“You Get What You Give” is a 1998 song by the New Radicals. It was an international hit, the first and most successful single from their album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too. It reached number 30 on Billboard Hot 100 Airplay in January 1999, number 36 on the overall Hot 100 and number eight on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. It reached number five in the United Kingdom and number one in Canada and New Zealand.
Much of the media attention “You Get What You Give” received centered on the closing lyrics:
- “Health insurance, rip-off lying
- FDA, big bankers buying
- Fake computer crashes dining
- Cloning while they’re multiplying
- Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson,
- Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
- You’re all fakes, run to your mansions
- Come around, we’ll kick your ass in.“
According to lead singer Gregg Alexander, he had written this section for the song as a test to see whether the media would focus on the important political issues of the first few lines, or the petty celebrity-dissing. As suspected, a considerable amount of press began to appear about the name-dropping, and the other political issues were largely ignored.
Marilyn Manson commented that he was “not mad he said he’d kick my ass, I just don’t want to be used in the same sentence as Courtney Love…. I’ll crack his [Alexander’s] skull open if I see him.” Beck reported that Alexander personally apologized for the line when they met each other by chance in a supermarket, claiming that it was never meant to be personal. Alexander collaborated with Hanson, whose drummer, Zac Hanson, called him “a bit of a character, but a cool guy.”
Although the lines were used for the band’s Top of the Pops appearance, it was truncated at “kick you”.
In a Time interview, U2 lead guitarist The Edge is quoted saying “You Get What You Give” is the song he is “most jealous of. I really would love to have written that.” Billboard gave a mixed review, saying that it was a “chugging, Wham!-style pop song with slightly cheesy lyrics” but that the ending lyrics were “interesting”.
The song was listed No. 440 on Blender’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born.
The song is an unofficial Newcastle United anthem and is regularly played at their home ground St James’ Park. The song was used by local radio station Metro Radio during Newcastle’s FA cup-run of 1998–99, with Mick Lowes’ commentary of Newcastle’s cup goals mixed over the song.
In the liner notes to her 2004 compilation Artist’s Choice, Joni Mitchell praises “You Get What You Give” for “rising from the swamp of ‘McMusic’ like a flower of hope.” Michelle Branch, Lulu, The Okay Feeling, and Martin Fry have covered this song live in concert. It was also performed by the final 13 of Australian Idol 2005 and 2006. Both times the controversial “Health insurance…” section was omitted.
LMC released a remix of this song sampling the original Alexander vocals as “LMC vs. New Radicals” in 2005, under the title “Don’t Let Go”. Another remix entitled “You Get What You Give” was released in 2006, this time with a re-recorded vocal performance by Rachel McFarlane. “You Get What You Give” charted at No. 30 in the United Kingdom.
In 2006, Ice-T was asked on Late Night with Conan O’Brien about what he has heard, besides rap music, in the last few years that really grabbed him and his only reply was “You Get What You Give”.
The music video for “You Get What You Give” was filmed in the Staten Island Mall in New York and directed by Evan Bernard. The New Radicals’ frontman Gregg Alexander said he chose this setting because he sees the shopping mall as a metaphor for society—a fake, controlled environment engineered to encourage spending. The video showed a group of teenagers, led by Alexander, going through the mall wreaking havoc—tossing nets on security guards, placing businessmen in animal cages, knocking over merchandise, hijacking Lambrettas, and moshing in the food court.
VH1 voted it as the 64th greatest one-hit wonder in 2002. In 2007, the song was voted No. 90 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 90s”, and in 2010 it was number 106 on Pitchfork‘s Top 200 Tracks of the 90s. In 2011, VH1 ranked it as 11th on “40 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 90s”. Annie Zaleski for The A.V. Club wrote that the song was “surprisingly influential on popular music, just in a non-obvious, almost obscured way”, and that it was “both a nostalgic artifact and a song that transcends any era”. BBC Radio ranked the song at number 38 on its list of the “Most Heard Recordings in Britain of the Last 75 Years”; Alexander had written or co-written 9 of the 75 songs.