Updated (2021)! It’s been five years since I compiled this list and some of the links were broken, a few new songs have come out and I decided to re-work it a little bit. I don’t know when the new album will come out (hopefully this year), so it may get revised again.
Back in 2016, Hanson asked fan club members to select their Top 25 favorite songs in honor of the 20th anniversary (and their 25th anniversary as a band together). I took the survey but it really wasn’t complete because they only listed tracks on their studio albums. Some of their best work is on the fan club member CDs or tracks that “don’t exist” as Zac put it when I asked him once to play an obscure non-album track.
I’ve seen a lot of the other fans making their own lists to share, so I thought I would do the same – it is much tougher than you’d imagine because it’s really incredibly hard to rank certain songs above each other. So here we go!
1. Every Word I Say. This song was on the Penny & Me single. I love the lyrics, the way Taylor sings the song, Isaac’s part in the bridge and the overall huge sound of the song. One the best love songs the band has ever written. “I want you for always, I hear your name in every word I say.”
2. Tearin’ It Down. This is probably a controversial pick. I don’t really know a lot of people who love this song the way I do but there’s just something that grabs me. It’s actually my most played song on iTunes and the groove of the song can’t be beat. Up until last year they never played it live and when I finally heard it, I about lost it. “I’m not a wise man, but I see the haze.”
3. This Time Around. Hanson’s lead single off their second album took the band in a more rock and roll direction. It’s also become an anthem of sorts for the fans and remains one of my all time favorites to hear live. Plus, Taylor never looked sexier than he did in this video 😉 “All I know is that fear has got to go, this time around.”
4. I Don’t Want to Go Home. This one is written for the fans. We’ve been there for almost 25 years now, made fun of for sticking with them so long and have defended them and their talent our whole lives. Friends met at concerts have become like family and we don’t want to go home after the last song is played because it means leaving something near and dear to our hearts. “It ain’t no secret where we’ve come from. So we wear our history like a badge of honor.”
5. Rock ‘n’ Roll Razorblade. Taylor has been quoted as saying if you don’t get this song, you don’t get the band. It’s really kind of a depressing story about a musician who just wants to play the kind of music he wants to play but is being told to play something else by the record label. My guess is this song was written during the midst of the band’s own struggles with their former label. It appears on the 2003 fan club CD. “Won’t you watch me bleed rock n roll razorblade.”
6. Great Divide. Inspired by their trip to Africa to help children in need, this song kicked off most of the tours between 2007 – 2009. It’s so hopeful, so inspiring and almost Biblical. Any time I feel down or overwhelmed by this crazy world, I listen to this song. “I find hope and it gives me rest. I find hope in a beating chest. I find hope in what eyes don’t see. I find hope in your hate for me. Have no fear when the waters rise. We can conquer this great divide.”
7. Been There Before. This song makes me emotional (in a good way!). To me, the lyrics describe exactly what someone should feel when listening to their favorite band. “Does it move you, does it soothe you/Does it fill your heart and soul with the roots of rock and roll?” & “When you can’t get through it, you can listen to it.”
8. If Only. One of my very favorites to hear live, this one always brings down the house (literally). Everyone joins in and jumps in unison and if you’re at the Chicago House of Blues, the entire building shakes. I know people thought the DJ scratches were weird in this song, but I love them. “If only I had the guts to feel this way, if only you’d look at me and wanna stay, if only I could take you in my arms and say, I won’t go cuz I need you. I wanna hear you say it’ll always be this way and we’ll be hand in hand for every night and everyday /I wanna scream and shout cuz rules are never doubt /And all I care about is you and me and us and now.”
9. Let You Go. I always thought this one could have been a huge hit on radio but it was never an album track and up until recently Zac insisted to me that it did not exist. I think it finally showed up on something a few years ago but I don’t remember what. I’ve had a rough leaked cut for years now 😉 “Let’s turn it around/I know that it’s love that I’ve found/And I promise I won’t let you down.”
10. Tragic Symphony. Taylor channels his inner Michael Jackson and it’s pretty darn phenomenal. “Well, the lie you composed is intricate, but if it don’t bleed then it ain’t no cut.”
11. Deeper. This was another one I thought would be a big radio hit. It’s kind of a sappy Isaac love song but it’s always been a favorite of mine and I especially love that Michelle Branch sings back-up vocals. I legit cried when I heard this one live for the first time in Louisville back in 2008. “Every simple notion is poetry in motion /Can’t you see it’s pushing me over the edge /This wrecking ball you’re holding /Could crush the heart you’ve stolen /I give you my devotion all over again And if you let me try tonight you just might see that I’m falling deeper and deeper and deeper in love.”
12. A Song to Sing. This is another emotional one and might just be Hanson’s best written song. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to hear that extra third verse that didn’t exist on the album version.I really want to copy all the lyrics because they’re just that good, but I’ll just pick a few. “I’m looking for a song to sing, looking for a friend to borrow. I’m looking for my radio, so I might find a heart to follow. I’ve never been this longing for your lovin’. I’ve never been so wearin’ down to nothin’. I’ve never been just looking for a reason. So maybe you’ve been thinkin’ of me.”
