Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It ain't exactly Nas and Jay-Z, but...

I'm sitting in a pizza joint Saturday, watching one of those cable TV music-only channels -- you know, the ones that display pictures of the artist that's playing, and facts about their careers -- and while listening to a random Hanson song, I glance up at the band info.

I was shocked to read that Gregg Alexander, the lead singer for the defunct New Radicals, cowrote a song called "Lost Without Each Other" for Hanson's 2004 album.

What?! This actually happened? When did they mend fences?

Let us not forget what transpired five years earlier, when the chart-climbing New Radicals single, "You Get What You Give," slammed Hanson and other musicians:

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

As catchy as that single is, I've always felt those lyrics were obnoxious and unfounded. Beck emerged as one of this generation's seminal performers. Marilyn Manson is a calculated, brilliant mastermind who thrives on controversy and knows how to manipulate the media and his audience. (Admittedly, making fun of Courtney Love is always a good decision, albeit an easy target.) But the lamest part of these attacks is that New Radicals were arguably less successful and influential than any of their targets.

Wikipedia, which has been known to make mistakes from time to time, offers what appears to be a reliable account of what transpired thereafter:

When asked about it in an interview, Marilyn Manson replied he was "not mad that he said he'd kick my ass, I just don't want to be used in the same sentence with Courtney Love" and would "crack his skull open if I see him." Beck reported that "I was in a grocery store and he [Alexander] came running up to me, so apologetic, and saying, ‘I hope you weren’t offended. It wasn’t supposed to be personal.’ I was kind of pleased, because he’s a big guy." Alexander later explained that the line, along with the lines directly before it ("Health insurance rip off lying/FDA big bankers buying/Fake computer crashes dining/Cloning while they're multiplying") was an experiment to see if the media would focus on the real issues, or on the celebrity dissing. Hanson never commented on the song directly, however they co-wrote the song "Lost Without Each Other" on their 2004 album Underneath with Alexander. Zac Hanson commented that "It was cool working with Gregg... [he]'s definitely a character but he's a cool guy."

Subsequent thoughts:

- I only like a couple of Marilyn Manson songs, but I love Marilyn Manson the person. And I remember when he said the aforementioned comeback to someone from MTV News, I cracked up. I don't think there's any doubt he loved the extra attention and notoriety the New Radicals song brought him, and he probably capitalized most on it.

- If Beck's account of Alexander's apology is accurate, I don't buy Alexander's sincerity. How are lines like "You're all fakes" and "We'll kick your ass in" not personal? Those seem to be the very definition of personal. Someone should explain to the guy that "I don't like your songs" is not a personal attack, but "You're all fakes" is.

- Beck's response solidifies his place in the Pantheon of Coolest Men Alive.

- I don't buy, for one second, Alexander's explanation that his collective diss was a media experiment. His song was strong enough to get airplay and attention; he didn't need the gimmick. Lame.

- Later in the Wikipedia article, Joni Mitchell is credited with celebrating the song. "It was a big hit, and I said, 'Where did they go?'" Mitchell supposedly said in a 2004 Rolling Stone interview. "It turns out the guy [Gregg Alexander] quit. I thought, 'Good for him.' "

And good for the rest of us.