4 Non Blondes "What's up"

Christa Hillhouse (bass) : "For a short time, Linda (Perry, singer and main songwriter) had quit her job and she was living with me in this little 2-bedroom flat in San Francisco. She wrote the song when she was in a room down the hall. I was in my bedroom having sex [!], and I stopped because I heard her playing that song. I remember running down the hall and saying, 'Dude, what are you playing? I like that.' We had a lot of rock, thrashy stuff back then, but Linda always would pull her ballads out. I remember being struck by it. She kept looking at me, going, 'Does this sound like something? Am I plagiarizing someone?" I said, 'Finish the song, it's beautiful.'".

The title is not in the lyrics. The chorus refrain is "What's Going On," but that's the name of a 1971 Marvin Gaye R&B classic, so they always called the song "What's Up".

Hillhouse: "For any song, people are going to try to read deliberate meaning into, but when Linda wrote the song, she was just sitting down the hall. We played guitar all the time, that's all we ever did. We practiced every day. I know people who think about formulas when they write a song or they think about structure - Linda has never lived that way. Linda's pretty organic in that way, she just sits down and starts singing what she's feeling. There is a difference between the songs she wrote then and the songs she writes now [she writes songs for the likes of Pink or Christina Aguilera]. She got to a point now where I think she is thinking about them structurally, but back then, she played acoustic guitar and all the songs she wrote she'd just sit there and here they'd come. A lot of people write like that. I write like that - a song is kind of there already and you're like the speaker. All of the sudden there's a song in my head and I don't know where it came from."

Hillhouse: "Recording that song was interesting. We recorded it with the rest of our album in Calabasas in Southern California with this producer, and Jimmy Iovine at Interscope heard the version we recorded with Interscope and then he heard the version we did on our demo take, and Jimmy Iovine liked the demo better. It was a cassette. He and Linda met, and then Linda came and said, 'We're going to re-record it.' I was like, 'Good,' because it got a little too foofed up in major production land - it softened it up and took something out of it. We went to Sausalito and recorded it separately in one day, raw, because Jimmy Iovine knew the demo version was better than the one we did with the producer and all the fancy equipment."

Hillhouse: "The song was an expression of something she was feeling, and it ended up being a pretty universal experience. There's just something there that's pure, that you almost can't define, and that's the thing. We were just living as honest a life as we could, and I think the music that came out of it had heart. I remember when she was writing the verses to What's Up, she knew it so well, she thought she heard it before. I think that's why the song connects with so many people. What she was feeling she was able to translate. If you look at the lyrics, they don't mean anything. It's the way the song makes certain people feel. In Europe, they don't speak English, but they know every broken-English word, and that song makes them feel something. I knew right when we played it, the song made the whole room feel this thing. It's a connection to humanity. Certain simple songs, that's what they do. There's an honesty there that breaks through that people can relate to. Then of course they played that song to death and a lot of people are really sick of it."
Available on the album "Bigger, Better, Faster, More"