Gregg Alexander: Celebrating the ‘Begin Again’ Soundtrack and the Genius of Gregg Alexander

January 14, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

OKAY,  I’M SAYING IT.  I’m in love with Gregg Alexander and his music, and I want to have his children.

While I may exaggerate just a tad it really does remain that I am indeed in love with the artistry of Gregg Alexander. Alexander has to be thee most unsung (no pun intended) songwriter in the alternative pop music industry.  After seeing the film Begin Again I was left awe-inspired  – hoping that this film would bring a turnabout and launch Alexander into household-name notoriety. Well, time will tell.  Without even a nod for the Golden Globe awards I was left utterly disappointed since The Golden Globe nods serve as a precursor of what to expect from the esteemed members of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences – aka… The Oscars.

Let’s back up a bit.  If you’ve seen the film Begin Again you already know that one isn’t able to get through this film without falling in love with the soundtrack. That’s just a given.  If you haven’t seen the film then you need to get to it quickly or simply skip the film and hop on the internet to Google these soul-stirring songs courtesy of Gregg Alexander.

I fell in love with Gregg Alexander’s sound long before I knew they were “Alexander” songs.  The first song I fell in love with was his New Radical single You Only Get What You Give.  This song was released in 1998 and yet I became smitten by this tune many years later in 2006 after hearing it in the Adam Sandler film Click.  I promptly went home that evening and downloaded it.  It was as simple as that.  Alexander’s music has that “immediate knowing” effect. You only have to hear it once and you’re immediately captivated by its groove.  But let’s remember.  I did not download a “Gregg Alexander” tune.  I downloaded a song by The New Radicals and I was not moved to investigate them any further.  So Gregg’s name had escaped me.

Fast forward to 2008.  I am on Long Island in New York inside of a CVS store, and I hear a tune pulsing through the CVS sound system that immediately grabs me.  I’m left a tad perplexed. Was this a song from the 70’s that I’d forgotten?  It was a tad reminiscent of Carol King.   It had that very appealing early 70’s groove.  As the days wore on I’d hear the tune again, and yet again…. from someone’s window, from someone’s car…. the song beckoned and moved me.  It was time to Google this song and download it.  I did just that.  

The song was called Game Of Love, and it was by Michelle Branch with Carlos Santana. You don’t say!  I was tickled pink by Santana garnering yet another hit well into the 2000’s.  This was the song that I often posted about on Facebook – noting that if a person can’t dance to the last 60 seconds of this song…. then they just can’t dance at all.  I purchased Game Of Love and again… I did not investigate further.  I presumed Branch and/or Santana were the writers of this tune, and so once again, the name Gregg Alexander evaded me.  But all great things that are meant to come to light, can and shall soon-enough come to light.  Fast forward again six entire years.  The year is now 2014.

I decided to rent the film Begin Again, starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, along with Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, Hailee Steinfeld and Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey).  Begin Again was a musical gem.  The tale of a young female singer-songwriter who is discovered by a down on his luck music producer.  Together they make great music and help deliver each other from the woes of failed relationships.  Nearly every song I heard in this film resonated with my particular taste in music.  

I realized that I  had to go on line and find out where this music came from, and finally, it was as if I was unwittingly forming the pieces of puzzle into a completed photograph, and that photograph was the name Gregg Alexander. After eight years the musical notes fell into my lap and they all belonged to Alexander.  My favorite song You Only Get What You Give was Alexander.  And Yes, Game of Love was also Alexander.  Ah.  Now it all made sense.  I listened to the soulful and upbeat No One Else Like You and matched its prints to Game of Love and You Only Get What You Give.  What at delightful discovery. I was utterly enchanted by this mans music.  Yet aside from the Alexander prints that were attached to his upbeat masterpieces, there was also the song  Lost Stars.

Lost Stars  (written along with Danielle Brisebois) was an enchanting ballad sung by both Keira Knightley and Adam Levine in Begin Again.  But Levine’s version at the end of the film is the full, polished and orchestrated version. It stirs the mind, body and spirit.  Levine’s vocals are absolutely vibrant, sharp and precise. He does this tune justice and I’m doubting that Alexander had any problem at all with Levine’s version of Lost Stars.  As well, Keira Knightley’s version is smooth, gentle and just as appealing. It is via Lost Stars that I am forced to rediscover Gregg Alexander all over again.  Lost Stars did not possess the upbeat Alexander prints that linked Game of Love, You Only Get What You Give, and No One Else Like You together.  This song was an utterly beautiful ballad that even further showcased Alexanders musical brilliance and diversity.  

