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"What's Up?" received considerable airplay success. It reached number 14 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and went gold, but peaked higher in many other countries, reaching number one in Germany and Ireland, while reaching number two in the United Kingdom and Australia.
There are times when we just need to take a deep breath and scream from the top of our lungs, "What's going on!?" That's how 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry felt when she wrote this very cathartic song. "It's like, 'Why does it always seem like either I'm struggling, or there's some f--king political mess happening? Why is this all happening in the world?'" she said on the Backstory Song podcast. The song was influenced by the political climate of the time, but there are no political references in the lyric, which makes it malleable and gives it staying power.
4 Non Blondes started in San Francisco in 1989 and gained traction at a time when record companies were looking for authentic female rockers who could translate to the pop realm. The group was formed by bassist Christa Hillhouse, guitarist Shaunna Hall, drummer Wanda Day, and vocalist and guitarist Linda Perry. Prior to the release of their first album, Roger Rocha replaced Hall on guitar, and Dawn Richardson replaced Day on drums. They hit the charts in 1993 with "What's Up?", their only major hit single. Perry left the band in 1994 to begin a solo career, and the remaining members disbanded shortly after.