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USA Weekend Article
"Young, Rich, and Hanson"

By Jennifer Mendelsohn


Hanging out with Hanson feels more like being on a summer-camp field trip than catching up with one of the hottest bands in pop music. Sure, there's the typical throng of perpetually harried, cell phone-toting managers, stylists, publicists and security guards. But the band in question consists of three fun-loving brothers from Tulsa (Isaac, 16, Taylor, 14, and Zac, 11) whose adoring prepubescent fans shower them with bags of candy.

Lead singer Taylor swills chocolate milk in his dressing room. Take one look at Zac crooning giddily into his Madonna-style headset and you'd swear you've stumbled into a Partridge Family reunion. Can it really be only two years since Alanis Morissette ruled the charts with a song about irony?

Since MMMBop, their signature hit, went to No. 1 in May, the Hanson juggernaut has been unstoppable. Their dreamboat looks have incited theTiger Beat set to hysteria. They've posed for a milk ad, "mustaches" and all, and the governor of Oklahoma proclaimed May 6 Hanson Day. Next week, Hanson is up for an MTV Video Music Award for the charmingly unpolished MMMBop video.

But while most teen sensations are written off with the critic's equivalent of a pat on the head, Hanson's angst-free style has won raves for being a breath of fresh air -- with just enough edge to keep them from being insufferable.

"I think everybody's tired of being sad," Zac explains in a rare moment of seriousness. "There's still alternative [music], but some people want to listen to music that isn't so 'I hate life.' "

"There's a whole package," says middle brother Taylor, whose singing voice has unmistakable echoes of a young Michael Jackson. "There's three brothers that enjoy hanging out with each other who love what they're doing. That's just who we are. We're just normal guys having fun with it."

Make that family fun. The brothers' impossibly adorable siblings -- sisters Jessica, 9, and Avery, 6, and brother Mackenzie, 3 -- are always underfoot. Parents Walker and Diana, both 43, keep a watchful eye but decline to speak on the record, insisting that stories focus solely on the boys and their music. (They do let on that a seventh child is due in January.) Walker, a former international finance exec for an oil drilling company, has the sturdy good looks and calm demeanor of a Midwestern minister, while Diana's hippie blond hair might qualify her for honorary membership in the Mamas and the Papas. When the brood gathers for some pre-performance family-only time, you can't help but wonder if they're praying.

Weaned on the family's Time-Life collection of '50s and '60s hits, the boys began writing songs and singing together at home as grade-schoolers, and eventually started performing locally. In 1994, lawyer Christopher Sabec, who'd represented alternative rocker Dave Matthews, signed on as their manager and started shopping a demo to major labels.

Mercury senior vice president Steve Greenberg signed Hanson to a multi-album deal last summer and immediately set about collecting industry heavyweights -- including the Dust Brothers, the red-hot producers who masterminded Beck's Odelay -- to work on Hanson's album, Middle of Nowhere. Time was of the essence: Taylor was hitting puberty, and his deepening voice was making it difficult to sing MMMBop in its original key.

"We literally rushed them to L.A. -- 'Get in a van! Let's get to L.A. as soon as possible!' " Greenberg says, laughing.

In the months since, Middle of Nowhere has gone platinum. Hanson has toured the Far East and Europe, and authorized and unauthorized bios are in the works. But in the notoriously fickle music industry, skyrocketing to success too fast is often a prescription for a monumental backlash. Already, at least a dozen "I hate Hanson" Web pages (including the hysterically funny "Citizens for a Hanson-Free America" site) have cropped up to counter hundreds singing the band's praises.

Ask the guys about their future, and their answers sound as if they were taken straight out of the book Kevin Costner used to coach Tim Robbins in Bull Durham. "We're just going to be ourselves, and we're just going to cross our fingers and hope that people like it. Because that's all you can do," explains Isaac.

"All you can do is just make your music the best you can make your music," repeats Zac.

"We can't predict the future," says Taylor. "All we can do is make the best music we can ... and people are going to respond or they're not."

When I ask if they have any fears about success, they look at me blankly, as if I'd asked whether they'd like to polka. "I mean, really, what is there to fear?" asks Zac. "You just go and do it."

For a second, you feel compelled to enlighten them. When was the last time Shaun Cassidy hit the charts, Zac? Has anyone seen Leif Garrett lately? You can almost picture them all, middle-aged and balding, hawking correspondence courses on late-night TV.

But the Hanson brothers are not too worried about how they're going to feel when they get off the roller coaster. They're just sitting back and enjoying the ride. "It's totally awesome. It's so fun," Isaac says simply. "There's almost nothing more to say except how much fun we're having."