Gregg Alexander - the Musician Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Gregg Alexander - the Musician

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Wake up kids; we got the dreamers' disease. Age 14, we got you down on your knees. So polite, we're busy still saying please.

Born in 1970 in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Gregg Alexander quickly developed into a multi-talented musician, proficient on guitar, keyboards and vocals. He developed quickly in height, too, and measured 6'5" on his 16th birthday. Not long after leaving school, Alexander signed a record contract with MCA - but because of his rebellious nature, he was loath to record a full album.

Finally, due to studio pressure in 1997, he scraped together a handful of studio musicians and slapped down his best five songs onto an album, under the guise of 'New Radicals'. The album, Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too, undeservedly died a dramatic death on release, but the featured single - 'You Get What You Give' - was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and an MTV favourite.

Alexander, with his trademark Beanie hat and natural charisma, became a big hit overnight - although Andy Warhol's 'Five Minutes...' was only too prescient. The New Radicals split after releasing their second single, 'Someday We'll Know', and Alexander started work with Ronan Keating on the latter's solo album. The up-tempo hits 'Lovin' Each Day' and 'Love is a Rollercoaster' were both Alexander-penned, as was Sophie Ellis Bextor's 'Murder on the Dancefloor'.

For several years now it has been in vogue to have an Alexander track on the album of many mainstream stars - final acceptance perhaps of one of the decade's finest original songwriters.

The Music

Somehow the New Radicals got a reputation as a teeny-bopper type band, but Alexander's songwriting is considerably deeper. Brainwashed opens well with the storming big piano-led sound of 'Mother We Just Can't Get Enough', and continues much in the same vein with track two, the chart release.

Despite its mainstream reputation, 'Get What You Give' is a rebellious take on stardom, subverting its musical style very nicely indeed. The parent-shocking genre continues through 'I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away the Ending', which is about making pornography for cocaine (no, really!), and 'Someday We'll Know' - the requiem of an obsessed stalker.

Sounds cheerful? Well, it actually is. Alexander wraps these dubious sentiments in light major-key piano riffs and clean guitar sounds - all very radio-friendly. The terrific achievement in making songs about lunatic political activists ('Jehovah Made This Whole Joint for You') and anodyne pop artists (the title track) sound joyous and listenable and remains one of the album's great achievements.

Maybe the whole album is drug-obsessed ('Technicolor Lover' celebrates an LSD-induced girlfriend fantasy). Maybe it's overly cynical. Maybe Alexander overpowers too many songs with his vocal screeches. But the power and the soul felt when you turn the volume up and groove along to 'You Get What You Give' cannot be denied. They called it a one-hit wonder - but what a hit...

After the New Radicals

Alexander's writings for Ronan Keating were generally acclaimed as being 'some of the best stuff Ronan's ever done'. Certainly, the vibrancy of 'Life Is a Rollercoaster' and the dance-floor magic of 'Lovin' Each Day' were well received, and a refreshingly cheerful alternative to Alexander's usual misery.

With Ellis Bextor, however, he committed the cardinal sin of choosing the wrong singer for the song. Sophie's extremely Home Counties accent (south of England, a bit posh) trying to sing 'gonna burn this goddamn house right down' reduced many listeners to rolling on the floor, racked with laughter. Now if Gregg had sung it himself, that may have been a different story...

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