Listeners tuning in to Chicago alternative rock station WKQX (Q101) on August 9 heard a catchy, guitar-driven track called “The Great Divide,” followed by an announcement that the song was produced by a “mystery artist.” It quickly became the most-requested song on the station and was put into power rotation by the programming department.
After three weeks of speculation, a DJ finally revealed the secret: The band behind the alt-rock hit was none other than Hanson, a trio of brothers best known for their pop-rock song “MMMBop,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in 1997.
Q101 program director Spike, who masterminded the scheme, said the band has come a long way in the past 10 years.
“I’ve always liked Hanson and kept listening to them after ‘MMMBop,’ and after seeing them a while ago I realized they had become a different band,” Spike said. “It really hit me how good they were.” He realized the band still had the baggage of its old image to contend with, and that it wouldn’t be an easy sell. “I told all the DJs, ‘I want you to hear this song before I tell you who it is,’ and when they heard the song, they all dug it. They were initially nervous to play it, but they were blown away by the positive reaction.”
The band was also pleased and surprised by the success of the track, which for the week ending September 2 saw a 95 percent increase in digital downloads compared with the previous week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“The station wanted to let the song speak for itself,” pianist/vocalist Taylor Hanson said. “We were really happy they allowed people to hear something new and different.”
The band, which is gearing up for a tour to support its latest album, “The Walk” — released in August on its own 3G Records — has already seen interest from other stations that want to copy Q101’s formula.
“The station showed that taking a risk can lead to great success,” Hanson said. “Hopefully this will inspire others to do the same.”