When the Parade Across America — a virtual event celebrating the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris – comes to a close on Jan. 20, it’ll end on a note of positivity. For the first time in 22 years, the New Radicals will reunite to perform “You Get What You Give.” The song, first released in 1998, has experienced some new life courtesy of the Vice President-elect’s husband, Doug Emhoff (the soon-to-be Second Gentleman), who used the song as his walk-on theme during rallies.
The song also has significance in the Biden household. “During breakfast, Beau would often make me listen to what I thought was his theme song,” Joe Biden wrote of “You Get What You Give” in his 2017 autobiography, Promise Me, Dad, per Rolling Stone. “Even though Beau never stopped fighting and his will to live was stronger than most – I think he knew that this day might come. The words to the song are: This whole damn world can fall apart. You’ll be ok, follow your heart.”
“If there’s one thing on Earth that would possibly make us get the band together if only for a day, it is the hope that our song could be even the tiniest beacon of light in such a dark time,” frontman Gregg Alexander said in a statement, per Rolling Stone. “America knows in its heart that things will get bright again with a new administration and a real plan for vaccines on the way. That’s the message of the song… this world is gonna pull through.”
“Performing the song again after such a long time is a huge honor because we all have deep respect for Beau’s military service and such high hopes for the unity and normalcy Joe and Kamala will bring our country again in this time of crisis,” added Alexander. So, who are the New Radicals?
New Radicals Are An Alternative Band From The Late ‘90s.
“You Get What You Give” was all over the alt-rock radio in the spring and summer of 1999. The song was released in November 1998, the first single from their only studio album, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too. Though the song was a staple of alt-radio at the time, it only reached No, 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (while reaching No. 8 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Chart in the U.S.). The band would release a second single from the album, “Someday We’ll Know,” but as soon as the band experienced success, it was all over, and the band was no more.
Gregg Alexander Is The Lead Singer Of The New Radicals.
While many ‘90s kids could describe what the lead singer of New Radicals looked like – bald, skinny, wears a bucket hat – few probably could remember his name. The man beneath the hat was Gregg Alexander. As detailed in Todd In The Shadows’ comprehensive review of “You Get What You Give,” Gregg got his start by simply asking for it: as a teenager living in Michigan, he wrote a letter to A&M Records and “said ‘hey, you should sign me,’ and they did.”
Gregg released two solo albums (1989’s Michigan Rain and 1992’s Intoxifornication). Neither album was commercially successful, and the music was more in tune with Bryan Adams and Richard Marx. Keep in mind that Nirvana’s Nevermind had been released in 1991, with In Utero just around the corner. The sound was out of vogue, and Gregg’s solo career stalled.
During Intoxifornication, Gregg met backup singer Danielle Brisebois. Danielle, best known for her work as Stephanie Mills on All In The Family and Archie Bunker’s Place, was reinventing herself as a musician. Alexander producers her 1994 debut album. The two formed a band with a rotating cast of musicians, and next thing you know, they had a hit on their hands.
They’re Known For One Song.
New Radicals were signed to MCA Records in 1998. Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too debuted in late October of that year, with the lead single released a few weeks later. At the time, alt-rock was years removed from grunge (and a few years before the rise of nu-metal), so “You Get What You Give,” with its upbeat vibe and positive message, fit right into the radio landscape.
“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.” Billboard said the lyrics were “slightly cheesy,” and that it was “an inoffensive but passable pop song, until the last phrases, when it gets interesting.” And what were those phrases?
Health insurance, rip-off flying / FDA, big bankers buying / Fake computer crashes dining / Cloning while they’re multiplying / 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!”
Marilyn Manson Once Threatened To ‘Crack The Skull’ Of Their Lead Singer.
“As an experiment on the song,” Gregg said while giving a rare interview to The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. “I had what at the time was one of the more political lyrics in a long, long, long time, to the point where some of the people I was working with were horrified. In a pop song, I was going after health insurance companies and corruption — ‘Health insurance rip off lying’; the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the hypocrisy of the war on drugs, which was not real; ‘big bankers’ and Wall Street. To allude to all that stuff in a pop song was, in retrospect, a naively crazy proposition.”
“But to put them next to each other, and then to notice that everybody focused on the so-called ‘celebrity-bashing’ lyric instead of this lyric that was talking about the powers-that-be that are holding everybody down…That was something that I was kind of disillusioned by.”
Courtney Love didn’t respond to the lyric, and Hanson would later work with Gregg Alexander. As for Marilyn Manson, he issued a terse reply to MTV in 1998. “I’m giving an open invitation to the singer of the New Radicals because he’s all strange and spiritual, and he challenged me in one of his songs. A lot of people would say, ‘Y’know, don’t give him the attention, cause that’s what he wants.’ But I think I’ll crack his skull open if I see him.”
Manson said his main issue was not the threat but the association. “I’m not mad that he said he’d kick my ass, I just don’t want to be used in the same sentence with Courtney Love.”
What Happened To The New Radicals.
“You Get What You Give” peaked in January 1999. By July, Gregg had dissolved the band. “I’m going to be turning 30 next year, and realize that traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do ‘hanging and schmoozing’ with radio and retail people, is definitely not for me,” he wrote in a statement announcing the end of New Radicals, per the AV Club. “Over the last several months, I’d lost interest in fronting a ‘One Hit Wonder’ [sic] to the point that I was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn’t see my lack of enthusiasm.”
Gregg retreated from the spotlight and, under a pseudonym, wrote or co-wrote several songs for stars like the Spice Girls’ Mel C, and Enrique Iglesias. Gregg’s work includes Santana ft. Michelle Branch’s “The Game Of Love,” Texas’ “Inner Smile,” and Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor.”
Danielle Brisebois also found success as a songwriter, working on Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten,” Halestorm’s “Here’s To Us,” and more. Oddly enough, “Someday We’ll Know” — the unsuccessful follow-up to “You Get What You Give” — has also found its followers in the years since its release. For example, Mandy Moore covered it for A Walk To Remember, and other bands like America have since performed live renditions of the song.
Though Gregg Alexander has said he has “about ten albums of New Radicals songs,” per Todd In The Shadows, one shouldn’t hold their breath. The 2020 Inauguration was billed as a “one-day-only” reunion. But, you never know. As the song says, don’t give up (on your hopes of New Radicals reuniting for one more time.)