You Get What You Give

Album: Maybe You've Been Brainwashed, Too (1998)
Charted: 5 36

Songfacts®:

  • This uplifting '90s hit became an anthem for young dreamers ready to take on the world with music on their side. The title is kind of a mantra: you'll get back in life what you give to others.

    The song also rails against big business and the forces of oppression, sounding at times like a Bernie Sanders rally as it rails against the health care and banking industries:

    Health insurance, rip off lying
    FDA, big bankers buying
  • The New Radicals is Gregg Alexander, a singer-songwriter famously averse to celebrity, which he makes clear near the end of the song when he calls out Marilyn Monroe, Beck, Courtney Love, and Hanson, accusing them of being fakes and threatening to "kick their ass in."

    Alexander was raised in Michigan but came to Los Angeles as a teenager and quickly secured a record deal with A&M, which issued his debut album in 1989 and then dropped him. He moved on to Epic, which issued his second album in 1992 and then dropped him. Along the way, he learned how artists were expected to follow trends and kowtow to the industry machine, which he found degrading. He cobbled together a third album - Maybe You've Been Brainwashed, Too - which included "You Get What You Give," and somehow got a third record deal, this time with MCA.

    Released in October 1998, the song caught on in early 1999, so a touring band was assembled and they hit the road, doing the kind of radio station promotions Alexander loathed. In April, they toured as opening act for Goo Goo Dolls, then on July 12, Alexander pulled the plug on The New Radicals, issuing a press release stating, "I'd lost interest in fronting a one-hit wonder to the point that I was wearing a hat while performing so that people wouldn't see my lack of enthusiasm."

    He turned to producing and songwriting, but kept a low profile. His biggest hit in this capacity was the Santana (featuring Michelle Branch) song "The Game Of Love," which he co-wrote under the name Alex Ander. He also wrote songs for Sophie Ellis Bextor, Ronan Keating, Mel C and Enrique Iglesias.
  • The closing lyrics that rattle off the list of celebrities caused some controversy, with Marilyn Manson threatening to crack Gregg Alexander's skull open, not because of the "kick your ass" line, but because he didn't like being mentioned next to Courtney Love.

    Alexander put that list in as an experiment to see if the media would focus on the real issues addressed in the song, or just glom to the famous names. It proved decisively that Marilyn Manson gets more heat than the health care crisis. He told MTV: "There's this whole hysteria and curiosity over peripheral stupidity instead of focusing on real issues, and a lot of people I talked to asked me about those real things, while a lot of rock media tried to turn it into a cat fight."

    Not all of the artists mentioned in the song held a grudge: Hanson collaborated with Gregg Alexander on their 2004 song "Lost Without Each Other."
  • Directed by Evan Bernard, the video was shot at the Staten Island Mall in New York because Gregg Alexander felt it epitomized the culture of materialism.
  • "You Get What You Give" had been used in a number of movies and TV series, notably in the end credits of the 2006 Adam Sandler film Click, and in the 2012 season 3 finale of Glee. Other uses include the movies Surf's Up (2007), Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000).
  • In the September 25, 2006 edition of Time magazine, U2 guitarist The Edge said that this is the song he is most jealous of.
  • This is the first hit song to use the word "frenemies" in the lyric: "Frenemies, who when you're down ain't your friend." The word started showing up in the late '90s to explain those weird relationships where you could be both friends and enemies with someone at the same time, depending on the situation. "Frenemies" became the title of a book in 2007 and a movie in 2012, but many of us heard it for the first time courtesy of The New Radicals.
  • A version by Mackenzie Graham, who uses the stage name Mack, was used in a 2018 commercial for the University of Phoenix.
  • On January 20, 2021, Gregg Alexander re-fired The New Radicals to perform this song at Joe Biden's inauguration concert. The song is very important to Biden because his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015, often played it. Alexander stated: "Performing the song again after such a long time is a huge honor because we all have deep respect for Beau's military service and such high hopes for the unity and normalcy Joe and Kamala will bring our country again in this time of crisis."

