Editor's note: The holidays are almost here, so we're dusting off this essay from 2017. Please enjoy and have a happy holiday.
As an 11-year-old girl, nothing was more important to me than three boys: Taylor, Zac, and Isaac Hanson. I was beyond the point of obsessed, so when they announced the release of a Christmas album as a follow-up to the massively successful Middle of Nowhere (yes, the record with “Mmmbop” on it), I was ecstatic. At the time, I wasn’t a big fan of Christmas music, but I had high hopes for my favorite trio.
To this day, I can still remember how it felt ripping the plastic off the CD, placing it in my Discman (it was 1997, after all), and curling up on the couch to listen to Snowed In. Almost instantly, the album became one of my favorites. I listen to it during the holidays, and I listened to it after the holidays. It became the album that my family and I would play while we decorated the Christmas tree. And to this day, 20 years later, Snowed In is still played in our household every single Christmas. Here’s why.
While “Mmmbop” displayed some of the brothers’ vocal talents, Snowed In really showcases their ability to synchronize and deliver harmonies. Throughout the entire album, their voices complement each other beautifully while taking on the Christmas classics. Granted, Zac and Isaac take on more vocal responsibilities with solos in “Little Saint Nick” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” but it’s the harmonies that bring the album to life. Hanson’s a capella version of “White Christmas” makes you wonder why they ever bothered to play instruments in the first place.
Then, there are the original songs.
Plenty of artists have attempted to write original Christmas songs, and the majority of those songs have been long forgotten, with the exception of Mariah Carey, of course. Hanson, however, made two admirable attempts on Snowed In: “At Christmas” and “Christmas Time.” They’re no “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but these are songs that will leave an impression, especially if you’re alone during the holidays. With lyrics like “Family nestled by the fire / A Christmas hope will be inspired / Loved ones by your side / You know you’ll kiss your baby goodnight,” you’ll need a few tissues to make it through.
Originals aside, they weren’t afraid to keep it classic. If you haven’t heard Hanson’s “Silent Night Medley: O Holy Night/Silent Night/O Come All Ye Faithful,“ then you might think that a medley of some of the most popular Christmas songs wouldn’t work, as each song can certainly stand on its own. But the Hanson brothers found a way to make it work, and to turn the medley into a work of art.
This song is by far my favorite on the album and brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. The medley starts off slow with “O Holy Night” and gradually builds into “Silent Night” and then “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
What makes the medley exceptional is how they transition back to the most powerful lines in “O Holy Night” (“Fall on your knees / O’ hear the angels’ voices”) three times. Each time, it becomes stronger and more powerful, with the third time marking the crescendo of the song. It is truly beautiful, and if you listen to any song on Snowed In, I recommend this one.
Back in 1997, I never would have guessed that 20 years later I would still be listening to Hanson at Christmas. But that’s the power of a great album — and the power of the greatest Christmas album of all time, Snowed In.