13. Strong Enough to Break. This song really struck a chord with me when I first heard it because at the time, a friendship was ending. I know it’s about the band’s break-up with their record label but at the time, it really reflected how I was feeling inside. “Throw me a line so I can anchor my pain , the fabric is about to fray.”
14. A Minute Without You. On to happier tunes! This one doesn’t age and I think I’ve probably heard it 27 times live but it’s just one that needs to be played at every show. It’s also special for the fans because what would we ever have done without this band in our lives? “I can’t keep myself from thinking about you/It’s because I love you, and I know that it’s true, whoooa/I’ll call it desperation, can’t you see it in my eyes?/That I want be with you until the sun falls from the sky.
15. Lost Without Each Other. This one’s for anyone whose ever been in love and had a fight with their significant other. And the video was amazing. Are you listening? “Don’t go telling me we’re over /When you know you’re my one and only lover /And I won’t go saying that we’re OK when we’re /Lost without each other.”
16. Lost Without You. I haven’t heard this one live yet – for some reason they never played it on the Anthem tour shows I went to. I love the lyrics, the harmonies and the soaring chorus – definitely one of the best songs off Anthem. “I’m gonna take this moment and chase this fear right out of me.”
17. Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’. This one instantly puts you in a good mood and makes you want to get up and dance. It’s a throwback sound that was the perfect lead off single to Shout It Out. It got some national attention when a DJ in Chicago played it but didn’t tell people who it was and the song became one of the most requested. I tried to learn the dance but failed 🙁 We still had fun with it at our wedding reception though. Look for Weird Al in the video! “Well I’ve got girls in line/waiting for these arms of mine/Listen up to what I say.”
18. In the City. This is as close to a headbanger as you’ll get with Hanson. It fantastic live – usually closes out the set and just when you think you have nothing left to give, you find yourself jumping up and down and screaming along with Taylor as he sings about a man scorned by his lover. “I’m gonna ask you once again, do you love me?”
19. Tonight. This is another one that’s really special for the fans – there are several other songs referenced in the lyrics and if you’re a casual listener, you won’t pick up on that. Can’t go wrong with a beautifully written, mid-tempo piano ballad. I also love that they alternate lead vocals. “Chase down the dream and don’t give up without a fight.”
20. No Rest for the Weary. I love everything about this song – the sound is different and it has some cool lyrics. Hanson really ought to make a bluesy country album because they’d rock it. “There’s no rest, for the weary,
yesterday was just fine, but the future’s all I’ve got time for.”
21. Young & Dumb. Started out as a fan club exclusive song, but got released to the masses on Perennial: A Hanson.net Collection. I think it’s one of the best songs they’ve ever written and it’s kind of a depressing slow burn, but I love it. Eighties vibes and a great guitar solo. More like this please! “Ashes to ashes, we all end up in a casket. Guess I’m fighting for my life.”
22. Give A Little. So infectious. The horns, the dancing. One of the best songs off Shout It Out. “Give a little heart and soul.”
23. Penny & Me. A breezy, fun summer song that came four years after their second album. We were beginning to think we might never get another album from the band but they finally broke free of their record label and gave us this triumphant return to #1 on the indie charts. It’s the perfect driving around town with your windows down song. “Turn the radio up, push the pedal to the ground.”
24. On the Road. This song was off the 2014 Fan Club member CD and it has such a rootsy, different feel for the band and I really dug it. I think they should make more songs like this. Unfortunately there aren’t many high quality videos on Youtube – just fast forward the first minute and a half to get to the song unless you want to see Zac acting silly. “And there is no destination but the journey you are on, on the road.”
25. Mmmbop. I toyed with this one because it seemed so cliche. And I’m pretty tired of hearing it live, although I still get excited when they play it. But it was the track that introduced me to the band, so it deserves a spot in the top 25. Also, the lyrics still hit home. “Hold on to the ones who really care, in the end they’ll be the only ones there.”
Bumped from the list – Honorable mentions:
Hope It Comes Soon. This song is never not relevant. Off the Take the Walk EP. “Feels like change is coming, well I hope it comes soon.”
For Your Love. This one’s another tear-jerker. I played it at my wedding and would have used it as a first dance if Hanson hadn’t been vetoed by my husband. Isaac ballads can sometimes be mopey but this one is perfect. “I would tear down any wall/ And for your love/ I’ll turn my back on this world/ For your love/ Every treasure I’d deny myself/ For your love, I’m fighting.”
These Walls. This song came out at a time when I was having a hard time finding a job and the lyrics really represented how I felt about my life at the time. I’m not in that place anymore but it’s still one of my favorites from Shout it Out. “The sky is falling all over again/Just another day’s conclusion/Another disillusion/The sky is falling all over again/Am I losing my composure? Way too much exposure to compromise/I can’t take on these walls.”