34 Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs Ranked

From L.A. nightclub P-Funk underdogs to one of the most notorious and consecrated bands of the past several decades, The Red Hot Chili Peppers formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1983. Now back to their most iconic lineup: Vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist John Frusciante. The band went through several member changes before their anticipated comeback with veteran star guitarist John Frusciante.

Bass Guitarist Flea Playing one of the Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs
Photo by Cancha General

These Rock n ‘Roll Hall of Fame inductees are, by far, one of the most notorious alternative examples in music history. The Chilis’ originated from a dominant glam and hard rock LA music scene to which they brought a well and palpable alternative. In the 2014 documentary series “Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways,” Los Angeles was described as a fine line between glamour and raw viciousness with a bitter glass of reality. We believe the Red Hot Chili Peppers to be one of the main exponents of the latter.

Each of their members as well as releases, serves an ever-evolving and maturing sound. Hillel Slovak’s era brought a great compliment to Flea’s funk-punk riffs with a Chicago Punk-Blues sound. Frusciante’s all-rounder skills brought us more than a handful of all-time classics. Navarro gave us a darker and heavier sound, more according to the sounds of the 90s. Finally, Klinghoffer followed in as a surf rock, all-rounder, resourceful player with only two albums to his name.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are easy to call a favorite. Despite some of their most legendary work behind them, there is no denying the exciting future of the band. The group has covered 3 generations of music and shows no signs of slowing down, an exciting mark for fans.

It’s always hard to choose the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, especially when it comes to a band with so much material and so many layers like the Chilli Peppers. These are all brilliant songs with a special sound and emotion to offer. It’s easy to admit that some will be dreadfully missed from the list.

Here Are the Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

34. Don’t Forget Me

Album By the Way
Release Date July 9th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

A more minimalistic approach to composition from the creative partnership that stems from Frusciante and Flea on guitar and bass. Don’t Forget Me is built around a simple four-chord progression that cements an instantly abrasive soundscape, enabling Kiedis to lyrically elaborate on “universal love,” as he pointed out in an interview. With a single strum and mute on the bass, before Smith’s entry establishes the ebb and flow that becomes further accentuated by Frusciante’s sublime elaboration on his high strings, the notion of the track is firmly accomplished from the start of the track as it increases from its mezzo to a fortissimo dynamic.

The song’s theme explores Kiedis’ perspective on the hardships and the mystical spirit that sustained him during the darkest hours of his life. The ambiguous character of the lyricism in the piece, on the other hand, refers to his approach and experience regarding the sublime interactions with spirituality. A certain level of consciousness that is hard to communicate in nature, nevertheless, the music speaks for itself, and his soulful performance rendered this as the cornerstone track of By the Way.

33. Desecration Smile

Album Stadium Arcadium
Release Date February 12th, 2007
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

An emotional exploration of Anthony Kiedis’ pondering on finally achieving a sense of stability in his relationship with his partner, Heather Christie. Desecration Smile was the fourth single off the band’s ninth studio album, Stadium Arcadium. Opening with a minor key acoustic heartbeat that permeates thoroughly in the essence of the track, with minor electric guitar and piano arrangements, ensuing a melancholic realm that had remained not alien but unexplored in this dimension for the band, one of a more mature perspective in the nature of relationships.

Desecration Smile was written during the creative process the Red Hot Chili Peppers underwent at their home studio at “The Mansion” in Los Angeles. Soon enough, after its initial presentation by Frusciante, Kiedis saw an opportunity to elaborate on the fleeting nature of happiness, as hinted at by its title and self-contemplating lyricism.

32. Dosed

Album By the Way
Release Date July 9th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

Yet another proof of how Hillel Slovak’s spirit lives on and echoes in the life of his bandmates, Dosed is one of the triad tributes inspired by the original Chili Peppers’ guitarist. By The Way, is an album riddled with homages and the exploration of loss, and this seminal track excels at conveying the longing for a different ending to the one that Slovak faced but expressing a certain gratitude for his impact and the lessons that came with it. Kiedis pointed out that the inspiration for this song came from his urge to cope with the lasting trauma that would follow, a story that is all too familiar to every member of the band.

Dosed has been a fan favorite since the release of the album back in 2002, thanks in no small part to its captivating instrumentation inspired by the likes of the Beach Boys and elevated with the Chili Peppers’s signature prowess. It’s built with Frusciante’s inter-lapping mourning vocals and Anthony’s soulful and sincere delivery at the forefront of the track, conveying a visceral message that is perhaps the most resonant in its lyrical work, making it an undisputed staple in their repertoire.

