Stardom is a double-edged sword, especially when one seeks to unmask it, showing its emptiness. You can complain about fame, but by the time it gets to you, you’ll encounter a contradictory place. Being in this situation, there are only two ways of dealing with it: either you choose to accept that you are now on the side at which the darts are being shot at, or you decide that it is just not your thing. The latter illustrates the life of Gregg Alexander, former leader of the band New Radicals.
The New Radicals was a band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1997 primarily focused on its front man, vocalist, songwriter and producer Gregg Alexander. The talented multi-instrumentalist from Michigan who at age 20 had already recorded two solo albums, was the only steady member of the band. Being exposed to the music business from this young age, Gregg Alexander was soon very aware both sides of stardom: the glamorous side and the miseries it brings with it.
In 1998 the vice president of MCA Records, Michael Rosenblatt, approached the New Radicals and offered them a record deal including $600,000 to record their first (and only) album “Maybe You’ve been Brainwashed Too”. The first single from the album was also their biggest hit, “You Get What You Give”. It reached #30 on Billboard Hot 100 Airplay in January 1999, #36 on the overall Hot 100 and #8 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. It reached #5 in the United Kingdom and #1 in Canada and New Zealand. Overall it has been played over one million times on U.S. radio. But with the hit single Gregg Alexander also caused a lot of stir within the media for his criticism of the entertainment world, complaining about Beck, Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love. According to Alexander, the main purpose of this criticism was to test the media attention. As one response Marilyn Manson said “I do not dislike to kick my ass, but I will be used in the same sentence as Courtney Love … If I see him ( Alexander ) will break your skull … “. Also several U.S. institutions (i.e. the Health System, the Food & Drug Association and the media establishing paranoia for Y2K), were harshly criticized in his lyrics, but in the end nobody really noticed. But ignoring the social criticism, it’s just about the happiest, most infectious song you can ever imagine.
Gregg quickly found out that he was no becoming part of the business he was criticizing and did not feel comfortable being part of it anymore. After being forced by his label to record a second video clip to promote the album, he gave an interview stating that the group would cease to exist, also claiming to have reached his goals and that the dynamics of shows and promotional tours were nothing for him. “The fatigue of traveling and getting three hours sleep in a different hotel every night to do boring ‘hanging and schmoozing’ with radio and retail people is definitely not for me,” he once said.
Ever since, Alexander retired from the active music business and up until today has been working as a producer and songwriter for other artists ranging from Sophie Ellis Bextor (“Murder on the Dance-floor”) to Ronan Keating (“Love is a Roller coaster”) and from Rivers Cuomo (Weezer) to Enrique Iglesias – all under the pseudonym “Alex Ander”. His biggest success as a producer was in 2003, when a song he wrote for Michelle Branch featuring in Carlos Santana’s album (Shaman – “The Game of Love”) , earned him a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration. Today it is almost impossible to find our regarding what he is up to, either as a producer as an artist. Well, I think he had his one hit. He had his platinum record. He had the riches, the fame and the success. And then, as soon as he achieved all those things, he walked away from it, dropping his microphone in an act of either rebelliousness, intelligence, anxiety or some combination of all three. He figured he was destined for one-hit-wonders, anyway, so he quit while he was ahead, driving home with an extra hundred bucks in his pocket, rather than putting it all on red for one more spin aimed at landing him thousands.