Comments: 32

  • Michael Ga from Atlanta, Ga UsaThis is one of those songs that I can play and replay and replay just like a Todd Snyder or Townes Van Zandt or John Prine tune. So very good
  • Luke from EnglandKBR61 are we supposed to take you seriously? Calling people braindead when you spell at a sewer level?
  • Kbr61 from IndianaI, hav HATED this song, wit-a-passion, for MANY, MANY yearz AND reazonz... Suffice-it-to-say...: this 'P.O.S.' song iz TOTALLY an 'anthem' for broken-brain LOZERZ, who make tha rest-of-the-world SUFFER, due to THEIR 'Narcisissm' annnd 'B.P.D.'!! Fokkin 'mental-cases'!!
  • Becker from Charlotte NcI'm 67 years old. This song came out when my son was 17, my daughter 14. This is 1 of my favorite songs...in my lifetime. It reminds me of growing up in Ridgewood NJ and being surrounded by people with more money than we had. I don't think my kids were all that enthralled with the song but that was probably because I liked it so much. And it's largely true...you get what you give.
  • Dulany from MdThere isn't a doubt in my mind that this is a Todd Rundgren rip off. It is his style in tone, lyrics, vocal and instrumentation. Thought it might have been on the Nazz album at first.
  • Jim from GeorgiThe first time I heard this song I thought it was Mick Jagger singing. :-)
  • Tim from Chicago, Ill.You meant this isn't Todd Rundgren? Sounds just like him...not saying this is a rip-off, but sounds just like a song he did...
    40 years ago...like Adrian said...and I got a world class ear. I'm gonna listen to more New Radicals...like 'em.
  • Adrian from Shoreview, MnThis sounded so old-school, yet refreshing when it was released. Reminded me then, and still reminds me of "Hello It's Me" by Todd Rundgren.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhNever heard this tune during the time it was released (no idea why). A couple years ago, sometime in the 00's while driving to work, it came on the car radio and I just flipped out. It was speaking to my soul. I wrote down a few words on a piece of scratch paper so I could look it up when I got home. Every once in awhile, when I'm changing channels on the radio, this song will be playing and it's always an incredible feeling to hear it. Btw, I just read in an article: Joni Mitchell described the song as "the only thing I heard in many years that I thought had greatness in it ..."
  • Minna from Joplin, MoI thought Danielle Brisebois, little Stephanie from ALL IN THE FAMILY wrote this song
  • Bec from Ft. Laud, Flthanks jerry, you hit a home run with that thought.
  • Emily from Ocean Springs, MsWhen I found out Gregg had worked on Underneath with Hanson, I rofld. I wonder if it was kind of a ha-ha funny thing when they collaborated...
  • Jessica from Gaithersburg, Mdi flippin love this song!!! its so upbeat and its just something you have to blast the volume to when it's on
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdHis point is that Beck, Manson, and Love pose as rebels but are just as manufactured and part of corporate culture as any other artist. I'm not saying I agree with this point, but it's what the song is saying.
  • Juan from Ciudad De Mexico, MexicoMan, Beck Hansen is faking what? Perhaps his cowboy hat is made in China and that's just what Alexander is sayin.
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdI should clarify my last message, because I'm not sure Beck is really a "controversial" artist, like Manson and Love are. Maybe "subversive" would be a better word. The point I'm trying to make is that Beck, Manson, and Love fall in one category, the Hanson brothers in an entirely different one. When the song accuses them of being fakes, I assume it's talking about their use of angst, anger, and violence to become figures of rebellion. Mentioning Hanson in the same breath undermines that point.
  • N.i. from Baltimore, MdThe line "Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson" has perplexed me for one reason: It sounds like the line should have been "Fashion shoots with Beck Hansen [Beck's full name]..." The Hanson brothers don't seem to fit with the other names, being a harmless teen pop act rather than controversial alt-rock icons like Beck, Manson, and Love. I wonder if that extra, crucial "and" between the names Beck and Hanson was originally intended to be there.
  • Erik from Bloomfield Hills, MiInsulting celebrities is all fun and good, but they should have done so in a separate song, it just ruins this one.
  • Michelle from Scranton, PaAlexander threw in the part where he insulted the celebreties to see wether the media would focus on the political issues the song addresses or if it would focus on the insults. obviously it was the insults. Maryilyn Manson said he was just upset his name was used in the same sentence as Courtney Love, not that he was offended by the threat at the end. Beck Hansen said he ran into Alexander in a supermarket and Alexander appologized to him, and said that he "didn't mean to get personal". Hanson has forgave him as well, being that they collaborated together.
  • Rockie from Oregon City, OrThis song was in another movie .
    It played @ the end of "surfs Up" .
    Rockie , Pocahontas , Ar.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesI diagree with Gregg Alexander's view that BECK is a fake I meant to say...
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesBy coincidence Beck's surnamne is Hansen! I disagree with Gregg Alexander's view tha the is a fake, but otherwise I like the song!
  • Lg from Jacksonville, Flthey're bashing MARILYN MANSON not MARILYN MONROE douche-bag...it rhymes w/ hanson
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesI thought to myself when I saw the reference to more songs by one hit wonders, didn't they go on to have a second hit with "Someday We'll Know"?
  • John from Edinburgh, Scotlandbest pop song in the last thirty years
  • Jessie Ann from Purchase, NyThe video was filmed in the Staten Island mall. The vocalist Gregg Alexander.. is a Jehova's witness. Someday we'll know was released without permission from him, which is why the band broke up. Or it was released after they broke up, I don't remember. I grew up in staten island and had a chance to be in the video. heh. Oh, and this must be the most underrated band ever. Some of their songs are so original and so amazing. Look up the lyrics to "maybe youve been brainwashed too" they arent actually sung in the song, because they were forced to change them. Im still looking for a recording of it. gah.
  • Sen from Lemont, Ilsee what ppl dont know abot New Radiclas is there not a one hit wonder they had 2 singles you get what you give and somedy we'll know. Personally i think The New Radiclas are one of the best bands ive heard they should have been bigger then they were.
  • Julian from Anaheim, CaThis is my song on my myspace page.
  • Chrissy from ManchesterFabulous song.
  • Marlow from Perthwas there ever just the radicals before them?
  • Dave from Brisbane, AustraliaThis song became a big hit in Australia after mitsubishi used it in a commercial for cars, the commercial prompted radio stations to start playing it again, this was long after the band had broken up, for a while it was everywhere and everybody was humming it
  • Jerry from Palm Harbor, FlThe New Radicals broke up soon after their "hit" album was released when Alexander wanted to do more behind the scenes work rather than deal with the "fame" (which he really didn't get- though "Someday We'll Know" is a great song)
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