Ten years ago, a 16-year-old girl bought Hanson’s Middle of Nowhere for its lightheartedness, “MmmBop” and because the middle brother, Taylor, was hot. Fast-forward to today, and that disc is the girl’s bane of her extensive music collection. Before denouncing the band who has grown with its fans, Hanson’s pop semblance should be looked at for what it is. Largely influenced by gospel pop, Hanson’s latest release shows the grown-up (Taylor’s married with kids, after all) version of the boy band. The Walk is the second disc on their own label, 3CGRecords, so the boys have blossomed into more than child stars who wrote and performed everything into hands-on-all-aspects performers, producers, and businessmen. The Walk charts the walk of life both in general and as experienced by the guys (breaking from their major label, etc). “People make decisions to go for dreams, to do something difficult, or they decide to be a part of a crowd that watches. You have to make those decisions by yourself,” explains Zac, who for the first time sings lead vocals on two tracks (“Go” and “Running Man”).
The disc begins with a brief piece, the African chanting “Ngi Ne Themba” as children chant (and continue their chanting throughout several pieces of the disc). Recorded in South Africa and Mozambique, a few songs including the standout track “Great Divide” were performed in the cafeteria of an orphanage. “Divide” is one of those “MmmBop” guilty pleasures with grandiose guitar and keyboards and Taylor’s Michael Jackson-esque passionate vocals and the aforementioned child choir section.
Along with the changes in the brothers’ personal and professional lives, The Walk goes beyond the difficult first step into an introspective, worldly journey. Whether or not one likes mostly upbeat familial pop music has no bearing on the fact that these young gentlemen have their act together and possess tremendous songwriting and performing talent.