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Guilty Album | New Radicals: Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too

“Make my nipples hard, let’s go!”

I have no clue which back-up singer said this to Gregg Alexander while recording his only studio release Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too (1999), but it completely sets the tone for the entire record. I bought this CD at a K-Mart knockoff store in my hometown merely because of the one-hit wonder “You Get What You Give”. And make no mistake, I firmly expected it to be a $15 single. I had no idea the riches that lay within. The opening track “Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough” still remains my favorite cut off the album actually. But front-to-back, this album brings piano-pop goodness that you can’t help but smile while listening.

If you’ve ever read the crazy story of how Gregg got this unlikely album made, it’s well worth the read.

What I especially love about the album is after the sickeningly sweet opening tunes, the album takes a much darker and interesting tone with the underrated “I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away the Ending” which opens with a sort of slow vignette of vocals, drums and piano that reaches a fever pitch. The song is masterful storytelling, and ends tragically with a cup of coffee accidentally laden with coke (I won’t give away the ending!).

Other standout tracks include the somewhat psychedelic title track “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too”, or “In Need of a Miracle” (“Been All Around this Bad, Bad World/ Tryin’ to find some Tenderness”) and “Gotta Stay High”.

Really, this album is perfection. It’s not for everyone, but I think that’s why I consider it a guilty pleasure. It’s too poppy for the Bro crowd, but all the same you know they’re toe-tapping when “You Get What You Give” comes on the radio. And it will make sense when you realize Gregg lives on by co-writing a pop hit for Michelle Branch or a few tunes for the underrated film “Begin Again” by John Carney, the Director of “Once”.

 

 

Further Reading: AV Club – New Radicals’ only hit “You Get What You Give” was secretly influential

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#FridayFind | ELO – Don’t Bring Me Down

Who would’ve thought Jeff Lyne’s biggest hit in the U.S. would be the song he dedicated to NASA’s Skylab Space Station? A looped drum sample from “On the Run” is the backbone for this clap-inducing tune. The album “Discovery” in 1979 was definitely where the band pushed wholeheartedly from orchestral space pop into pure disco territory. A few tunes of theirs leaned disco including “Evil Woman” (1975 – Face the Music) and “Livin’ Thing” (1976 – A New World Record), so it was a natural progression for Jeff Lyne to go “full Bee Gees” as it were.

While the rest of the album is certainly far too smooth and relaxed for my taste, the final track really brings an energy you cannot ignore. The crisp drum sample paired with the harmony driven lyrics is just… perfection.

Just as the lyrics state, it’s Friday, “Don’t Bring me Down”.

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#FridayFind | Toto – Africa

The time has come for my inaugural #FridayFind guilty pleasure pick. And what better artist to start out with than Toto, and their amazing #1 hit “Africa”.

Why has this tune endured for me? Partially because the lyrics make absolutely no sense. I have no idea why a woman coming on a mid-day flight has any damn thing to do with rains in another country. And I don’t know why a man cares about Mount Kilimanjaro’s similarities to Mount Olympus. My money is on keyboardist/vocalist David Paich and drummer Jeff Porcaro merely needing lyric lines to rhyme.

While not quite as embarrassing to knowing all the words to “Careless Whisper”, when I was a young lad, I would rather die than admit that this cheesy song was one of my all-time favorites. It wasn’t until I grew into my own in NYC and a close buddy, tech journalist Chris Velazco, shared his joy for the tune too! What followed was repeated karaoke entries of the song at Sing Sing and other dingy sing-along ‘oke bars across the 5 boroughs.

One such occasion happened in San Francisco in front of a majority of my colleagues at TechCrunch. The moment I submitted it, a pang of fear gripped me. What if we were laughed out of the room? Surely such an unironic tune with a killer marimba and pitch perfect harmonies would get the crowd going? To my undying joy and adulation, nearly everyone gleefully joined in with singing at the top of their lungs.

As you can see, even to this day, I quite enjoy the thigh-slapping action a good jam of “Africa” produces.

So this just happened #africa

A video posted by Chris Velazco (@vlzco) on

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