2021 Song Draft- Round 6 Pick 9- Music City Mike selects- ‘You Get What You Give’- New Radicals.
“You Get What You Give” – New Radicals
I’ve never had the chance to meet Joni Mitchell, But, if I ever do, the first thing we are going to talk about is our mutual love for the 1998 song, “You Get What You Give” by one-LP wonders New Radicals. In fact, Ms. Mitchell loved the song so much, that in a 2000 Q&A with Rolling Stone, she said that it kept her from quitting music all together. Fast forwarding to 2017, knowing what Joni had said, journalist Roger Friedman introduced her to the Radical’s Gregg Alexander, the man behind this great song, making for a moment he will never forget.
As for myself, the song has brought me great joy and I credit the “never afraid to play new music” Nashville radio station Lightning 100 for introducing me to it. Although, it was quite funny that it took several airings for me to actually catch the DJ identifying who the artist behind this instantly catchy anthem was. My best guess until I learned the truth was that it was a new Todd Rundgren song.
There is another funny “You Get What You Give” memory for me After securing a copy of the lone New Radical’s record, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (a CD on MCA), I of course played that song to death around the house, usually dancing wildly and singing loudly. Later, my wife would tell me that one day while shopping with our young kids at the grocery store, it played over the PA and one of the boys said “Listen, it’s Daddy’s song!”
New Radicals were essentially just Gregg Alexander with some help from former child-actress Danielle Brisebois and various session musicians. Alexander had previously released a pair of solo records that went nowhere, and after this LP, the Radicals were no more although Gregg has continued as a successful songwriter. He did assemble a band and toured for Brainwashed although yours truly never got a chance to see them.
“You Get What You Give” is a remarkable full-sounding song that is built on several musical layers. Co-written with successful songwriter Rick Nowels, it starts slowly with some musical tinkling and then just explodes after Alexander calls us to attention and counts down. Then it’s no turning back from its powerful driving sound, lyrics and chorus that just envelop your total senses. Throughout its entire five minutes, the song doesn’t give the listener a moment of rest. The message is positive and uplifting with an encouraging cry of hope, but the real raw power comes from Alexander’s snarking at a few negatives as the song closes.
As for those negatives, how’s this for some great snark:
Health insurance, rip off lying
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 asses
Given that it’s a complex song masterfully produced by Alexander, I wondered how its Phil Spector-ish “Wall of Sound” would come off live. Although I’ve not come across any live recordings, there are a few television performances on YouTube that I think pass the test. Gregg, Danielle, and the musicians also reunited 22 years later to perform a great lively version at the Biden inauguration. However, it was sanitized to omit those classic snarky closing lines. In some interviews, Alexander expressed some regret about picking on those folks like he did, and I guess that this was also an occasion to look beyond any negativity.
“You Get What You Give” charted number one in Canada and New Zealand and made the top 40 in both the US (#35) and the UK (#5). As for the rest of the LP, there’s only one other great track that keeps the Radical’s from being a one-hit wonder. “Someday We’ll Know” is a gorgeous ballad later covered by Hall & Oates that deserves a listen as well if you don’t know it.
In this crazy, often stupid world that we find ourselves in, the optimism in this song still rings true:
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
We only get what we give
Putting hope aside for a minute, I could only imagine what new snark an updated version of the song at the Biden bash would have had. Well, whatever it would have been, I’m sure both Joni and I would have loved it.