First things first: Hanson is an incredible band. I am a 25 year old heterosexual male and this is a fact that I know to be an absolute truth. Not that those things matter but it does put me in a minority among Hanson fans. Do you have a problem with any of that? If so... I will effin fight you!!! Now that we have that out of the way I will approach the topic at hand... songs that Hanson has covered over their nearly two decades of being a touring and recording band. They have an excellent collection of full length records, EPs, live albums, and singles filled with original material but when you're in a band and on the road, it can be fun to throw a cover song or two into the set list.
So here is a list of my top ten favorite cover songs that Hanson have performed over the years. Some have been released on live albums, some as bootlegs, some as studio recordings on exclusive EP's, some have just been tour exclusive. These are in no particular order.
1. Change In My Life (Rockapella): This cover is a perfect illustration of one of the key elements that make Hanson great: their harmonies. This is a cover that they perform completely acappella and it's been an occasional treat in their sets for quite a long time. They gather around a single microphone and sing in perfect three part, exchanging solos, and it's beautiful sounding.
2. North Dakota (Lyle Lovett): This cover is one performed by Isaac Hanson on lead vocals. It's a beautiful song by it's self and it's perfect for Isaac's low tenor. Finger picking the simple guitar part the vocal really drives the song and it really does the original justice.
3. In A Little While (U2): I'm including this song in the list because of the sheer ambition of it and versatility it demonstrates. U2 are one of the biggest bands in the world and arguably the originators of what it means to be "arena rock". Their sound is huge and Bono's range is very impressive. What Hanson does with this cover is beautiful. Taylor Hanson's vocal is soulful strong with his own flare while remaining respectful of the original. The arrangement has it's own stamp, again, while also being faithful. This cover, more than most, really demonstrates what they're really capable of.
4. Furry Walls (Infant Sorrow): They released a studio version of this song as an iTunes exclusive. I think that this one really shows off the fun side. They have serious songs, fun songs, and a lot of things in between and I think their decision to record and release a cover of a song written for Russel Brand's fake band in the movie "Get Him to the Greek" is a testament to their fun side. When I first heard they were releasing this I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what they planned to to with it and when it first started playing I was still skeptical because the opening "YEEEEEAHHH!" is more than a little whiny but over time it sort of adds to the grungy charm of the song and right after that it immediately glides into better territory vocally.
5. Never Been to Spain (Three Dog Night): This is one of Hanson's favorite covers, I assume, because it's so prolific in their sets. I'm not going to lie, I'm fairly certain that the main reason they cover it so often is because part of the chorus is "but I've been to Oklahoma." and Oklahoma is their home state. The truth is that they've toured pretty much every country. The cover is really really solid and one of my favorite parts of it is that the three of them share lead vocals, alternating phrases and verses as well as coming together for their trademark harmonies. There's a professionally recorded live version of it on their digital only release of "The Walk Tour - Live Tracks".
6. Dirty (Christina Aguilera): This is definitely another track that shows off Hanson's fun side. This is a song that was never meant to be played on sparse acoustic guitar and sung in three part harmony but that's exactly what they do here. There's no studio or official live recording of this song but there's a popular live bootleg that you can find pretty easily on YouTube or wherever. The only downside is that they only cover a little more than 1:30 of the song. I wish they'd have done the whole thing.
7. Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young): I LOVE this cover. It's definitely one of my favorites. There is a studio version that appears on the "Strong Enough To Break" Bonus Disc and it also appears live on the "Underneath Acoustic DVD". A simple 12 string guitar and gorgeous three part harmonies carry this song like a newborn baby through to the end. It's beautiful.
8. Optimistic (Radiohead): This cover is in the same vein as the U2 cover. The ambition and versatility it shows is amazing. To take on a cover of a band like Radiohead takes an incredible amount of guys, for one, and a sizable amount of talent to pull it off. This appears on their live album "Live and Electric" and it's what they opened with every night on the "Underneath Tour". Hanson never play the same set list twice in a row but they always open with the same song and it's always a powerful opener. This song is no exception.
9. Don't Stop Believin' (Journey): I think that this song is both an example of Hanson's fun side and their serious side... First of all this song was performed on their "Use Your Sole Tour" and was determined to be their tour cover by a vote on their website. They tried something like three other options which were irrelevant because if you offer "Don't Stop Believin''" as an option, there's little chance that anyone is going to vote for anything else. You can find a few good quality videos of this one on YouTube but I recommend this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1qpaC8EK7w because of the audio quality. Zac does lead vocals and you'd be amazed at his range and ability to nail those notes.
10. We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift): I don't know whether or not to say that this is a "fun cover" or a genuine one but I think that's it's worth being on the list by virtue of it's pure fun awesomeness. It's a well established fact that Taylor Swift is a fan of Hanson so they did this cover acoustic for a radio appearance (available on YouTube). I don't know if anyone is with me on this but I feel like my favorite part of the whole cover is when Zac provides the backup vocal "like everrrr" during the chorus... it makes the whole thing for me.