Rob Brunner
July 14, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s not easy being teen superstars these days. At least not if your last name is Hanson. Since its May 9 release, This Time Around, the once-high-flying trio’s new CD, has slid down the Billboard 200 chart (last week, it sat at No. 153), shocking for a band whose Middle of Nowhere (1997) went quadruple platinum. Sales could still pick up, but based on the tepid reaction to its first two singles, that seems increasingly unlikely.

What went wrong? For one thing, Hanson may have waited too long between albums, instead releasing forgettable cash-in discs of early demos and live tracks. More damaging, though, is the new disc’s dearth of standout tunes that make you go MMM. ”MMMBop’ was what made [Nowhere] sell,” says John King of ”MMMBop” producers the Dust Brothers. ”That was a wonderful hit song. A once-in-a-lifetime achievement.” The band has maintained a loyal following, but not the type that mainstream radio demands. ”Our research shows that they are [mostly] popular with the super-young end of the audience, who aren’t going to do us any good ratings-wise. So we’re not really dying to play Hanson,” says Harry Legg, music director of Chicago Top 40 station 92 KISS FM. Plus, ”there’s a glut of teen music. How many boy bands can a radio station play?”

Not surprisingly, Hanson’s label is desperate to distance them from those other boy bands. ”All I want is to reestablish their reputation as a truly credible rock & roll band, a staple in the music community for years to come,” says Island Def Jam chairman and CEO Jim Caparro. ”They’re prepared to say, ‘Okay, we’re not going to sell numbers like the Backstreet Boys or ‘N Sync right now. That’s cool…. This is all about us getting our music across and being able to reconnect in an artistic way.’ I believe in their artistry, and I believe in them as long-term artists that we’re going to build this company around.”

Not impossible, according to King: ”It’s very difficult to maintain a long career. But Hanson are really dedicated and they’re not going to stop if this record doesn’t do well. They’re going to keep making music because they’re good at it.”

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