One of my favorite bands since the late 1990s has been the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I had been aware of them for years before, as they became a mainstream chart-topping act in the early 1990s and had been making albums for most of the 80s as well. But it wasn't until the end of the 20th century that I really got into them.
I've gone back and discovered their early discography over the years. I'm going to admit, I'm not a huge fan of their earlier stuff. They were very heavily influenced by Funk music and I don't really like that as much. While I have heard a complaint that all RHCP songs sound alike, I don't feel as though that is true. While they do have a very distinct sound, they have very different styles that they take their music on. They can go hard, they can go soft, they can sing about serious issues like drug abuse and failed relationships, and they can also release songs called "Party On Your Pussy" and "Yertle The Turtle."
With that said, here is my list of the Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. It leans heavily toward their later albums. 1999's "Californication" is their biggest selling album and Rolling Stone magazine placed it at 399 on their "Top 500 Albums of All Time" list. And I think their 2006 "Stadium Arcadium" double album is artistically, one of the greatest things they've recorded. On opposite ends of the spectrum, I love how angry 1995's "One Hot Minute" is and I really enjoy how easy and mellow 2002's "By The Way" sounds. And if you want to know what I think of their last album, released in 2011, then check out the review I wrote.
Top 25 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs. Loosely ranked, very subjective. If you agree or disagree, let me know.
This Is The Place ... I love the bass in this song. One of their more serious songs, Anthony Kiedis wrote this about the death of his childhood friend and original RHCP guitarist, Hillel Slovak. He was ashamed that his friend died of a heroin overdose and he didn't immediately clean up his act.
Dosed ... Such a beautiful love song. This sums up everything that is good about falling for somebody.
Californication ... When the Miley Cyrus VMA "twerking" mini-scandal was all over the news, I was listening to a friend go on about it. "Can you believe she did that" and whatnot. My response really confused her. I said, "You do know nothing is real, right?" That wasn't some off-the-cuff random moment that happened to cause some controversy. It was a carefully-choreographed stunt approved by a multitude of executives who were looking for attention. That's what this song is about. Nothing is real, everything is phony. "Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement."
Especially In Michigan ... Kind of the opposite of "Californication." Anthony Kiedis wrote this song about his childhood growing up in Michigan. It's just a fun little song with a lot of random Michigan references thrown out there. John Frusciante was very experimental with his guitar playing on this album and it shows here.
Otherside ... Another deep song about drug addiction and suicide. It builds slowly and then explodes at the end.
I Could Have Lied ... From their "BloodSugarSexMagik" album, this tells the story about how a guy did the right thing by telling the truth but it messed up the relationship. He could have lied and he would still have the girl he loved. But would it have been for the best?
One Hot Minute ... Dave Navarro brought a heavier element to RHCP during this time. And the drug addiction rampant among several of the band members brought darker lyrics to the group. Song about how short life is, how all we have is "One Hot Minute" and we need to enjoy whatever it is we're doing.
She's Only 18 ... You're dating a younger woman, trying to present a different/cooler version of yourself, and she sees right through it.
Emit Remmus ... Stare at the title for a second. It's "Summer Time" backwards. It's a song about spending a summer in London with a girl. Unofficially, it's believed to be about the member of the Spice Girls that Anthony Kiedis was briefly involved with: Melanie Chisholm, aka "Sporty Spice."
Savior ... The drums take over a little more in this song, as opposed to fading in the background to the bass or guitar. "Savior" is about Anthony Kiedis reuniting with his father after a period of estrangement.
Happiness Loves Company ... Upbeat song from their 2011 album that features a fun piano opening. Makes you smile when you listen to it; it's good.
Strip My Mind ... Very trippy track off of "Stadium Arcadium." Looking back at past times in your life and realizing that you can't recreate them.
Around the World ... Vintage RHCP. If you want to take a song that embodies what the band is all about, it would be one like this. It's got the hard bass line, the catchy hooks, the subject matter of loving women around the world, and it rocks.
Can't Stop ... At times it seems nonsensical, but it appears to be about looking back at a life of drug addiction. Catchy song with a great guitar solo in the middle. Weird, weird music video.
Whatever We Want ... Never officially released as a single or on an album, this b-side from the Stadium Arcadium sessions is awesome. It's about breaking up with a girl you didn't really care about and how you sort of strung her along. From reading his autobiography, I know Anthony Kiedis had a girlfriend with short blond hair. He later had short blond hair himself. That might explain the opening line of the song, "I stole your haircut and your boring personality."
Snow (Hey Oh) ... Really introspective song about looking back at years of drug abuse. Sounds different than a lot of their other songs, if that makes any sense.
Under the Bridge ... The one that made them worldwide stars. A soft ballad about heroin addiction. He would go underneath a bridge and shoot up. The ladies at the end are John Frusciantie's mom's church choir.
Transcending ... Written about River Phoenix, a close friend of Anthony and Flea. Flea was present at the night club where River died. The line "Said your brother's a real punk" is about Golden Globe winner Joaquin Phoenix. It has a nice, mellow groove... until it descends into anger and madness. It kind of shows how they were dealing with the death: cool on the outside, but struggling on the inside.
Desecration Smile ... The dark side of love. He's keeping a smile on his face, but it's not real. "All alone, not by myself. Another girl bad for my health." John Frusciantie's falsetto background vocals add another element to this song.
Scar Tissue ... In his autobiography, Kiedis talks about finally getting clean after a very bad drug bender. He walked outside, looked up, saw some birds flying overhead and came up with the line "With the birds I share this lonely view." With that, he started writing what would become RHCP's comeback song, after most thought their career was finished.
Parallel Universe ... Really cool song that builds slowly and then gets loud for the chorus. Odd subject matter, kind of out there. Is it a literal parallel universe? An out-of-body experience? Is the parallel universe a figurative one? None of that really makes sense. But it's still fun to listen to.
Give It Away ... This is actually a much deeper song than it appears on the surface. It is literally about giving things away; it's about charity and how it makes you a better person. It's catchy. It's high energy. It's fun. It's a hit.
Look Around ... Off their last album. Follows a similar theme of some of their other songs: a man who thinks he's something bigger than he really is, only to be discovered as a sham by his lady friend. Opening sounds go back to their funk roots, but it settles into a nice rock rhythm.
The Righteous and the Wicked ... Brooding song with some guitar distortion. One of RHCP's more political songs, as it looks at issues surrounding politics and religion and war and how humanity is destroying Earth.
Fight Like a Brave ... Positive song about standing up for what you believe in, with Anthony Kiedis using the lyrics to describe getting over drug addiction. A minor hit for the group in the late 80s before hitting it big a couple years later.
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And there we have it. Twenty-five songs that I loosely organized and ranked. There are a lot more that I like, and also several more that I don't really enjoy. I could very easily make a "25 Least Favorite" songs list and it would mostly be songs from their first few albums. And "Purple Stain" from Californication, "On Mercury" from By The Way, and "Warlocks" from Stadium Arcadium.
Let me know what you think, if you agree or disagree or whatever.