31. I Could Have Lied

Album Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Release Date September 24th, 1991
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

A Frusciante and Kiedis collaboration that dates to the turmoil and crippling heartbreak following a short-lived relationship between the iconic singer Sinead O’Connor and Anthony Kiedis. Soon after the overnight breakup, Anthony turned to John for emotional support over the phone, who in turn proposed a get-together to write about the occurrence together, after a night they had finished the heart-sobbing tune.

With a laid-back atmosphere that flirts between the ethereal and the tumultuous, I Could Have Lied opens with an instantly recognizable melodic phrasing that is followed by Kiedis’ lamenting vocals that are visceral in their sincerity and devastating in their delivery. Whatever area remains unexplored as to what words can express it’s conveyed through the two thunderous solo sections Frusciante executes before a final harmonic brings the track to its closure.

30. Warm Tape

Album By the Way
Release Date July 9th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

A synthesizer-driven tune that relies on its captivating spaced atmosphere to deliver one of the boldest, most experimental tracks ever recorded by the Chili Peppers. John Frusciante spoke about the track stemming from his experiments with a Warm Tape effect on one of the keyboards in their studio, it was subsequently mixed with a synth on top of it, and the band would then elaborate on top of the feeling provided by its dreamy foundation.

Released as part of the tracklist from 2002’s By the Way, Warm Tape digressed from the dominant vibrant sound of the record and took a step forward in exploring a melodically driven composition. Additionally, this can be seen as a glimpse of what was to come with their following record, Stadium Arcadium. Lyrically, it explores the process of falling in love and a developing intimacy that certainly shines through its eloping assembly. Overall, “Warm Tape” is easily one of the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs of all time.

29. These Are the Ways

Album Unlimited Love
Release Date March 31st, 2022
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 38 Hot Rock & Alternative, July 4th, 2022

As revealed by Anthony himself, These Are the Ways is not a critique but an expression of his seasoned perspective of what it means to be an American living in the excess that society enforces on him, “The sights, the sounds, the smells.” Furthermore, it comes as an attempt from the singer to chronicle and invites the audience to ponder on the possibility of digesting and purging the hardship and plight that defined the last decade.

This is, without a doubt, yet another throwback tune in essence from their 2022 studio installment, Unlimited Love. With a contrasting Punk-rock tone to the heart of the track, These Are the Ways is reminiscent of the beginnings of the band’s origins from the underbelly of California and the insights their experiences offer now as a consecrated act.

28. Black Summer

Album Unlimited Love
Release Date February 4th, 2022
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 78, February 19th, 2022

This was the lead single from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Unlimited Love, marking John Frusciante’s return to the band with an emotional, seasoned approach to the sound that defined the Chili Peppers’s past, present, and what’s yet to come in their reunion with a long time friend. During this time, Josh Klinghoffer took the role of lead guitarist with excellent performances and a fresh creative drive. However, Frusciante reminded us how legendary his spot in the band is when we got a glimpse into the band’s revamped approach to a debutant sound that encompasses the entirety of what defined them as a household name.

The song is an excellent combination of sweet and bitter and all-round red-hot goodness, with a chorus that’s as catchy as their longtime hits and Kledi’s charm to top it all through his ever-lasting reflective lyricism. For better or worse, it gave some people the impression that he was imitating an Irish accent. He later revealed that it was, in fact, an accent he acted out as a tribute to Welsh singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon.

The reception was mostly positive, despite some fans struggling with the feeling that the previous material outclasses the new. Nevertheless, Black Summer managed to make a place for itself as no.1 on the Billboard Alternative chart and became their longest-charting song ever, leaving no room for doubt that there are still some heavy hitters left in them.

27. Mellowship Slinky in B Major

Album Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Release Date September 24th, 1991
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

Mellow all over, to say the least, and this is one of the tracks responsible for establishing the bombastic, beloved Red Hot Chili Peppers dynamic of interrelated funky grooves into the mainstream. Very much in the vein that dominates the feel of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Mellowship Slinky in B Major became an anthem in no time, and a staple of the early Red Hot shows where the slightest hint at the intro of the tune would denote it was time to engage in a grooving synergy that would wash over the audience.

