomorrow, and challenging ourselves to be the best versions of who we are, regardless of our relationship status. Red, Green, Blue challenges us to extend olive branches and be the better man when it comes to reconciliation between people. Well done Hanson for this album. Looking forward to seeing how I firmly believe the Lord would be using this album to speak to people, in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

3 songs to listen to: Child at Heart, Write You a Song, World Goes Around

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Owl City, Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Matchbox Twenty, Kelly Clarkson, Vanessa Carlton

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