Hidden Gems: New Radicals – Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

We’re gonna party like it’s 1998!

Before he won a Grammy for writing Santana’s hit “Game of Love”, Gregg Alexander was a lowly Michigan-born producer/musician who had a band back in the nineties called New Radicals.  They had a huge hit in 1998 called “You Get What You Give”.  Heard of it?  Here’s the song to refresh your memory.

Hopefully you remember how good this song is and how big it got (fun fact: The Edge of U2 once said that he really wished he wrote that song).  Unfortunately for us, Alexander broke the band up before releasing any more singles, and this band was condemned to One-Hit-Wonder status.  What’s not unfortunate is that the album that the song came off of, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, happens to be one of the better pop albums to come out in recent time, and it’s also one of my personal favorites.

The album opens up with “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough”, a perfect album opener and possible one of my all time favorite songs.  The song has everything – bongos, piano, funk guitar, bits of reggae, and hard nipples (hear the song and you’ll understand).  It’s also a good indicator of what to expect for the rest of the album – finger-pointing lyrics, Prince-like pop, white funk, AOR guitar solos, and a hell of a good time.

There’s “You Get What You Give”, a near-perfect pop song, followed by “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away The Ending”, the farthest thing from being a pop single.  It begins with two minutes of Alexander rambling over piano and guitar and then four minutes describing a cocaine trip gone wrong – not exactly MTV material.  The rest of the album is easier to digest than “I Hope…”, but that does not mean the songs are less creative.  There are no slow or unmemorable moments on the album and you can listen from start to finish without become weary.

Lyrically Alexander is pretty potent, and if the music wasn’t so damn catchy you might not be singing along with some of the lyrics.  There are songs attacking the media (the memorable last bit of “You Get What You Give” involving Marilyn Manson and Hanson), drugs (Cocaine in “I Hope…” and weed in “Gotta Stay High”), and “Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You”, also about weed, is Alexander’s rant on all that is wrong with phonies, religion, selling out, and all of the western world.  Some might find Alexander’s polemics empty and too vague, but the lyrics fit perfectly with the music, being thought-provoking while not getting in the way.

If my memory serves me right, this is the first album I’ve ever listen to from start to finish multiple times.  This was my dad’s CD and we would play this album everytime we were in the car.  I have grown up listening to Gregg Alexander and his “band” for most of my life (I say “band” because he wrote all the songs and was the only steady member – think Billy Corgan).  So of course growing up with this album, I feel like this is one of the best albums I have ever heard.  However, if I were to listen to this for the first time in 2011, I would still find this to be one of the better, if not the most unique, mainstream pop albums released in recent time.