A love letter to the New Radicals
In the midst of the pop-rock musical phase of the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were a myriad of bands that came to the forefront, played some catchy guitar riffs, scored a couple hits, scored with a couple chicks, and disappeared into the abyss of pop-rock just as quickly as they appeared.
Think Splender. Nine Days. Sister Hazel. Dexter Freebish. SO many others.
And sure, there were a couple that stood the test of time; Third Eye Blind had a string of hits, and has now embraced their roots as a true alternative band. The Dave Matthews Band still tours like it’s 1999. Rob Thomas’ front man status as the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty got him plenty of publicity as he went solo, and a lot of airplay at your local CVS. But there was one band that DIDN’T want to be that; the ones who said, after a short run of success – excuse my language – “eff this, we’re out.” And THAT is the New Radicals.
Their morals, their artistic integrity, and their sense of self, according to New Radicals front man Gregg Alexander, were more important than packing bars, clubs, and arenas. After just over a year of releasing music, starting with “You Get What You Give,” then “Someday We’ll Know” (which got a second life performed by Mandy Moore in “A Walk To Remember”), Gregg disbanded the group to work on writing and producing for others.
Sure, they hadn’t made themselves into household names yet; Gregg could walk into many a grocery store or restaurant without being hassled like Ricky Martin or a young Justin Timberlake, both of whom got more attention from the press and in pop culture. But, he knew what he wanted, and stardom wasn’t it. It seemed never, not in a million years, would they ever step foot on a stage again. The New Radicals were DONE.
Meanwhile, it left us fans CRUSHED. I can remember being in the drive thru at McDonalds as Kraig Karson announced the band’s breakup on KISS FM – just after playing “Someday We’ll Know.” That song was SO good. For an 18 year old ready to leave for college, it literally asked so many questions going through my head at that time; about the future, about love, about life, all that. It didn’t hurt that for me, the first line of the song being “90 miles outside Chicago,” was pretty spot on since I grew up 90 minutes north in Milwaukee. When I arrived at Drake University in the Fall and it was also my roommate Dave Butler’s favorite CD at the time (SHOUT OUT DAVE)… I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking this: this band was special, and our generation was robbed of Gregg Alexander’s talents in the forefront.
I think we did miss an important voice among those voiceless pop / rock bands of our generation. Gregg knew, in his heart, he didn’t want to be a part of the “fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love & Marilyn Manson” sort of pop culture of the late 90s. He wanted to be true to himself, true to his music, and true to a vision he had for his art. And, for that, I can’t fault him.
And for that, I also have to thank Doug Emhoff, and the Biden family. Turns out, our first “First Gentleman” has been using “You Get What You Give” as his walk-on song at rallies since last year. And, the song had a special meaning to President-Elect Biden’s son Beau, going through his cancer battle. Gregg Alexander got the tap on the shoulder to get the band back together.
And finally, he did.
“America knows in its heart that things will get bright again with a new administration and a real plan for vaccines on the way,” Alexander said, according to a New York Post article. “That’s the message of the song… this world is gonna pull through.”
I too, believe, the world is gonna pull through. I believed the world would be great the first time I heard the New Radicals. And with this momentous occasion of a reunion – even if it is a brief one tomorrow – I believe their art will shine.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to their one and only album, “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too,” spend some time with it. Read the stories. Listen to the lyrics. I hope it means as much for you as it did for that bright-eyed kid in his parents Miata listening to it for the 1999. It still means a lot for me today. And for those of us who have thought, “NEVER, in a million years” would something happen, let’s just remember… ANYTHING is possible when you’ve got the music in you. One dance left, this world is GONNA pull through.
Welcome back, Gregg. We missed you.
Let’s enjoy their hits now… “You Get What You Give”…
…and the song where they said, “ENOUGH” and broke up, “Someday We’ll Know.”