It's more than a little ironic that the New Radicals, who pride themselves on rejecting negativity, would rocket to fame with a song that seems to dis a handful of rock peers.
But Gregg Alexander, singer/songwriter for the alternative-pop act, claims "You Get What You Give" has been misinterpreted.
"I don't have a strong view on any of the artists mentioned in the song," Alexander said.
With such lyrics as "Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson/ Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson/ You're all fakes run to your mansions/ Come round here we'll kick your ass in," "You Get What You Give" (RealAudio excerpt) has attracted wide attention and garnered massive radio and TV play.
Alexander said the track was meant not as an intentional slam of the rockers cited but rather as an experiment in mixing together real issues and big names, to see which the media would focus on.
The "real issues" cited in the song are expressed in such lyrics as "Health insurance rip-off lying/ FDA big bankers buying/ Fake computer crashes dining/ Cloning while they're multiplying."
"There's this whole hysteria and curiosity over peripheral stupidity instead of focusing on real issues," Alexander continued. "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."
"I heard about [shock rocker Marilyn] Manson's reaction, but I think it's based on a misunderstanding of the lyrics," Alexander added.
The single was from the band's debut album, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, which hit U.S. stores in October and was shipped to European outlets more recently. Riding on the momentum of the single, the band is slated to open for guitar-pop act the Goo Goo Dolls on a U.S. tour that begins in April.
Alexander said the New Radicals were born out of necessity and a desire to create something different.
Alexander, who was born in Grosse Pointe, Mich., started out as a solo artist with two barely noticed albums: Save Me From Myself (1989) and Intoxifornication (1991). "They just didn't get marketed, even if there were people at the record company who really believed in them," Alexander said.
When the albums went belly-up, Alexander decided to press the pause button on his musical career. An urge to return to action arose around the same time his disposable income began running out, he said.
Still, he initially expected little in the way of instant recognition for his new band. "After having two albums out and never having been heard, I started writing assuming that I was doing it for myself," Alexander said.
He formed the New Radicals as a group in which everybody was free to come, play and then leave. "The original concept for the band was to be a revolving door, with no permanent lineup and different musicians playing ... I wanted it to be different from every other band. That's why I produced [the album] myself. I didn't want any producer to come in and make it sound like some other band."
Alexander expects the lineup on the forthcoming tour will be a more stable one, however.
According to Alexander, the mix of different musical genres -- including '60s pop, rock and soul -- that permeates such songs as "Someday We'll Know" and "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough" is the result of his growing up listening to a wide variety of musical styles.
"The radio stations in Detroit played everything, so you got these strange mixes," he said. "There were so many stations playing so many different [kinds of] music that if you began playing, it would have been difficult to have just one or two [frames] of reference."
But to Alexander, what primarily sets New Radicals apart is the band's refusal to wallow in the negativity and self-pity in which so many other bands indulge. "It's so much easier to scream 'I want kill myself' than to have a sense of hope and to try to find a way out of the darkness," he said.
"In a place like America, when you're talking about something that's real, it's more difficult," he added. "If I had louder guitars and if I did the negativity thing I'd probably be selling more records."