If you haven’t really listened to the lyrics of Hanson’s “MMMBop,” you might be surprised to see me cover it as a Plague Song. In fact, I rather hope you are surprised by the choice. (Who expects to see a middle-aged professor performing a teen-pop smash from 1997?)
As you listen to the lyrics, do note that the Hanson brothers — Isaac, Taylor, and Zac — are singing about the fragility of human relationships, and their necessity in the face of mortality. Musically, it’s an upbeat, three-chord pop song. Lyrically, it advises you to “hold on to the ones who really care. In the end, they’ll be the only ones there.” When the song was released, the brothers were between the ages of 11 and 16. And, unlike most of the other songs on Middle of Nowhere, they wrote this song — the album’s biggest hit — themselves.
One thing I love about learning even an apparently simple song (such as this) is discovering that it’s always a bit trickier than I at first think. Getting in all (or most) of the “yeahs” and “ohhs” was like memorizing a nonsense poem, a sensation further enhanced by the nonsensical chorus. I also love the fact that such a joyful, exuberant song considers mortality and the vital but sometimes tenuous bonds of affection upon which we all depend.
Here are Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson in the song’s music video (1997).
Here’s the Fabulous Pink Flamingos’ cover (2007), the version which made me reconsider the song.
Here’s the Postmodern Jukebox cover (2016), the arrangement of which highlights the 1950s doo-wop that inspired Hanson to write the song.
And, yes, as you have already noticed (via the number at the top of this blog post), we are now at Plague Song number 10. When I started, I thought, oh, I’ll be doing this until maybe late May… early June? Now, I realize that I will be recording a weekly Plague Song until maybe 2021 sometime? I truly have no idea.
But I do hope you’re enjoying my attempt to push a little hope into the world. And I hope it inspires you to create some of your own. Sing. Dance. Write. Rap. Recite a poem. Perform a scene. Draw. Paint. Sculpt. Bake. Cook. Cultivate your garden. Build something.
As readers of Leo Lionni’s Frederick (1967) already know, art creates hope. And we can all use our creative talents — whatever they may be — to that end. So, let’s do it!
Seeking a #PlagueSong to perform? Check out this ever-expanding playlist. Of course, you may have a song in mind that I don’t know — and that would be welcome, too!
- Plague Songs
- Sing. Sing a Song. #PlagueSongs, no. 1 (17 Mar. 2020)
- Do Not Touch Your Face. #PlagueSongs, no. 2 (24 Mar. 2020)
- The Bright Side. #PlagueSongs, no. 3 (31 Mar. 2020)
- It’s later than you think. #PlagueSongs, no. 4 (7 Apr. 2020)
- There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. #PlagueSongs, no. 5 (14 Apr. 2020)
- Be an optimist instead. #PlagueSongs, no. 6 (21 Apr. 2020)
- Kick at the darkness. #PlagueSongs, no. 7 (28 Apr. 2020)
- So far away, but still so near. #PlagueSongs, no. 8 (5 May 2020)
- If you just call me. #PlagueSongs, no. 9 (12 May 2020)
- What Is Your COVID-19 Routine?