David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 249: The New Radicals (You Get What You Give)

May 8, 2023

There is absolutely no reason I should have liked The New Radicals. Their cover for 1998's Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too is about as unappealing as any cover I have seen, obnoxiously bright yellow background with Gregg Alexander, pretty much the band, sitting legs extending into the foreground, soles of tennis shoes in our face, his face pretty much covered by a stupid cap, a la Gilligan.

The song titles sound pretentious as hell. "I Don't Wanna Die Anymore" (take it from someone who tried once, "DUH!"), "Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You" ("joint," get it!), and "Crying Like A Church On Monday" (not sure what to do with that one). Other songs simply sounded irritating, "Technicolor Lover" and "Gotta Stay High" most particularly.

The video for their big hit, "You Get What You Give," which cracked the U.S. Top 40 but was significantly more popular around the rest of the world, captured Alexander (in the Gilligan Cap) at the center of a youth riot in a mall, with requisite scenes of food fights and packs of dogs ("Been there, done that," write Weezer and Let's Active).

So, you didn't like them, Dave, why do you know so much about them?  Because I still bought the CD on the basis of the catchiness of "You Get What You Give" (and by 1998, videos were something I was not going to see, so it was many years later before I caught the mall video; that might have stopped me from buying). The chorus is inspiring:

You've got the music in you, don't let go/

You've got the music in you, one dance left/

This world is gonna pull through, don't give up/

You've got a reason to live, can't forget/

We only get what we give.

That's a pretty radical idea coming back around in 1998, although not new since The Beatles espoused the same idea in Abbey Road: "and in the end/the love you take/is equal to/the love you make." And it is all very dance-able. It was destined to be an anthem for a whole group of Millennials. Millions of Millennials probably line up behind Alexander when he sings "this whole damn world can fall apart/you'll be o.k., follow your heart/you're in harm's way/I'm right behind/now say you're mine." For 4 minutes, it's a pretty damn good anthem, even for a Baby Boomer/Generation X'er.

Except that Alexander gives us a coda, a rant against the wealthy (which is generally o.k., because he started the song ranting on the rich), that devolves into attacks on a lot of his contemporaries: Beck, Marilyn Mansen, Courtney Love, Hanson, who he claims are "all fakes/run to your mansions," as "we'll kick your asses."

I guess this is the New radicals, because it is a far cry from the love you make is equal to the love you make.

But, damn, until then it is a catchy tune. One that did lead to me buy a CD that I rarely listen to anymore, and if so, to get to the best song, "I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending," which, despite its overall awesomeness, is still replete with snide attitude about a whirlwind romance: "we did a porno film for coke/I hear I'm big in Japan." However, when Alexander finishes that song with "Ah, Jesus, aw shit, I think I just gave away the ending," there's reflection not simply deflection, as with the ending of "You Get What You Give."

In the end, the words we write are equal to the wars we fight. Or maybe not. I am hardly radical and I have nothing new to say.

The New Radicals. "You Get What You Give." Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. MCA, 1998. Link here.

Day 248: Concrete Blonde "Tomorrow, Wendy"

Day 250: Journey "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"

See complete list here.