New Radicals (L-R): Jim McGorman, Gregg Alexander, Stu Johnson, Sasha, Danielle Brisebois, Brad Fernquist
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Genres||Pop, alternative rock|
|Associated acts||Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois|
New Radicals were an American rock band active in the late 1990s, centered on frontman Gregg Alexander, who wrote and produced all of their songs and was the sole constant member. They released one album, 1998's Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, an alternative album heavily influenced by the rock and soul of the 1970s, containing—among radio-friendly modern rock tracks and love songs—strong criticism of corporate America.
The band is best known for their debut single "You Get What You Give", which became a top 5 hit in the United Kingdom and whose lyrics, which insulted celebrities at the end of the song, provided a minor media spectacle. Tired of touring and promotional interviews, Alexander disbanded the group in mid-1999 before the release of their second single, "Someday We'll Know", to focus on writing and producing songs for other artists. As a result, "Someday We'll Know" received little attention in most countries and the band is widely considered a one-hit wonder.
New Radicals had a "revolving door policy" and no permanent members other than Gregg Alexander, who produced, wrote, sang and played various instruments for the band. The only other person considered a relatively constant member was former child actress Danielle Brisebois (All in the Family). She acted as background singer and percussionist on the album, at live shows and in the band's music videos. She also co-wrote their second single "Someday We'll Know" with Alexander and Debra Holland. Brisebois had previously worked with Alexander on his 1992 album Intoxifornication and on her 1994 solo debut Arrive All Over You.
Most of the musicians who worked on Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too were hired session musicians, including piano player Paul Gordon, drummers Matt Laug and Josh Freese, Paul McCartney's guitarist Rusty Anderson, guitarist Michael James (who also mixed), bassists Paul Bushnell, Dan Rothchild and John Pierce, percussionist Lenny Castro, pianist Greg Phillinganes, and producer Rick Nowels, who played piano on two tracks on the album (and who had previously produced Alexander's debut album Michigan Rain). Other musicians who were at some point part of the live line-up include drummer Stuart Johnson, guitarist Bradley Fernquist, keyboardist Jim McGorman and bassist Sasha Krystov. The latter two were later also part of the house band in Rock Star: INXS.
New Radicals were formed in Los Angeles, California in 1997 by Gregg Alexander, who had previously released two unsuccessful solo albums, 1989's Michigan Rain and 1992's Intoxifornication. Michael Rosenblatt, MCA Records' A&R Senior Vice President, signed the band to the label in 1998, and Alexander received a $600,000 advance for their first (and only) album, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. The album was released on October 20, 1998, and was well received by music critics, who praised the record for its wide range of untypical influences for a modern pop-rock album, such as Todd Rundgren, World Party and Hall & Oates, and compared its funk and soul-influenced upbeat pop rock to the early work of Prince and Mick Jagger.
Some critics, however, disliked the album's themes—Alexander's criticism of society and the frequent references to drugs and sex that run throughout the album—denoting them as "shallow posturing" and "empty social pronouncements" while others found that Alexander's social criticism and observations "would sound clichéd if they werent [sic] so insightful and articulated with such uninhibited truth." Also popular with the general audience, the album reached #10 on the UK Albums Chart and #41 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S., where it also achieved platinum status (1,000,000 copies sold). It was also certified gold in the United Kingdom (100,000 copies sold) and in Canada (50,000 copies sold).
To promote their album, the New Radicals embarked on a tour through the United States, starting in late 1998. Apart from many concerts and festivals the tour also included several live performance on the radio, appearances at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Nickelodeon's All That and a performance at the House of Blues in Chicago on New Year's Eve 1998—which is probably the only New Radicals show of which bootlegs are circulating. They also opened for the Goo Goo Dolls on their tour starting on March 30 in 1999.
The album was followed on November 17, 1998 by the release of their first single, "You Get What You Give" (co-written with Rick Nowels), which reached #36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on the UK Singles Chart, got heavy radio airplay and rotation on MTV and received much media attention. In large part this attention focused on the celebrity-slamming line "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."
When asked about it in an interview, Marilyn Manson replied he was "not mad that [Alexander] said he'd kick my ass, I just don't want to be used in the same sentence with Courtney Love" and would "crack his skull open if I see him." Beck reported that "I was in a grocery store and he [Alexander] came running up to me, so apologetic, and saying, 'I hope you weren't offended. It wasn't supposed to be personal.' I was kind of pleased, because he's a big guy." Hanson said they weren't really bothered by the song, as they saw it as just a pop-culture reference. They also co-wrote the song "Lost Without Each Other" from their 2004 album Underneath with Alexander. Zac Hanson said that "It was cool working with Gregg... [he]'s definitely a character but he's a cool guy."
