When Bruce Springsteen said he’d perform as part of Joe Biden‘s inauguration, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. But Sunday night’s announcement of New Radicals as the closing act of the “virtual parade” was anything but expected. If this a true harbinger of what the Biden administration will bring, then the nation, if not the world, has reason to celebrate, perhaps while wearing a bucket hat.
New Radicals, who have not performed in 22 years, only put out one album, Maybe You’re Brainwashed Too, in 1998. Its second track, “You Get What You Give,” is one of the greatest power pop anthems ever recorded, and it is what they will perform on January 20th. Its melody is an unstoppable earworm with its roots in a Carole King or Burt Bacharach-like old school songcraft, but with instrumentation reminiscent of peak-era U2. Gregg Alexander‘s vocals range from deep bellows to high falsettos. Though song is remembered as “very ’90s,” part of its appeal is its timelessness. It could have been a ’70s hit from Todd Rundgren, or the Waterboys or Tears for Fears in the ’80s.
“You Get What You Give” isn’t just a great tune, it also has emotional relevance for the Biden family. Joe Biden referred to it as his late son Beau Biden’s theme song in a passage from his book Promise Me, Dad. He would play the song and sing along during breakfast while undergoing cancer treatment. “Even though Beau never stopped fighting and his will to live was stronger than most – I think he knew that this day might come. The words to the song are: This whole damn world can fall apart. You’ll be ok, follow your heart,” Biden wrote.
Gregg Alexander told Rolling Stone that “performing the song again after such a long time is a huge honor because we all have deep respect for Beau’s military service and such high hopes for the unity and normalcy Joe and Kamala will bring our country again in this time of crisis.”
The song was also used as Doug Emhoff‘s walk-on music during the campaign, hand-picked by the future Second Gentleman himself.
It remains unknown if Alexander will alter the lyrics for this special event, or if the dissbombs hurled at Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love, and Marylin Manson will remain intact.
“You Get What You Give” was co-written by Alexander and New Radicals’s keyboardist Rick Nowels, who later wrote or co-wrote hits for Lana Del Ray, Kesha, Sia, John Legend, and Dido.
New Radicals’s co-founder is Danielle Briesbois, whose last songwriting collaboration with Gregg Alexander was for the 2013 film Begin Again. Briesbois was also a child actress in the 1980s, best known as the spunky kid Stephanie Mills on later seasons of All in the Family and its spin-off Archie Bunker’s Place.
The inauguration’s “Celebrating America” event is being hosted by Tom Hanks and Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem. In addition to Springsteen and New Radicals, other musical acts include Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Ant Clemons, and Jon Bon Jovi.
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