In our interview with Zac Hanson
, the drummer explained: "What that song talks about is, you've got to hold on to the things that really matter. MMMBop represents a frame of time or the futility of life. Things are going to be gone, whether it's your age and your youth, or maybe the money you have, and all that's going to be left are the people you've nurtured and have really built to be your backbone and your support system."
The group released this on an independent album (also called MMMBop) in 1996. It helped get them a record deal and was released as their first single in 1997, when Isaac Hanson was 16 years old, Taylor was 13, and Zac was 11. The song quickly became a huge worldwide hit, getting constant airplay on radio stations and MTV and going to #1 in 27 countries.
Experienced songwriters like Desmond Child
and Barry Mann helped out with the album, but this was written entirely by the Hanson brothers. Years later, young singers who could also write their own songs became coveted by record companies, as singers like Michelle Branch and Alicia Keys had lots of success.
Zac Hanson: "That song started out as the background part for another song. We were making our first independent album and we were trying to come up with a background part. We started singing a slightly different incarnation of what is now the chorus of MMMBop. That sort of stuck in our heads but never really worked as a background part. Over a couple of years, we really crafted the rest of the song - the verses and bridge and so on. It was something we almost stumbled upon."
Growing up, the Hanson brothers listened to a lot of '50s and '60s music. Says Zac, "If anything, MMMBop was inspired by The Beach Boys and vocal groups of that era - using your voice as almost a Doo-Wop kind of thing."
This was nominated for a Grammy for Record Of The Year. Hanson performed it at the awards in 1998.
Hanson performed this on a bunch of TV shows, including both Leno and Letterman. They also performed it on Saturday Night Live, where they took part in a skit where they were kidnapped in an elevator and forced to listen to the song over and over until they snapped. Says Zac, "You've got to take yourself lightly, there's always something funny or stupid that you do, and when it comes to performing on a live comedy show, I think if you didn't poke fun at yourself, you need to question who you think you are."
Zac Hanson: "Nobody expected it to have that much success. You're proud of everything you do and you're confident in everything you do, but you never know how other people are going to react. You just put your whole self into it and hopefully you can be successful."
This song is melodically similar to the Westminster Quarters, which is the tune played on the hour by most grandfather clocks.
Hanson took a cue from Kiss when it comes marketing, and set up their own brand distributing an assortment of products, including the Hansonopoly board game and Shout It Out guitar picks. In 2011, they announced that they would be selling an India Pale Ale beer called... MMMHop.
Zac Hanson has a co-writing credit on the track. He was just 11 years and 7 months old when the song topped the Hot 100, making him the youngest group member to co-write and perform on a US #1 single.
This was produced by the Dust Brothers (Michael Simpson and John King), the duo behind many popular albums, including Beck's Odelay and Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.
Several acts such as One Direction and The Vamps have done their own versions of the song, but Hanson reckon they have yet to hear a good cover version of their classic hit. Isaac Hanson explained to Vulture.com
in 2016: "You know why? People can't sing the chorus right. Most of the time they syncopate it wrong."