In Defense Of: New Radicals

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The big New Radicals song is “You Get What You Give.” This massive hit did so well that I know many who got sick of hearing it by the time it faded away. It's mostly remembered for its rousing optimism and positivity. It's tight structure is filled in with lyrics like, “Don't let go/You've got the music in you” and “This world is gonna pull through/Don't give up, you've got a reason to live.” If those lines kind of fall flat in text, that's because optimistic, feel-good sloganizing rarely ages well. Not that all classics require drama, but one-dimensional, motivational songs will fall by the wayside given enough time. For more on this, look at “We Are The World” or Joe Esposito's “You're The Best.” I don't know if anyone looks at those songs in anything outside of a satirical context. To say it simply, they become “Not-So-Cool.” But it can be helpful to remember that New Radicals, while a one hit wonder, were more interested in working from a political message than putting out happy pop songs you can jog to. Even on “You Get What You Give,” all that empty bumper sticker positivity is punctuated at the end with a verse on health insurance rip offs, the FDA, and taking random celebrities to task and threatening them with an ass kicking. Why? Just to get a rise out of the media, who would focus on the celebrity gossip over the political bits. Their single album, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, is interesting to look at these days as a moment of pop music captured in time. This is the band that writes accessible, easy appeal lines like “One day we'll know if love can move a mountain” with one hand, and “We did a porno film for coke/I hear I'm big in Japan” with the other. For that reason alone, that two-faced subversion of pop friendliness, I think that makes them kind of cool.

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