MTV once reported that there are 93,000 renditions of Hanson’s “MMMBop” floating around on YouTube. But according to the sibling trio, their signature hit is pretty much uncoverable. “People can’t sing the chorus right,” eldest Isaac told Vulture around the 20th anniversary of the song’s inception, adding, “Most of the time they syncopate it wrong.” Of course, many who’ve tried would no doubt claim they were simply putting their own spin on the syllable-cramming doo-wop hit.
From nu-metallers and swing-jazz collectives to animated blue humanoids, here’s a look at ten of the biggest, best and bonkers acts to have covered the earworm in the quarter century since it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 24, 1997.
“Someone needs to either make it totally their own in a genuinely unique way, or it needs to be a band that has a sensibility for old R&B,” Taylor Hanson argued in the aforementioned 2016 interview. Just a few months on, a group with the credentials to fit the latter answered the middle child’s calling. Just as they’d previously done with Radiohead’s “Creep,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” and Pitbull’s “Timber,” Postmodern Jukebox gave “MMMBop” the 1950s treatment, on this occasion leaning further into the original’s doo-wop vibes. Sadly, pop’s premier Pagliacci clown, Puddles Pity Party, didn’t come aboard but the smart-suited vocal quartet make up for his absence.
The Vamps were in diapers when “MMMBop” hit No. 1, but they were still able to recognize its importance to their career, telling Just Jared Jr., “MMMBop is one of the biggest songs from a teen act in the past 20 years. The song had such a worldwide impact, and we love the song so we HAD to cover it!” The British four piece’s rendition doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but released shortly after their debut single, it helped further establish their place alongside the likes of 5 Seconds of Summer, Rixton and Lawson in the new wave of boy bands with guitars, a subgenre Hanson pioneered.
Norwegian YouTube star Leo Moracchioli has given more than 400 pop hits a heavy metal makeover. So it was inevitable that he’d eventually get round to tackling one of the biggest of the ‘90s. Hanson aren’t entirely unfamiliar with the world of shredding, thrash and moshpits. In 2011, a Hanson cover of Slipknot’s “Wait and Bleed” emerged amid the news they’d be recording an entire tribute album to Iowa’s finest – sadly, this proved to be an April Fools’ joke. But multi-instrumentalist Moracchioli’s aggressive take, complete with a brand-new super-chugging, screamo middle-eight, makes the masked metallers sound like Kidz Bop.
Speaking of which, “MMMBop” had the honor, or some would say dishonor, of appearing on the very first Kidz Bop compilation, the imaginatively titled Kidz Bop Kidz, at the turn of the century. And then alongside the likes of Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” and Kriss Kross’ “Jump,” it was introduced to a whole new generation of all-singing, all-dancing tweens on 2017’s Kidz Bop ‘90s Pop. This time around, the chart-topping single was accompanied by a happy, shiny music video complete with choreography, bright pastel colors and a giant inflatable sofa.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum comes this gonzo cover from electro-industrial outfit Purr Machine. Alongside Society Burning’s cover of The Cardigans’ “Lovefool,” Hate Dept.’s take on Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and Hexedene’s version of Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever,” it was recorded for the curiously titled Nod’s Tacklebox o’ Fun, a 1999 compilation released by cult label Re-Constriction Records. The Los Angeles trio, named after member Betsy Martin’s love of cats, render the original unrecognizable by lurching from menacing breakbeat to slowed-down darkwave. It’s “MMMBop” like you’ve never heard before.
The Sons of Pitches
Perhaps surprisingly, “MMMBop” was never tackled by the cast of Glee. But it was interpolated by the Barden Bellas in a Pitch Perfect 2 medley, while a year earlier it helped the wittily titled a cappella group The Sons of Pitches claim victory in BBC talent show The Naked Choir. The all-male six-piece takes the Hanson classic in all kinds of weird and wonderful directions in the space of just two minutes, from country hoedown and Beastie Boys-esque hip-hop to ‘70s funk and slightly questionable reggae. It’s a supremely clever mash-up of styles which would no doubt put anything New Directions could offer to shame.
Noel Gallagher might not have allowed The Smurfs to squeak their way through an Oasis classic (“We hated the Smurfs as kids, I’m not letting a bunch of blue guys in white hats touch our stuff”) for their first album in nearly two decades. But another sibling-fronted outfit who found fame in the mid-1990s were apparently more than happy to let the likes of Papa Smurf and Smurfette loose on their biggest hit. Appearing on the Down Under editions of The Smurfs Go Pop!, the Belgian cartoon characters’ tribute to “MMMBop” is every bit as annoyingly infectious as you’d expect. But confusingly, it’s named after Madonna’s Motown pastiche “True Blue.”
The Horne Section
If you’ve ever wondered what a William Shatner-style cover of “MMMBop” would sound like, wonder no more. Best-known as the sidekick on the UK version of Taskmaster, musical comedian Alex Horne attempts to make lyrics such as “Plant a seed, plant a flower, plant a rose/You can plant any one of those/Keep planting to find out which one grows” sound like the height of profundity with his deadpan delivery. But the sudden burst of brilliantly silly chiptune and occasional boy band-esque ad-libs from The Horne Section’s Will Collier prove that unlike the Star Trek icon’s musings, it’s all done with tongue placed firmly in cheek.
Punk Rock Factory
Punk Rock Factory have made a name for themselves largely by making various kids TV theme tunes and Disney sing-alongs resemble the sound of an early ‘00s Warped Tour. But on 2019’s The Wurst Is Yet to Come, the four-piece took to their Sausage Factory studio to put their spin on a half-century-spanning array of pop/rock hits. Alongside The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around,” Men at Work’s “Down Under” and The Corrs’ “Breathless,” the meat obsessives also gave “MMMBop” the fast and furious treatment you’d expect from their no-nonsense moniker.
Forget vampish boy bands, post-modern viral sensations and cheekily named talent show winners; the title of YouTube’s most-watched “MMMBop” rendition belongs to a funk collective featuring the co-founder of Patreon. The brainchild of Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte, Scary Pockets have racked up more than five million views with their effortlessly cool take on the 1997 classic. It’s not hard to see why. Singer Lucy Schwartz delivers a joyful vocal while fittingly sporting a Hanson T-shirt. And the rest of the group, tightly squeezed together in what appears to be the corner of someone’s living room, looks to be having just as much fun giving “MMMBop” a jam band makeover.