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My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Unbelievable (ft. Hanson)" by Owl City mean?

Adam Young, of Owl City fame, just came out with another song from his album Mobile Orchestra, which will be released July 10th. The song is "Unbelievable (ft. Hanson)." The other band, according to Wikipedia, is "best know for the 1997 hit song 'MMMBop' from their major label debut album Middle of Nowhere, which earned three Grammy nominations." And like Hanson, "Unbelievable" feels strongly of the 90's. And, of course, this makes Hanson the perfect band to collaborate with. In an interview with EWAdam Young says, "Hanson was a total dream collaboration for me . . . I was born in the mid-’80s but grew up in the ’90s, so I am around the same age as those guys, and we connected on a lot of the subjects in the song ‘Unbelievable.’ I just reached out to them, sent them the song, introduced myself and said I’d be thrilled to work with them if they might find the idea appealing at all. They wrote back and said they were down to do it. They wrote Verse 2, added some additional production and just kind of did what felt natural to them, all of which I loved. So imagine me, someone who grew up loving this band, to suddenly have the chance to collaborate on a song of my own was totally surreal. They were the nicest, easiest guys to work with."

The song, while not just about the 90's is an ode to the decade that raised Adam Young (and the three Hanson brothers). Young was born in 1986, spending the formative years of his childhood as a 90's kid. Thus, the song is replete with cultural references to that decade, and the art style of the video suggests the colors and designs popular in advertisements and cartoons for children of the time period.

Owl City 1

Owl City 1

"Unbelievable (ft. Hanson)" Lyrics Meaning

"Unbelievable (ft. Hanson)" is not a complicated song, but it does one thing differently that many songs about the 90's (or the past in general) don't often do. It stays focused on Adams's personal experience rather than on glorifying an era.

Admittedly, the video glorifies the 90's themselves more, but for Young his fascination seems to be with childhood and how much he personally enjoyed it.

"Unbelievable" begins with the lines, "It's unbelievable / This is as good as it gets / It's unbelievable / Don't know what's gonna happen next / It's unbelievable / You haven't seen nothing yet / It's unbelievable, it's unbelievable." The standout features are the repetition of "It's unbelievable" and the singer's progression from believing that he's doing as well as he possible can to the idea that something even better is coming up.

Owl City 2

Owl City 2

The song seems to be sung from the viewpoint of someone taking a trip down memory lane to celebrate the past that he was so happy in. He remembers how good things were back then, and past-Adam believes that life couldn't get any better. But future-Adam tells him "You haven't seen nothing yet"; Young seems to be telling his past self, "If you're excited about Nintendo 64, wait until the Wii! If you liked MC Hammer, wait until Justin Bieber! If you're excited about Fruit Roll-Ups, wait until Dippin' Dots and Flaming Cheetohs!"

The world changes, and Adam Young can't seem but help to be excited.

The first and second verses and the bridge are extended and connected references to toys, activities, foods, and products that Young and Hanson grew up with. Young provides the first verse and bridge, and Hanson provides the second verse.

There were only a few references I didn't get at first; those and others are explained here.

"The newest thing was Lion King, and I could feel the love" is a reference to a song in the Disney movie The Lion King: 

 

"And I won't lie, my friends and I, were too legit to quit" is a reference to MC Hammer's "2 Legit 2 Quite":

Urban Dictionary defines "off the hook" as "right off the store shelf" or "cool; happening."

Wikipedia says that Pogs is a kid's game that peaked in the 90's.

Floam is an arts and crafts styled item that was advertised on the strength of its flexibility and ability to be used to decorate anything:

 

And L.A. Looks is a styling gel popular in the 90's.

The only thing else that changes in the song is that in the last repetition of the chorus, Young changes some lyrics to "It's unbelievable / When I think back on an age / It's unbelievable / Cause baby those were the days / It's unbelievable / It ruled in so many ways." In that second line, he comes the closest in the song to glorifying the 90's instead of his childhood, but seems to still manage to keep focused on his personal experience because "age" could be a reference to his childhood rather than to the 90's.

What'd you think of "Unbelievable (ft. Hanson)" by Owl City? Are you a 90's kid? Favorite thing about the 90's? As always, thanks for reading! Have a great day! :)

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