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Even people who have never liked Hanson will find this piece riveting.
The long-awaited "Strong Enough To Break" details the 40-month battle
between Hanson and their then record company, Island DefJam. After
years of their fans complaining about the length of time it takes
between the release of albums, this documentary reveals why as it
showcases the faithlessness and muck that the music industry feeds on
and continuously feeds to the public.
This is the story of Isaac, Taylor, and Zac, the three brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma who became superstars a decade ago seemingly overnight. If you thought that they were just some out-of-date fluff piece, you couldn't be wronger. Their ambitions were to become a great rock band; unfortunately, they were also young and cute, and ended up being marketed as some throwaway teen idol act. In reality, these are three hardworking musicians who have fought tooth and nail to record the kind of music they wanted, instead of giving in to their former record company's pressure to make another "MMMBop."
The documentary is narrated by youngest brother, Zac Hanson, and begins in early 2001, shortly after the end of their second major tour "This Time Around." It catalogs, step by step, the long and painful journey they made just to record one single album, the critically acclaimed "Underneath." From the beginning, they were ridiculed and patronized by those who were supposed to have been their staunchest supporters. In between their recording sessions and well-documented (and sometimes downright insulting) phone conversations with Island DefJam, we get a good look into the guarded lives of the Hanson brothers, getting glimpses of their house and family. (In case you didn't know, all three brothers are now married and middle brother Taylor is now a father of three.) The documentary ends with a (somewhat) happy ending, when the brothers receive word that their album, released in April 2004, debuted at #1 on the Billboard's Independent charts.
I was fortunate enough to see this movie during the late-night viewing in Tulsa in May 2005. It was absolutely unsettling to see that the former squeaky-clean teen idols were a legitimate rock band trying desperately to shake off the shackles of the music industry's cookie-cutter pop filth. I dare any skeptic to see this film and still think Hanson is lame.
These guys never cease to amaze me. Not only are they extremely
talented and intelligent...but they are true to their music. That's
definitely an attribute that's hard to find in a genuine musician these
To step up like they did and tell "them"--the people that make up this mold that we're all supposed to aspire to fit--that they were wrong. Not only are "they" denying the music of its full potential, they are hindering their very moneymakers--the artists themselves. People have tossed around these brilliant ideas only to be shot down by the people in control. Music itself should never have anyone or anything that's trying to control it, instead, it should be given room to grow to it's full potential. A true emotion felt in song cannot be controlled. It stands in all its glory unaided. It's a vicious self-destructive behavior of music industry executives. Ironic really that they pollute their products by taking the direction into their own uneducated and under-passionate hands. And the only reason they do this is because they fear putting out an unpolluted product in the first place. Contradicting Logic.
"Strong Enough to Break" is an graceful and yet candid portrayal of how this happens to artists everyday. It also shows the effect of outside supremacy on the artists themselves, and what consequently happens to the music. This is an audacious piece that's worthy of a voice, and a big one at that. They definitely have something to say. So, are you listening?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was amazing to see how strong the guys are. I know how record companies work, but it was a different experience to see Hanson dealing with them. Someone who doesn't give a crap about your music is in charge of it, and the frustration of that comes out in this in-depth, emotionally-charged documentary. The music played throughout is also incredible, and the documentary will leave you craving you copy of Underneath. On a lighter note, getting to hear Taylor tell Isaac to get the pickle out of hit booty was priceless. For the Fansonatics out there, it is a lot of fun to see the boys in action, eating, laughing, and joking around.
I was very lucky to get to see the documentary when Hanson visited my
college to screen it. I came away with a new-found love for a band that
I first fell in love with two years ago.
Strong Enough to Break shows in detail the struggle that Hanson faced. It's the same struggle that they've faced since 1997: people do not understand them. This documentary is more than enough to dispel any of the misunderstandings. After watching the doc, you can't help but see that Hanson is talented and passionate. Not only that, they're also charming, level-headed, and downright funny at times. The tension with the label is cut with some amusing brotherly in-fighting.
The cinematography itself is lovely, the editing is pretty crisp, and it doesn't hurt that Hanson's songs punctuate throughout. If you go away with this without at least a little bit of righteous indignation, then you aren't human.
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