From a young age, I’ve grown up listening to boy-bands. N’Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Boys II Men, the Jonas Brothers… these are all bands whose music I spent most of my childhood listening to. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I still listen to this type of music often. Because even if the majority of them generally appeal to the preteen crowd, a lot of these bands are actually pretty darn good. You’ve got to appreciate bands that write their own songs and play their own instruments! Which brings me to the topic of this post.
About 20 years ago, in 1997, three talented young men from Tulsa, Oklahoma, released a song called “MMMBop.” It was an insanely catchy pop song that– despite the seemingly-nonsensical lyrics– actually has a really deep meaning about life. And it was the song that propelled Hanson to stardom.
I have to admit, the first Hanson song I heard wasn’t actually “MMMBop”; it was their cover of “Merry Christmas Baby,” featured in Michael Keaton’s 1998 Christmas fantasy/drama film, Jack Frost (a movie that– despite my parents warning me about its sad subject matter– I somehow ended up watching at least once every Christmas throughout my early childhood). That song was actually a track from their 1997 Christmas album Snowed In, which became a favorite and stood out amongst the countless children’s-themed Christmas albums I listened to at 5-years-old.
Fast forward two decades. Isaac, Taylor, and Zac are still recording music together; and their latest project, a follow-up to Snowed In, is simply amazing. Honestly, I didn’t even know they were still making music until I saw them on CTV’s popular talk show The Social a few months ago (promoting their Middle of Everywhere tour and Finally It’s Christmas, which hadn’t been released yet).
Upon hearing the news, I bought this album immediately when it was released (November 3rd here in Canada; the US got the album a week earlier on October 27th)… and I have no regrets.
All 14 tracks on this project are very well-produced. While a lot of music these days may have synthesizers as the main instrumentation, that’s not the case here. Finally It’s Christmas has nothing but real instruments. And KIDS! For some of the tracks, Hanson brought their collective 12– yes, I said 12– children into the studio. They were featured on the album-only interludes “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells”, as well as “Happy Christmas” (a super-cute, albeit very short, love song). Needless to say, the end result is adorable!
But that’s not the main reason why I love this album. The Hanson brothers all have strong Christian values (the oldest brother, Isaac, is the host of the Grace Unknown podcast), which are reflected throughout the CD. Take these lyrics in the album opener, “Finally It’s Christmas”, for example: “I hear the church bells ring/The chorus welcoming the newborn king/Good will and love is what the Savior brings.”
“Peace on Earth”– another original track– is a slow-moving, soft-rock reminder that Christmas isn’t just about the presents and the parties; it’s about Jesus. This song is another example of the band’s strong faith, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Christian radio stations started adding this into their rotation come December 1st.
Other highlights include the gospel-influenced “Joy To the Mountain” (a medley of “Joy to the World” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain”); “Please Come Home for Christmas” (I never realized Zac could sing like that!); and a flawless rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”–which, if you ask me, brought this classic song back to life with its re-imagined chorus. Another original, “Til New Year’s Night”, has a 50’s rock-and-roll feel that reminds me of Grease. Totally different from what I would typically listen to at Christmas, but I love it!
As a huge supporter of independent artists, it was interesting to find out that “Finally It’s Christmas” is the 6th album they have released under their independent record label, 3CG Records. So with that being said– along with all the other highlights I mentioned– this album gets 5/5 stars. It’s not just the best Christmas album this year; it’s probably the best recording effort of the entire year!
What do you think of Hanson’s new album? Let me know in the comments!