Albums from the Lost & Found: Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

by Jeff Fiedler

Albums from the Lost & Found is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Jeff Fiedler reviews and helps us rediscover great pop albums that seem to have been lost to time.

One of the great cult classics of the ‘90s, New Radicals’ first and only album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too is the brainchild of Gregg Alexander, who had previously recorded two unsuccessful major-label solo albums (Michigan Rain on A&M and Intoxifornication on Epic). The outfit’s only other full-time member was Hollywood veteran Danielle Brisebois (who had similarly recorded an unsuccessful solo disc for Epic, co-written and produced by Alexander, but was better known for playing Stephanie for five seasons on the TV sitcoms All in the Family and Archie Bunker’s Place and Molly in the original Broadway production of Annie).

The troupe was rounded out by a deliberately “revolving door”-style cast of industry friends, including Rusty Anderson (who has since gone on to be Paul McCartney’s lead guitarist), John Pierce (of Huey Lewis and the News and Pablo Cruise), Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, The Replacements), and, even more critically, pianist/songwriter Rick Nowels, who had co-written several Top 40 hits for the likes of Belinda Carlisle (“Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” “Circle in the Sand,” “Leave a Light On”) and Stevie Nicks (“I Can’t Wait,” “Rooms on Fire”) and would later go on to write hits for Dido (“Here with Me,” “White Flag”), Colbie Caillat (“Fallin’ for You”), Madonna (“The Power of Goodbye”), Jewel (“Standing Still”), John Legend (“Green Light”), and Lana Del Rey (“Summertime Sadness,” “Young and Beautiful,” “West Coast”).

Almost immediately after the group shot the video for its intended second single, Alexander, burnt out from the demands of touring and promotional obligations, famously decided the life of a rock star was not for him and he disbanded the group immediately, he and Brisebois both going on to write songs for other artists. Alexander and Nowels would later co-write Santana and Michelle Branch’s “The Game of Love,” Alexander also co-writing tracks for Enrique Iglesias, Boyzone, and Hanson, while Brisebois would write for Kelly Clarkson, Kylie Minogue, and Donna Summer and pen the massive hits “Unwritten” and “Pocketful of Sunshine” for Natasha Bedingfield. Though the band never formally reunited on record, Alexander, Nowels, and Brisebois would all team up again in 2013 to pen the music for the movie Begin Again, picking up an Oscar nomination in the process.

While it may seem shocking for the band to disband so early, this admittedly would have been a hard album for Alexander to top. The band’s lone Top 40 hit, the uplifting and utterly majestic piano-driven pop of “You Get What You Give,” co-penned with Nowels, remains one of the most well-loved one-hit-wonder singles of the ‘90s and was even singled out by Joni Mitchell as the only radio hit in recent years she took any liking to and by U2’s the Edge as the pop song he was most jealous of not having written himself. The band’s ill-fated second single, the devastatingly pretty and much-loved ballad “Someday We’ll Know,” may have been released too shortly before the band’s breakup to have had the promotion to scale the charts, but it would go on to be covered by Mandy Moore on the A Walk to Remember soundtrack and by pop-music legends America (on their album Back Pages) and Daryl Hall, John Oates, and Todd Rundgren (on the Hall and Oates album Do It for Love).

While quite a few of the album’s other songs have fairly weird lyrics that render the songs much less commercial than they might otherwise be, the pop-hook factor is quite high, and it’s hard not to relish in the majestic and instantly-catchy melodies of cuts like “Jehovah Made This Whole Joint for You,” “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away the Ending,” “In Need of a Miracle,” “I Don’t Want to Die Anymore,” and “Flowers” (the man might be an odd lyricist, but there’s no denying the brilliance of his melodies). The most overlooked gems of all on the album are both goosebump-inducing: “Gotta Stay High” might be Alexander’s prettiest composition of all, and its wordless bridge is simply breathtaking. Even better is the album’s opening cut, the incredibly powerful and utterly exhilarating “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough,” which is almost carnivalesque in its playful ambience and structure; most of the back half of the song is just an extended instrumental jam, but it’s so emotionally intense and majestic that it’s just as captivating and memorable as the chorus or the catchy R&B guitar lick that kicks off the song. It wasn’t a single but it’s catchy enough that it certainly could have been one, and it’s every bit as dynamic and emotionally powerful of a recording as “You Get What You Give.”

While there may have been no proper sequel to this album, the three writers in the band never actually stopped writing songs that sounded like they could have been New Radicals songs, “The Game of Love” being one of them, and fans looking to hear more songs with the same energetic, sunny, typically-piano-heavy sound are especially encouraged to check out the Alexander/Nowels co-write “I Can’t Deny It” from Rod Stewart’s Human or Nowels’ “Standing Right in Front of You” from Keith Urban’s Defying Gravity.