1st November 2020
The New Radicals could easily have been included in my recent feature about one-hit-wonders. Although the band were only active for two years the hit single that came from their one album, ‘Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too’ caused quite a furore in the media. Those of you who may not recognise the band’s name will more than likely remember the song ‘You Get What You Give’ which topped the Canadian and New Zealand charts, peaked at #5 in the UK and made the Top 40 in the States.
The alternative rock outfit was formed by Gregg Alexander in 1997. The LA-based singer/songwriter had released two unsuccessful solo albums some years previously, but when the newly formed band started receiving recognition they were signed to MCA Records with an advance of $600,000.00. The album was released in October 1998.
‘Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too’ was enthusiastically greeted by fans and critics who compared the funk and Soul infused album to the early works of Prince and Mick Jagger. However, some of the critics disliked the themes of the songs and frequent reference to sex and drugs, calling them shallow, posturing and empty social pronouncements. I would have thought those qualities were synonymous with Rock music, but what do I know?
Others praised Gregg Alexander’s social criticisms stating that they “would sound clichéd if they weren’t so insightful and articulated with such uninhibited truth”. Whatever the critic’s opinion, the album matched the single’s success in the UK and Canada with gold status, the in the US with platinum sales. Let’s start today with their one huge hit, ‘You Get What You Give’. 😎
I love how the media can blow things out of proportion and fall into a cleverly set trap. A fine example is the fuss they made of the celebrity-slamming closing lyric of Alexander’s huge hit.
“Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson / Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson /
You’re all fakes run to your mansions / Come around we’ll kick your ass in.”
The responses from the named parties were kind of expected. Marilyn Manson said he wasn’t mad at all, he just didn’t want to be used in the same sentence as Courtney Love! Beck related that Gregg Alexander rushed up to him in a supermarket full of apologies that the reference wasn’t personal. Beck actually thought it was rather funny. Hanson just brushed it aside as a reference to pop culture; and Courtney? She wasn’t available for comment.
Once the mass media had made fools of themselves, Gregg Alexander rubbed it in explaining that the verse, along with its preceding lines “Health insurance rip off lying / FDA big bankers buying / Fake computer crashes dining / Cloning while they’re multiplying” were written as an experiment to see what aspect the media would focus on; real issues or celebrity ridicule. The experiment worked.
The band was working on a video for the second single release ‘Someday We’ll Know’ when Alexander announced The New Radicals would be disbanding. We’ll pick up on the reasons after listening to their follow-up single. 😎
The success of their one release had given Gregg Alexander a big enough taste of the hoopla that goes along with promoting a hit album. Not known for keeping his views to himself he released the following official statement:
“The New Radicals will no longer be a recording, promoting, or performing entity and I will now be focusing on producing and writing material for other artists. I have accomplished all of my goals with this record and the fatigue of travelling & getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night with nothing to do is boring, and ‘hanging and schmoozing’ with radio and retail people, is definitely not for me”
The first album he produced was for New Radicals member Danielle Brisebois who had worked with Alexander since his first solo albums. Their working partnership resulted in an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2015 for their composition “Lost Stars” from the film Begin Again. He also worked with Ronan Keating and Enrique Iglesias amongst others. What I didn’t know until researching is that he wrote/produced one of my favourite Santana songs, ‘The Game of Love’.
The favourite snippet I unearthed researching for today is that Joni Mitchell was asked to compile an ‘Artist’s Choice’ playlist for a broadcast. She included the song ‘You Get What You Give’ declaring The New Radicals “the only thing I heard in many years that I thought had greatness in it… I loved that song ‘You Get What You Give.’ It was a big hit, and I said, ‘Where did they go?’ It turns out the guy [Gregg Alexander] quit. I thought, ‘Good for him.’ I knew he was my kind of guy”. High praise indeed!
There was a rumour that a third single may be released and sadly, it was exactly that, but I thought that it would make a good closing song for today. Here’s, ‘I Don’t Want to Die Anymore’. I’m glad I spent some time getting to know more about a band that shared their brief moment of brilliance with us. Until next time…😎
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2020