Following the mass media's excitement about the celebrity insults, Alexander explained that the verse, along with the lines directly preceding it ("Health insurance rip off lying/ FDA big bankers buying/ Fake computer crashes dining/ Cloning while they're multiplying") were an experiment to see if the media would focus on the real issues, or on the celebrity ridicule. Similar complaints and attacks on Christian religion, American society, politics and corporations can be found in other songs on the album as well, and Alexander would often use promotional interviews to talk about these topics, complaining about—among other things—corrupt, greedy politicians and corporate officers, credit card interest, the poor American social security system, and lack of education.
When the band canceled their appearance at the Atlanta open-air music festival RockFest, as well as their UK tour (scheduled to start on May 17, 1999) rumors started they would break up, while MCA Records claimed an unspecified member of the band (although explicitly not Alexander) being ill was the cause for the canceled shows. The New Radicals went on to shoot the video for their second single "Someday We'll Know"; however, less than two weeks before its release, Gregg Alexander issued a press release on July 12, announcing the breakup of the group. He stated that he "accomplished all of [his] goals with this record" and that "the fatigue of traveling & getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring 'hanging and schmoozing' with radio and retail people, is definitely not for [him]", that he "lost interest in fronting a 'One Hit Wonder' to the point that [he] was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn't see [his] lack of enthusiasm" and that he would go on to form a production company to focus on producing and writing songs freelance for other artists. His first production work after the New Radicals' breakup was the album Portable Life by fellow Radical Danielle Brisebois, originally set to be released in October 1999, but cancelled by RCA Records until eventually being released digitally almost a decade later in September 2008. Given the band's breakup and the resulting lack of promotion, "Someday We'll Know" failed to have a notable impact on the charts (it did not chart the Billboard Hot 100 and reached only #28 on the U.S. Adult Top 40 and #48 on the UK Singles Chart), and the band is therefore regarded as a one-hit wonder.
Although no third single was released, there are some (conflicting) clues as to what would have been the third single: Certain promotional copies of Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too come with a sticker reading "includes 'You Get What You Give' 'I Don't Wanna Die Anymore' 'Someday We'll Know'", suggesting that "I Don't Wanna Die Anymore" would join the other two as a single release. Several websites selling the album also marked the track as "Album Version", indicating that there would be a single version at some point. However, there also exist copies of "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough" as both a one-track promotional single and as a four-track commercial single with a barcode. These apparently never made it to retail and were probably test pressings.
In addition to the songs released on the United States version of Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, two additional studio songs by the New Radicals were produced. The song "To Think I Thought" was included as an additional track on the Japanese version of the album, and "The Decency League" was a B-side to the single "Someday We'll Know."
In the years following New Radicals' breakup, Alexander worked with artists such as Ronan Keating, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and Enrique Iglesias, often collaborating with producer/songwriter Rick Nowels. His most successful song as a producer/songwriter was the 2003 Grammy Award-winning "The Game of Love" by Santana and Michelle Branch. Rod Stewart also recorded Alexander and Nowels' "I Can't Deny It" for his 2001 album, Human.
In 2003, a new Gregg Alexander song entitled "A Love Like That" was released at PickTheHits.com, a website where users could rate new music. While it was uncredited, fans immediately recognized Alexander's voice and parts of the lyrics that had already appeared in the booklet for Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. The song was (as official sites listing Alexander's song repertoire reveal) written by Alexander and Rick Nowels.
Since their break up, the New Radicals' songs have been used for several commercials and trailers (for example the trailer to 1999's Big Daddy with Adam Sandler, the 2001 film Bubble Boy, and the 2006 film Click), TV shows (like Scrubs and JAG), on soundtracks (such as A Walk to Remember, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Click and "Surf's Up") and covered by artists such as Mandy Moore and Jon Foreman (lead singer of Switchfoot) and Hall & Oates (both covered "Someday We'll Know" – Moore and Foreman on the soundtrack to A Walk to Remember, Hall & Oates on their 2003 album Do It For Love). Ronan Keating also covered the song during his 2002 Destination Everywhere tour and included "You Get What You Give" in his celebrity playlist on iTunes, as did Joni Mitchell on her Artist's Choice CD, released by Starbucks' Hear Music. She also declared 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."
In 2005 LMC did a remix of "You Get What You Give" under the title "Don't Let Go" by LMC vs New Radicals. A new version of the remix, with new vocals by Rachel MacFarlane replacing the samples from the original version, was released in January 2006 as a single (under the song's original title "You Get What You Give") and reached #30 in the UK Singles Chart. Shawnna's 2006 song "Chicago" from the album Block Music also samples a line from "Someday We'll Know".
In 2008, Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Rick Nowels and guitarist Rusty Anderson—the bulk of the New Radicals lineup—reunited as The Not So Silent Majority to record the song "Obama Rock" supporting the election of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Official live recordings: