Channel Awesome
You Get What You Give

You get what you give todd in shadows.jpg

Date Aired
August 17, 2019
Running Time
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Todd plays the opening notes on his piano...

A one-hit retrospective

Todd: One! Two! One, two, three!

Video for The New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"

Gregg Alexander: Aow!

Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. And we are going back to 1999, a magical year as far as I'm concerned.

Gregg: You got the music in you!

Todd (VO): Technically, it was released right at the end of '98, but I will always associate it with '99, which has taken on this idyllic sheen in my memory.

Montage of music videos, including: "Livin' La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin, "Steal My Sunshine" by Len, "Smooth" by Santana ft. Rob Thomas

Todd (VO): Just an endless beach party with summer jam after summer jam, delivered in bright, saturated colors. Todd: And it might seem more special to me personally, because that was the year I officially started paying attention to pop music after a childhood of cultural isolation.

"You Get What You Give" continues

Todd: So when that song, that one song came on, it was like it was speaking to me personally.

Gregg: Wake up kids!

Todd (VO): Oh I did wake up. "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals was either the first or the second music video I ever saw on MTV. At the time, it got lost in the shuffle of a billion other songs I was absorbing for the first time...

Todd: ...but the memory has always lingered with me, and that seems to be true for most people.

Todd (VO): It was never much of a chart success, it peaked in the early weeks that year just barely inside the Top 40. Yet, it's one of those songs everyone remembers.

Todd: And if you don't like this song, I advise you to click away now, 'cause I am just gonna gush over it for the entire time. I think it's one of the best songs of the '90s.

Todd (VO): It is one of the few songs that can make me dance, and I don't dance. In fact, it's only grown more and more acclaimed as the years go by.

Clips of interview footage with...

Todd: The Edge said he was jealous of it. Joni Mitchell called it the only song in decades that really excited her. YouTube star Todd in the Shadows called it "one of the best songs of the '90s." [this last one is captioned "*five seconds ago"].

Clip of Conan O'Brien interview with...

Ice-T: I mean, I think the most pop record I used to really like, uh, was a song by the New Radicals, called, uh, [sings] "Don't, give up..." Todd: Now that's an endorsement. And despite its many celebrity fans, I still feel like it's never gotten its due.

"You Get What You Give" continues

Todd (VO): If it had been part of some trend or genre like grunge that writers like to mythologize, or if the band had gone on to bigger and better things, maybe it would be near the top of all those "Greatest Ever" lists. But alone it stands.

Todd: Well, that's what I exist for. So come, let us reflect on...

Todd (VO): ...the brief and strange career of New Radicals, who told us all we had a reason to live, but were themselves just too new and too radical to live for very long beyond their single masterpiece.

Gregg: Just don't be afraid to leave

Before the hit

Series of images of young Gregg Alexander

Todd (VO): So once upon a time, there was a Michigan teenager named Gregg Alexander. With two g's. Greg-g. In 1989, he sent a letter to A&M Records saying, "hey, you should sign me." Todd: And they did [caption: It's that easy!].

Album art for Michigan Rain

Todd (VO): His first album got zero promotion, 'cause of internal reshuffling in the label, and it's pretty hard to find now. But most of it got recycled into Todd: ...his second album in 1992, which got a bigger push.

Album art for...

Todd (VO): It is titled Intoxifornication. Todd: [stifles laugh] That's a title.

Video for...

Todd: Here's the first single released off of it, "Smokin' in Bed."

Gregg: [vocalizing]

Todd: ... What is this.

Gregg: Smokin' in bed/Do you wanna get dirty baby?

Todd (VO): Uh, Mr. Alexander, I really really hope you're not watching this video, 'cause, uh... I have to do my duty as an honest critic here and this is pretty bad. Todd: Yeah, 1992 was one of those years where rock was clearly changing, but it wasn't clear yet into what.

Gregg: My hips move to make you feel better

Todd (VO): I'm not sure what Gregg's going for here, 'cause this is a kind of '90s cool that only existed for like half a second. It's some kind of horrible mix of Prince, '90s U2, INXS and Jesus Jones.

Todd: Yeah, sounds like he and his producers took a big swing on the sound of the '90s being

Album art for Kingdom Chairs by...

Todd: The Soup Dragons, and uh, yeah, that didn't really pan out.

Video for...

Todd: Here's another video he made, titled "The Truth."

Gregg: [captioned] I am a Jew/A Jew/And you're my Hitler!

Todd: [uncomfortable] Ooooh. Oh no.

Gregg: And them things you want so bad/I already have, have

Todd (VO): I think maybe banking on Gregg Alexander's boyish sex appeal was also a mistake. Like, what if Beck thought he was Jim Morrison. Well, now you know.

Gregg: [captioned] Here it comes/Here comes the lawsuit, baby!/Slow ride!

Todd: [sitting in confusion]

Gregg: Take it easy!

Todd: [beat] OK. Todd (VO): Uh, for what it's worth, I don't think he got sued, I don't think Foghat even noticed.

Gregg: Dig my burial ditch, ditch

Todd (VO): So yeah, this is all extremely bad...

Todd: ...but it's bad in a weird and unexpected way, and you can work with that.

Todd (VO): With a little tweaking, and if he wasn't trying so hard to be cool, he could've been the next alt-rock star of the '90s, 'cause

Clips of Weezer - "Buddy Holly" and Beck - "Loser"

Todd (VO): The '90s were about to be very good for weird outsiders. But, 'twas not to be. Todd: But it wasn't a total loss.

Video for "The Truth"

Todd (VO): It was during that album that he worked with a backup singer named Danielle Brisebois.

Clip of interview with a young Danielle

Interviewer: You've probably seen this delightful little girl. Her name is Danielle Brisebois-

Todd: Brisebois was already famous as a child actress.

Clip of...

Todd: She came in as Archie Bunker's niece on the final season of All in the Family after Gloria and Meathead left,

Clip of Archie Bunker's Place

Todd: And she stayed on during the spinoff.

Bunker: Don't bother them, sweetheart!

Brisebois' character: [blows raspberry]

Todd (VO): I'm gonna guess that this is not revered as particularly classic television.

Video for Danielle Brisebois - "Gimme Little Sign"

Danielle: Just gimme some kind of sign, boy/Oh my baby

Todd (VO): When she reached adulthood, she devoted herself entirely to music. Alexander produced her debut album in 1994 and they had some extremely minor success with that. [Clip of live performance] And Alexander was still finding work, he sold a couple songs here and there. And then the two of them started a band. [Image of New Radicals] Alexander, Brisebois, and a rotating list of nameless randos. Todd: And they gave themselves a laughably pretentious name.

Clip of live performance on Top of the Pops

MC: Next, one of the acts widely touted to be the next big thing! Though I'm sure that won't stop them. New Radicals! The big hit

Video for "You Get What You Give"

Todd (VO): In November of 1998, New Radicals released their first album, [Album art for...] Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. [Video continues] Gregg Alexander was no longer a shaggy haired, scrawny wannabe-sex god, but a bald t-shirt-wearing hipster, a look that fit him a lot better.

Gregg: One, two, three, AOW!

Todd (VO): Their first single, "You Get What You Give", peaked in late January at Billboard #36, which seems way too low to me. Todd: Then, as always, Billboard's methodology is questionable. I refuse to believe that...

Clip of Mark Chestnutt performing...

Todd: was that much less popular than the country version of "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" [caption: Billboard #23 that same week], but it's the only measurement we have.

"You Get What You Give" continues

Gregg: Wake up kids/We've got the dreamer's disease

Todd (VO): "You Get What You Give" is kinda a unique song, and it's kinda hard for me to put it in context, 'cause there's not really any other songs like it. Todd: But if you look at 1999, it does start to make a kind of sense.

Clip of Alice in Chains - "Rooster"

Todd (VO): When alt-rock broke through in 1992-ish, it seemed like music just wanted to mope all goddamn day. And then all of a sudden, people started cheering up!

Series of clips, including: Chumbawumba - "Tubthumping"...

Chumbawumba: I get knocked down! But I get up again! Todd: Like, what did we have to be unhappy about? The Cold War was over. Nuclear war wasn't looming over us, the economy was good. So all of a sudden, ["Bullet With Butterfly Wings" by...] Smashing Pumpkins were out, ["Walkin' On the Sun" by...] Smash Mouth was in. But it all still had that Gen X ironic edge to it. [Harvey Danger - "Flagpole Sitta"...] Like, these are all extremely literate songs, there's a lot of words in them, [Barenaked Ladies - "One Week] and some of them were actually really clever. Or they're trying to be, even if they aren't. [...and Third Eye Blind - "Semi Charmed Life"] Even a lot of the happy songs feel a little sarcastic, because the 90s generation, they were just too cool. [Clip from Reality Bites] They had it all figured out, they were self-aware about everything. [Clip from...] Their movies were about movies, [Image of cover of Rolling Stone, featuring Nirvana] their rock stars hated being rock stars...

Clip of Fiona Apple at MTV Music Video Awards

Fiona: Watching everybody that's watching this world... this world is bull[bleep].

"You Get What You Give" continues

Todd (VO): So, "You Get What You Give" is one of the few moments of what I would call "hipster optimism"... Todd: It's sunny sincerity for the ironic detachment crowd.

Gregg: This world is gonna pull through/Don't give up

Todd (VO): If you just look at the chorus alone, it would seem super corny. But the verses actually... Todd: ...make the song a lot saltier than it seems.

Gregg: Age fourteen, they got you down on your knees/So polite, we're busy still saying please

Todd (VO): Like, this song pretty much agrees with [Same clip of... ] Fiona Apple up there. Todd: This world is bullshit.

Gregg: Frenemies, who when you're down ain't your friend

Todd: But he also has one real insight here

Todd (VO): Being too good and too smart to buy into the phoniness of the world...

Todd: ...feels pretty fantastic!

Todd (VO): Alexander wrote it while he and most people he knew were broke and couchsurfing through life...

Todd: ...and when you look at it, there is something awesome and romantic about that.

Gregg: We're flat broke, but hey we do it in style

Todd (VO): Like, mostly what I get from this song is that sense of being in your twenties and having nothing figured out and everything figured out at the same time.

Gregg: You got the music in you!

Todd (VO): Nothing can get you down. The future is good even if the present is a mess. Todd: Like, so what the world is bullshit? You are still awesome!

Gregg: It'll be OK, follow your heart

Todd: It feels like this song could only have been written in the late 90s, when the news of the world was mostly funny, and it didn't seem like we had a lot to worry about.

Todd: So that's part of what made the song so resonant, but that's all very late 90s.

Todd (VO): There's another reason it's lasted, decades after the sunshine of the late 90s flickered and died. And that is...

Todd: It's just an amazingly written song!

Gregg: Flyyyyy.....

Todd: "You Get What You Give" might have the attitude of the 90s, but it has sound of MOR rock from the 70s, y'know

Clips of live performances of "It's Too Late by...

Todd (VO): Carole King, [..."Hello It's Me" by...] Todd Rundgren, [..."Mr. Blue Sky" by...] ELO, [...and "Reelin' in the Years" by] Steely Dan. This is music for song-writing nerds, just, [clip of "Mr. Blue Sky"...] acts you listen to just to admire the craft.

"You Get What You Give" continues

Todd (VO): And that's how I listen to this song too, this is a song for people who love chords, and structures, and hooks. "You Get What You Give" is a pretty lengthy five minutes, but it uses every second of it. It is not a repetitive song, and there is not one wasted moment. Alexander says he just kept trying to top himself, and he does. Every time you think the song's out of tricks, it adds a new one.

Gregg: Now say you're mine

Todd: There's a solo at just the right part, for just the right length of time. And a little bass lick at just the right moment.

Gregg: You only get what you give

Todd: Like, here's the part where you can tell 'cause the song should logically end here, 'cause it's already been going for a while. But then he adds that one part that just puts it over the top. And we gotta talk about it, 'cause that's the part that got him in trouble.

Gregg: Health insurance, rip-off flying/FDA, big bankers buying/Fake computer crashes dining/Cloning while they're multiplying/[following is captioned]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!

Todd: See again, everyone's full of shit but the New Radicals.

(Image of Hanson)

Todd: Phonies! You're all big fat phonies!

(Video for "You Get What You Give")

Todd: And none of these people are Kim Kardashian or anything, you can't just get away with calling them fakes. Like, in one line, he managed to piss off

(Series of images of Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love, and Marilyn Manson)

Todd: Hipsters, teeny-boppers, riot grrrls, and goths, that's a wide set of demographics to annoy.

(Video for "You Get What You Give")

Todd: He did eventually apologize to Beck personally. Marilyn Manson threatened him back at one point. For all that I'm gushing about how much I and everyone else loves this song, I-I have met people who don't. I vehemently disagree, obviously, but I can see the angle, how it might come off as a little too self-impressed. Like, calling Marilyn Manson a fake, what does that even mean?

(Image of Marilyn Manson)

Todd: [mockingly] "You mean that's not his real eye color!?"

(Video for "You Get What You Give")

Todd: Or, or this silly video of the rebels running riot on "The Mall?" [sarcastically] Take that, squares!

Gregg: Every night I smash a Mercedes Benz

Todd: Yeah, they smash up rich people's cars. 'Cause they're radicals. New radicals!

Gregg: Health insurance, rip-off flying

Todd: Alexander has said that he wishes people would stop focusing on the celebrity parts of that verse and more on the fact that he called out the banks and the health insurance companies and the FDA but, y'know. We love our celebrity feuds.

(Interview with Gregg Alexander)

Gregg: The whole idea behind this particular album is, uh, the commercialization of, uh, society, where it's so out of control that-

Todd: Listening to these interviews I think he thinks this song is a lot more political than it actually is. [airquotes] "Maybe you're been brainwashed too."

(Video for "You Get What You Give")

Gregg: Wake up kids

Todd: [sarcastically] Wake up sheeple! I mean yes, there is the vibe of being pressured by society and its false idols like Hanson. But what's great about this song is that it's uplifting, and it's about friendship and getting by and it has that big soaring spirit-lifting chorus.

(Live performance of "You Get What You Give")

Todd: Threatening Hanson is not what ended his career. And you could've seen it coming if you had ever seen any video of them live.

Gregg: Got the music in you!

Todd: Always with that bucket hat pulled over his eyes. If you're a music artist and you don't show your eyes

(Clips of interview with Sia, Daft Punk on the red carpet)

Todd: It's for one reason only. You don't wanna be famous.

(Live performance of "You Get What You Give")

Todd: This is a guy who may have sang about things all right, but eventually the phoniness of the world took him down.

(The failed follow-up)

(Video for New Radicals - ...)

Todd: OK, so this is their second song, "Someday We'll Know," and it's a slower one.

Gregg: Someday we'll know/If love can move a mountain/Someday we'll know/Why the sky is blue.

Todd: Uh, it's got a little clever idea behind it, like, Gregg is singing about the reasons for a breakup as one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Gregg: Someday we'll know why I wasn't meant for you.

Todd: OK, so, the Achilles' heel of the New Radicals is that Gregg Alexander is not a great singer.

Gregg: Whatever happened to Amelia Earhart?

Todd: Got a very squawk-y little yelp thing that he does. He made it work on "You Get What You Give," but, slow down the energy, let some of his weirder lyrics stand out a little more...

Gregg: Did the captain of the Titanic cry?

Todd: Yeah, it does kind of hit a wrong note. I mean, I learned to love this song anyway after a few listens, but I can kinda see why it didn't catch on. But I'm not sure the public rejected it exactly, I can't tell if it really got a push. I'm not entirely clear on the timeline here, but it's possible that this song never had the chance to catch on. Because before the band even had time to register the first hit, Gregg ended the project.

(Image of news article, prominent headline: "New Radicals Frontman Dissolves Band")

Todd: "You Get What You Give" peaked in January of 1999; the band was over in July. It is probably the quickest that any band's career has stalled out. The band from

(Album art for The Wonders - ...)

Todd: "That Thing You Do" lasted longer than this. And why'd he end it? He didn't like it.

(Video for "Someday We'll Know")

Todd: He didn't see himself having another hit anytime soon and didn't want to spend his life being in a lame one-hit wonder. [gestures] Look, it takes a certain kind of personality to be a successful artist in music.

[Clip of "America's Next Top Model" (?)]

Todd: There's so much boring, stupid marketing stuff that has nothing to do with music

(Clip of different show)

Todd: Record industry hacks interfering with your work 'cause they think they know better than you... Touring sucks, doing interviews sucks

(Clip of another different show)

Todd: If you ever wonder why your favorite reality show winner suddenly disappears after the show, sometimes it's because they realized all they won is a lifetime supply of bullshit and they opted out. That's what happened to Gregg Alexander.

(Video for "Someday We'll Know")

Todd: So I suspect Alexander's increasing unwillingness to play the game might've killed this song. Someone must've believed in it though, 'cause it pops up again in pop culture a couple years later!

(Clip from A Walk to Remember)

Character: ...that dress in the fourth grade. Nice sweater.

Jamie Sullivan: Thank you.

Todd: So this is A Walk to Remember, the most Jesus-y of the Nicholas Sparks adaptations. And in this extremely Christian movie, all of a sudden, this song comes on!

Mandy Moore and Jonathan Foreman: Someday we'll know/If love can move a mountain

Todd (VO): Uh, this isn't the New Radicals version. Mandy Moore sings it herself; her and the guy from (Image of...) Switchfoot, if you remember them. And a different New Radicals song also appears in the movie!

(Clip from "A Walk to Remember," captioned: New Radicals; "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough")

Gregg: We just can't get enough/We just can't get enough

Todd: This was three years after the band broke up. I don't know how these songs wound up in (Image of book-cover of "A Walk to Remember," by Nicholas Sparks) Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was Mandy Moore's idea, because (clip of Moore performing "Drop the Pilot" for Sessions@AOL) she turned out to have surprisingly sophisticated taste in music.

(Clip of live performance of Hall and Oates covering "Someday We'll Know")

Singer: Someday we'll know

Todd: A year after this movie, Hall and Oates also cover "Someday We'll Know."

(Clip of live performance of...)

Todd: As did the band America in 2011. This is so weird to me.

(Clip of Hall and Oates)

Todd: I am not used to these failed follow-ups getting any attention after they flop. There are no covers of (clip of...) "Dance the Kung Fu."

(Clip of live performance of "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough")

Todd: For what it's worth, the album is good to great,

(Image of "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too" tracklist)

Todd: The songs all have really long, Fallout-Boy-esque titles and the album is fun and rambly and songs just go wherever Alexander feels like. If you like the early 90s eclectic dance-rock stuff like World Party or the Happy Mondays, I recommend it. I can say this about it, it is definitely the New Radicals' best album.

(Did they ever do anything else?)

Todd: Well, Alexander said in his breakup press release that (Clip of interview with Gregg) he wanted to work behind the scenes. He said he saw himself like (video by...) Babyface, in that he's more of a producer and only occasionally an artist, so in that way and I'm assuming zero others. The first thing he did was produce Brisebois' second album (album art for Portable Life), but, unfortunately, it never got released. But except for that, the man did really well for himself.

(Video for Santana ft. Michelle Branch - "The Game of Love")

Michelle: It just takes a little bit of this/A little bit of that

Todd: Yeah, that's one of his songs.

Michelle: It's all in the game of love

Todd: And nowadays, Alexander is known as a real songwriter-songwriter.

(Video for Texas - "Inner Smile")

Todd: The label gave him what he calls a blank check to just write and write, and he'd probably be like, super acclaimed and famous if he had been pickier about who sings his songs.

(Video for Melanie C - "On the Horizon")

Todd: But he would work with anybody. He's given songs to Justin Guarini, Sporty Spice,

(Video for Scott Cain - "I'm Moving On")

Todd: Some guy who won a talent show in Australia... He's even worked with Hanson!

(Video for Hanson - "Lost Without Each Other")

Hanson: Don't go!/Don't go telling me you're all right!

Todd: See, he did kick their ass! With awesome songwriting.

(Video for Ronan Keating - "Love Is a Rollercoaster")

Todd: Most of his successful songs were hits in the UK, and you can always tell which ones are his. Like, he's got a real distinctive style.

Ronan: Hey baby!

Todd: Lotta octave falsetto jumps, jazzy seventh chords. [plays example]

(Video for Sophie Ellis-Bextor - "Murder on the Dance Floor")

Sophie: It's murder on the dance floor

Todd: This one's my favorite, by the way.

Sophie: If you think you're gettin' away/I will prove you wrong!

Todd: Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder on the Dance Floor," look it up, love it forever. And for what it's worth, Brisebois wrote a couple of hits too.

(Video for Natasha Bedingfield - "Unwritten")

Natasha: Feel the rain on your skin/No one else can feel it for you

Todd: Yeah, you might know this one. So, uh, she did pretty well for herself also.

Natasha: The rest is still unwritten.

(Clip of interview with Gregg)

Todd: After a while, Alexander burnt out again and disappeared for a while, but he reunited with Brisebois to write a soundtrack album.

(Clip of trailer for...)

Singer: Darling if you wanna go ('cuz I'm just not sure)

Todd: That would be for the movie "Begin Again," John Carney's not quite as beloved middle film between (posters for) Once and Sing Street. It-it's pretty good.

(Clips from "Begin Again")

Todd: Personally I think it was a mistake to give the musical climax of the movie to Adam Levine. Nor would I have let him try and find out if he can act! Because he cannot. But I still think it's a pretty good movie, worth watching. And the music is excellent.

(Clip of Oscar nominations for "Best Original Song")

Todd: And the two of them got an Oscar nomination for it.

(Clip of interview with Danielle and Gregg)

Todd: And for what it's worth, Alexander also says he has about ten albums worth of New Radicals songs. But who knows if any of them will ever see the light of day. [shrugs]

(Did they deserve better?)

Todd: It's hard to say they deserved more when Alexander didn't want more. Let's say that I, the fan, deserve more from this band, because they were really good.

(Video for "You Get What You Give")

Gregg: You got the music in you!

Todd: In an alternate universe where Alexander could handle the pressure, the New Radicals are... well I don't know if they're successful exactly, but they're certainly critical darlings. Instead, "You Get What You Give" lives on as a song too good to be from a one hit wonder, and yet also too good to not be from a one hit wonder. You got it in one. You're never gonna beat it, just go out on top. Now let's all dance! [gets up and dances out of camera]

Gregg: Don't let go/One dance left

Closing tag song: LMC - "You Get What You Give".

"You Get What You Give" is owned by MCA Records.

This video is owned by me.