In June 2016, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 11th studio album, The Getaway, following a five-year gap since their previous album I’m With You (2011). Amazingly, the release of The Getaway marked 32 years that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making studio albums, with their self-titled first album arriving in 1984. Currently composed of Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bass), Chad Smith (drummer), and Josh Klinghoffer (guitar), the Red Hot Chili Peppers show no signs of slowing down, but after more than 30 years it seems as good a time as any to take a look back. Here are the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 10 greatest songs of all time.
10. “Snow (Hey Oh)”
“Snow (Hey Oh)” is the second single off the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 2006 double album Stadium Arcadium and became the band’s 11th No. 1 hit on the Billboard Modern Rock chart. Featuring an infectious melody guided by guitarist John Frusciante, the song is in many ways a perfect reflection of the evolution of the band and where they are currently — for better or for worse.
9. “By The Way”
“By The Way” is the first single and track on the album of the same name. Following in the wake of Californication, “By The Way” in many ways reflects their growth in the previous album while exploring their past. Starting off with a calm melody, the song suddenly explodes into aggressive funk rock reminiscent of their early albums, weaving between the two styles equally throughout the track.
8. “Give It Away”
The first single off of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, “Give It Away” was initially refused by many radio stations because it was said to lack a melody. But the aggressive sound and iconic lyrics of “Give it away now,” sung with Kiedis’s trademark punch, eventually led the song to No. 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks in 1991.
7. “Breaking the Girl”
“Breaking the Girl” is the fourth single from Blood Sugar Sex Magik and represents one of the album’s slower, more melodic songs that has come to define the band. The song describes Kiedis’s previous relationship with Carmen Hawk, but really the song is relatable to anyone who has been in a relationship and afraid to hurt their partner. The song’s somber melody, inspired by some of Led Zeppelin’s ballads, was accompanied by experimental instrumentation including percussion with junkyard scraps and a 12-string guitar.
6. “Can’t Stop”
It can be argued that By The Way‘s “Cant Stop” is one of the only songs off the album that revisits the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ roots in funk rock. But what makes “Can’t Stop” so fascinating is the way in which it brings back the band’s funk rock roots while layering in melody and musical progression from their later work. As the song begins and slowly swells to a simple, hard-hitting guitar riff, it feels as if we’re revisiting familiar territory before the song’s chorus hits and brings us to a different level.
5. “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”
“True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes” is the first track off of the Red Hot Chili Peppers debut self-titled album. Featuring the raw funk rock sound that defined the band’s early career, the song was used as the basis for the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first music video which helped to grow the band’s fanbase in the late ’80s.
4. “Suck My Kiss”
“Suck My Kiss” is perhaps the best Red Hot Chili Peppers song emblematic of their funk rock stage before moving toward melodic rock. The third single off of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, “Suck My Kiss” is an energetic punch to the face that represents the pure, raw energy that exists at the core of most Red Hot Chili Peppers songs.
The title track of the album Californication and fourth single, “Californication” is one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most popular songs — and for good reason. With a sparse combination of guitar and bass, “Californication” describes the darkness at the core of Hollywood and California. The song weaves together a rapid-fire series of moments that serve to break down the idea of California dreamin’ and instead push “Dream of Californication.”
2. “Scar Tissue”
“Scar Tissue” was the first single from Californication and heralded the shift in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sound from funk or metal into a melodic rock sound that has come to define the band. Featuring one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in all of rock and roll, “Scar Tissue” delivers a melancholic punch whose sound communicates alienation just as much as the lyrics do.
1. “Under the Bridge”
Anyone who has lived or spent time in Los Angeles has turned the radio up high when “Under the Bridge” comes on in their car and has understood perfectly the lines “I drive on her streets / ‘Cause she’s my companion.” The second single from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, “Under the Bridge” has become an inescapable mainstay of the 1990s alternative rock movement and has endured as the band’s most popular song. Kiedis’s lyrics express a deep loneliness and melancholy in which the city of Los Angeles serves as the backdrop. Endlessly relatable no matter where you live, “Under the Bridge” served as a distinct change in the direction of their music that would continue throughout their discography.
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