 

Adam Levine sings Gregg Alexanders’ Lost Stars in the film Begin Again.

Epoch Times Photo

 

ADAM LEVINE’s lovely vocals on LOST STARS.

 

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY’s lovely version of LOST STARS

 

ADAM LEVINE sings Alexanders NO ONE ELSE LIKE YOU.

It’s quintessential Gregg Alexander.

 

ADAM LEVINE sings Gregg’s A HIGHER PLACE. An utter masterpiece.

 

Delightful scene. Knightley and the kids sing COMING UP ROSES.

Produced by Alexander.

 

Knightley sings TELL ME IF YOU WANT TO GO HOME. 

Disturbing the peace on the rooftop.  We discover Violet can really play guitar.

Now enamored with Alexander and his sound, I was certain that even though the film Begin Again had fallen through the cracks at the box office, the soundtrack could not possibly be ignored.  But The Golden Globe nominations came and went without not a mention at all about this film nor its soundtrack.  An utter oversight that further damaged the potential of this very entertaining and overlooked piece of cinematic art created by John Carney (of Once fame). Begin Again now sits in a proverbial corner twiddling its thumbs awaiting the possibility of an Oscar nod tomorrow morning (January 15, 2014),  in spite of the fact that the Oscars usually embark upon a path similar to the Golden Globes.  This being said… I keep hope alive.

Gregg Alexander should know that there are thousands of movie-goers out there who fell in love with Begin Again, and even more so, the Alexander sound track.  I even rented the film a second time a couple of weeks back just to relieve the musical aspect of this film. Two other tunes also struck my fancy.  The rooftop song Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home  (with that resounding guitar solo) and Keira Knightley’s back alley song  Coming Up Roses – with the children singing backup…. “Hold on! Hold on!”  Begin Again fans know what I’m talking about.

Just who is Gregg Alexander?  Alexander is from a family of Jehovah Witnesses and was born in in Gross Point Michigan on May 4, 1970.   At the age of 12 he got his first guitar and taught himself how to play other instruments as well.  At the age of 14 he and a few high school friends formed a band called The Circus.   He signed with A&M records at the tender age of 16 after sending his demo tapes to producer Rick Nowels.   His first album,  Michigan Rain, was released when he was 19.  The album failed to flourish.  In 1992 he signed with Epic records with some of the same music and that album (Intoxifornication) too,  did not flourish. 

In the mid 90s Alexander came to New York City where he busked with his guitar in Central Park and Tompkins Square Park.  It wasn’t until 1997 that Alexander formed The New Radicals which finally produced their hit record You Only Get What You Give in 1998. 

As I examine some of the words to this hit song, I begin to realize why Alexander may indeed be the underrated musician that he is today.  In spite of the fact that musical groups and singers are well aware of Alexanders raw talent, Alexander seems to escape being a household name in America.  That being said, I also doubt that being recognized as a household name is what Alexander strives for.  Much like incomparable Amy Winehouse and guitarist John Fruciante, it’s my guess that Alexander is in love with music, not fame, and this suits me just fine as well.  I’ve got no gripes with him.

You Only Get What You Give possessed some rather controversial lyrics that may not have been appreciated by some of the music industry moguls.  This song is urging young people to wake up and not be hypnotized by pop culture icons who are fashioned into fame and owned by the industry.  He insults the global establishment and does not mince words.  Here is the  lyrical portion that stands-out at the end of the song:

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!

 

Young, defiant and brazen lyricist Gregg Alexander

in his “THE NEW RADICALS” days.

Epoch Times Photo

The lyrics were brave, audacious, and rudely in-your-face.  They could have also been a career breaker. That being said, Gregg Alexander’s career certainly is not broken.  As I noted previously, Alexander remains in demand as songwriter for some of the industry’s hottest performers.  I couldn’t be happier for him.  That being said, this could still be part of the reason why this magnificent body of work from the film Begin Again was not recognized at the Golden Globes and may not be recognized for the Oscars.  But we will know for sure tomorrow morning.  

Here you can find a list of all of Gregg Alexander songs. 

I am personally wishing Gregg Alexander all the best for tomorrow moring, and if it doesnt happen for him and John Carney… I guess that’s okay.  Begin Again and its resounding Gregg Alexander soundtrack is already all abuzz on Twitter. I couldn’t be happier for this young genius.

Begin Again soundtrack! Oscar! Alexander! Let’s do this!

JWL

 

“When All Is Said And Done… You’ll Go To The Movies.”  –  JWL

Follow Janet Walters Levite’s News and Entertainment posts on Twitter: @JanetWLevite