Hanson just released a new compilation album, Perennial, on November 6, but some former longtime fans won’t be buying it. According to a new Vice investigation, a contingent of fans are leaving the boy band behind for perceived conservative politics, newly surfaced in light of the summer’s anti-racism protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. “I know of at least 10 people who were going to go to the next Back to the Island and decided to cancel their vacation because of everything that happened,” one 33-year-old Black fan told Vice of the band’s annual island retreat for fans, the trip itself an example of the band’s dedicated fanbase.
As the nation protested the police killings of Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor beginning in May, fans first noticed the Hanson brothers’ silence. Instead, they posted about the SpaceX rocket launch and promoted a livestream fundraising for mental-health services for musicians, according to a fan timeline made by u/bridgesbuilttoburn on the r/postHanson subreddit, created for “former and ambivalent Hanson fans.” When the band eventually acknowledged the protests, it felt like too little too late to some fans. Taylor Hanson posted about George Floyd and the 1921 massacre of Black Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where the band is from) on May 31, and later posted a black square to Instagram on June 2, when Isaac Hanson also declared on Instagram that “Racism is wrong!” Zac Hanson later posted about the “8 Can’t Wait” police reform initiative (which has been criticized by progressives as unproductive) on June 5, only after fans pressured him for his silence on a previous post about a podcast he recorded. He eventually deleted the comments on the post, according to the r/postHanson timeline.
Also on June 5, the band addressed the protests on its group account for the first time, writing, “We denounce all forms of racism and any actions which prevent us from achieving our highest ideals, that all are created equal.” After pressure from fans, the band eventually made a new Instagram post on June 9, finally stating “Black lives matter” alongside what Vice noted is an uncredited Martin Luther King Jr. quote. In a statement to Vice, the band said, “We are so grateful to our incredible and diverse community of fans for their continued support and powerful connection with our music. We are proud to have people of so many different backgrounds as a part of the community who consider themselves Hanson fans.”
A separate, eventually connected issue came to light around June 6, according to the Reddit fan timeline, when fans found a deleted Pinterest account they thought belonged to Zac, full of what Vice described as “a trove of pro-gun memes, many of which were racist, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist.” Zac claimed the account on June 8, according to the Reddit timeline. Explaining one meme captioned, “I told her guns make me feel uncomfortable. She said we should both see other men,” Zac replied to a fan on Instagram, “It’s a joke. … It’s the woman that ‘gun guys’ daydream about.” In a second statement to Vice on the Pinterest, Zac said, “The leaked Pinterest page provided a distorted view of the issues surrounding race and social justice, which do not reflect my personal beliefs. I apologize for the hurt my actions caused.”
Fans were again concerned in November, when Isaac wrote on his Instagram Story, “We are quickly approaching Christmas and it too will be canceled (by our governments), just like Easter was and Thanksgiving is being suggested to be. I for one will not comply. I fear God more that [sic] I fear death and far more than I fear my government!!!” (It’s worth noting that many churches have continued holding services, some distanced and masked and others not, during the pandemic, and that American Thanksgiving is not a Biblical holiday.) Isaac addressed that post in a third statement to Vice, writing, “What I shared was driven by an emotional reaction to a recent personal experience. I’m sorry for the pain and worry that my posts caused. I don’t believe there is a group conspiring against Christmas, only that I hope value is placed on both practices of safety and of faith.” At the same time, some fans have taken issue with the band’s livestreamed sets from Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, where fans can buy a table of four seats for $160.
Hanson’s next performances are scheduled for the weekend of December 4–6. In the meantime, some fans who talked to Vice said they’re holding out hope that the group can change course. One of the co-moderators of r/postHanson, a 35-year-old fan, told Vice, “What we are doing is accountability, not canceling.”