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USA Today Article
"Hanson and the Fame Game"


Nobody doubts Hanson has a toehold in pop stardom. But does the band have legs?

Optimists compare the fast-rising adolescent pop trio to the Jackson 5, the Bee Gees, even the Beatles. Detractors draw parallels to short-lived teen acts like Menudo and New Kids on the Block.

Hanson's catchy MMMBop rests at the top of Billboard's singles chart after reaching an estimated 50 million listeners in four weeks of heavy airplay. The album, Middle of Nowhere, leaps to No. 6 after its No. 9 debut last week.

Response to the chirpy single "has been very good for a brand new group," says Ken Benson, program director at KKRZ in Portland, Ore. "It's such a good, upbeat, summertime song with a fairly broad appeal, from preteens to adult women in their mid-30s."

Unlike the manufactured Menudo or Spice Girls, Hanson grew organically. After its 1992 public debut as an a cappella doo-wop group, the trio played 200 shows, wrote 100 songs and released two albums before signing with Mercury.

Fans are rapidly discovering the identities of siblings Zachary, 11; Taylor, 14; and Isaac, 16. The Tulsa towheads have triggered girrrl hysteria at every stop and fueled a media frenzy that's generated profiles in outlets from MTV and Seventeen to The New York Times and CBS News.

Whether Hanson is headed for the tenure track or one-hit wonderland depends on steps taken after the hype and hoopla fade, observers say.

"I think they have the musical talent to grow," says Tom Moon, Philadelphia Inquirer music critic. "But unlike some other teen acts, these guys have only proven they can do one thing. It's certainly working, but you can't go to this well more than a couple of times."

While Hanson ably emulates classic pop and R&B influences, the baby band must carve a distinct identity to remain relevant, Moon says.

"The key is, is the record company willing to let Hanson go in a different direction?" he says. "Will they accept a record two years down the road that doesn't sound like this?"

Young fans quickly outgrow bubblegum bands, but it's too early to brand Hanson a one-hit blunder, says Hits managing editor David Adelson.

"Traditional industry naysayers would brand these guys the Top 40 flavor of the moment," he says. "However, if you look past the surface, there are quality lyrics. The record is getting critical praise. Will Hanson become a parody of itself? That's hard to predict."

Maturity, literal and musical, is crucial to Hanson's future, says Radio & Records music editor Steve Wonsiewicz, adding, "In country music, you can do things the same way over and over. But in the pop world, it can be a negative to get stuck in one image."

A factor in Hanson's current success may be timing.

"It's been a long time since we've had young bands doing really good songs, not schlocky sugary pop," he says. "Younger fans need something fresh. There's only so much shoe-gazing grunge rock they can take."