In the music industry, the phenomenon of one hit wonder it is quite peculiar. There are artists for whom it is enough a single song to achieve fame and be remembered for posterity, even though they have more material on their discography. One such case is that of New Radicals with his role “You Get What You Give”. Surely you have heard it.
This song forever marked the career of the Gregg Alexander, the leader – and basically the only constant member – of the band, and gave the 90s one of its most iconic songs. Now, more than 20 years after its original release, this great song continues to sound and in the middle of 2021 it became a trend for a while on TikTok. And not only that, well Joe Biden a few months ago asked the composer to play it at his inauguration celebrations as President. from the United States.
However, what some do not know is the message behind this topic and the anecdotes about how Gregg composed it. On this occasion, we will review the story behind this song and the odd detail that it contains.
Gregg Alexander’s approach to the music industry
Before New Radicals and the success of “You Get What You Give”, Gregg Alexander’s career wasn’t easy at all. As they say out there, he had to “break stone” and endure the industry’s strikes in order to gain some recognition. And he did all of that when he was just a teenager. He is one of the best songwriters of the 90-00s, he has written songs by Hanson, Michelle Branch, O-Zone, it’s more… he even did the music for the movie ‘Begin Again’ with Adam Levine and Keira Knightley. That one from “Lost Stars” he wrote it, and caaasi wins the Oscar.
As he recounted in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, he decided he wanted to become a rock star after a couple of events. The first was to have discovered at the age of 14 or 15 Purple Rain by Prince, and the second was a trip to California with his mom. The idea was to visit an aunt, but he pointed out that in that state felt a very different musical vibe from the one in his native Michigan. After that summer trip, he told his father and mother what his plan was.
“I told my parents, ‘I’m going to escape to California to be a rock star.’ My mom knew I was serious, but my dad said, ‘Well make sure you’re back home in September for school if [tu plan] it didn’t go well ‘… ”.
Signing his first (and unfortunate) record deals
And he did… By the second half of the 80s, a 16-year-old Gregg had moved to Los Angeles and after practically nagging any number of executives, he met the producer Jimmy Lovine, who offered him his first record deal with the A&M label. Eventually, he dedicated himself to recording his first album, which would be called ‘Save Me From Myself’, but it was changed at the last minute to Michigan Rain.
But things would not go well with that material. Shortly after the album was released in 1989, A&M was acquired by the multinational Polygram and due to this, the promotion and distribution of various artists and their respective albums was neglected. A) Yes, Michigan Rain went unnoticed by critics and audiences.
A couple of years later, in 1992, Gregg Alexander managed to land another record deal, this time with Epic Records to release his album. Intoxifornication. But as many of you will know, by those years grunge and alternative rock dominated the scene. The album, pop rock and funk, did not come together very well and much less reaped the expected success.
As he tells The Hollywood Reporter, Epic suggested Gregg create something similar to the trendy musical style, but the composer made the proposal ugly. “[Intoxifonication] he died then I refused to sound like that because it wasn’t me. I couldn’t fake that. I had to creatively follow my heart “. Eventually, the contract with the label went to waste.
But all was not lost to the misunderstood genius of Gregg Alexander. He worked as a session musician and composing material for other artists until in 1997, his career took a new direction when he decided to start New Radicals.
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Gregg funda a New Radicals y la rompe con “You Get What You Give”
After the unsuccessful musical journey that Gregg Alexander went through between 1989 and much of the 90s, fortune smiled on him. MCA Records trusted him and sought him out to offer him a new deal after an acquaintance delivered a demo to executive Michael Rosenblatt. The mixtape in question were the first vestiges of what the album would be Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (‘maybe you have also been brainwashed’), which thematically spoke of the accumulation of bad experiences that the composer had brought about in his career.
Most of the tracks on that album were created by Gregg and some session musicians – who he had worked with before – helped him record in the studio. And among all those songs, I was “You Get What You Give“, Of which the optimistic lyrics about following your dreams stand out and unequivocally, in to some extent, they were inspired by the path Alexander had traveled.
By that time, the album came out as a release on behalf of New Radicals And as we said, the band was made up of Gregg Alexander and several musicians who helped him record as a favor after he had helped them on other projects.
And while there is an optimistic message in the song, in its closing verses there are separate attacks on large banking corporations, the FDA and their health care strategy, among other things. Also, in those final lines the band is mentioned Hanson, a Beck, Marilyn Manson y Courtney Love.
Why was he mentioning them? He has said that he wanted to see if the media and the public would turn their attention to the real issues mentioned in the lyrics. or if they would focus on the ‘cheap controversy’ derived from talking about other stars of the music industry.
“Notice that everyone focused on the lyrics of the so-called ‘attacks on celebrities’ instead of this lyrics that spoke of the powers that be that are holding everyone back … That was something that disappointed me a little“, detailed to THR.
Even with all the vicissitudes and meanings behind, “You Get What You Give” became a classic not only of the 90s, but of all time. Gregg Alexander had plenty of talent and there will always be questions about what he could have accomplished in continuing New Radicals if he had not dissolved the project in 1999, just as he was beginning to see a little light in his career. Was the taste of fame demotivated in the end? It seems like a valid justification – or excuse.