With libido, and excessive ridden lyricism, Mellowship Slinky in B Major is now a long gone facet for the band, as it navigates the extraordinaire eventfulness of late night outs and one’s own indulgence in what Kiedis wrote “favorite things.” The importance of this track in the band’s colossal repertoire stands as one of the many building blocks of who they are now as artistic figures. It provides a dichotomy in theme that is complimented by the insightful consciousness of songs like Under the Bridge at the time or their reflection on their journey of recovery from addiction with songs like Desecration Smile further down the road.

26. Suck My Kiss

Album Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Release Date May 1st, 1991
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

One of the best examples of funk and rock-shaking hands, Suck My Kiss shares parallels to the likes of Rage Against the Machine with a little less rage and a bit more love. This song strikes with its assembly precision, with its instrumental showcasing an attractive interplay within the band, stunningly complimented by the impulses of Kledis’ lyrics and delivery.

Initially, with a controversial reception due to its overt innuendo, Kiedis states that even the most explicit things said in the song are more positive than crude, which refers to that perfect meeting place between lust and love. Rather than having sexual undertones, the song is all about being open and, to an extent, proud about it, so in a very Chili Pepper fashion, it’s just another love story.

Back in 2021, Kerrang ranked Suck My Kiss number 7 on their list of the 20 greatest Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, and in 2022, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 11 on their list of the 40 greatest Red Hot Chili Peppers songs of all time, so needless to say this is a tune that stands the test of time.

25. Poster Child

Album Unlimited Love
Release Date March 4th, 2022
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

With a lot more funk and playful grooves than the first single, Black Summer, Poster Child cemented the notion that Red Hot Chili Peppers were reinventing their core sound with Frusciante back on the lineup. Its instrumental sequence is riddled with their signature funk, jazz, and everything beyond and in between, making it one of the most enticing tracks on the promotional length of Unlimited Love. This is also thanks to Kiedis’s vocals perfectly falling into place with the rhythmic section and being a lot more playful.

Poster Child shows up with everything a Red Hot Chili Peppers funk track needs, a 70s groove, and a blend of pop culture, rock, and Frusciante/Flea action.

As a single, it had a mostly positive reception; although it doesn’t harbor the rock grandeur that may be infused by Black Summer, it comes across as more of a deep cut rather than hit single material. Regardless, according to Robin Murray from Clash Music, this is “the dream tune for Chili Peppers’ fans.”

24. The Zephyr Song

Album By the Way
Release Date August 17th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 49, November 23rd, 2002

Breathing a longing for human connection and the need for creativity on par with imagination being the core elements that make us human, The Zephyr Song was the second single for By the Way. It quickly became yet another era-defying tune that marked a new approach for the band in the earlier half of the 2000s, underscored by the ethereal in its essence, hence the psychedelic undertone of it and its more mature yet lighthearted approach to composition, a testament of a band reaching its peak.

The song’s introductive arpeggios are actually the same notes that are sung in Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. However, this was unintentionally done by John, but it’s a nice little realization that these two songs have something in common. The Zephyr Song was an uncanny release, accompanied by three exclusive tracks in its B-side that explored the same naivety. Ultimately, adding a few layers to the ethos of this now legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers track.

23. Slow Cheetah

Album Stadium Arcadium
Release Date May 9th, 2007
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

An over-hushed acoustic tune, and a blues outburst in its essence, Slow Cheetah is yet another poignant redemption song that explores the long-haul plight Kiedis has endured with addiction. It breathes a feeling of openness and intimacy in its verse build-up, only to peak during the chorus playing a contrasting sung lament by Anthony along with the angelical backing vocals delivered by Frusciante.

Kiedis wrote the title, but it wasn’t until he started singing and writing while Frusciante played the song. In the band’s podcast interview, they pointed out that the track slowly revealed itself to be about “that beautiful feeling when life becomes slow motion, and all the chaos and all the distraction fades away for a moment, and you can see things very clearly.”

22. Love of Your Life

Album I’m Beside You
Release Date October 2nd, 2012
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

It might be strange for a B- Side to be on this list, but often enough, a band manages to strike gold with a song that wasn’t supposed to see the light of day. Fortunately, this one did, when the compilation I’m Beside You was released in 2012 with previously unreleased tracks from the recording of their tenth album, I’m With You.

Love of your life shines the most when it comes to arrangements, backing vocals, and guitar. If anything, it stands as a testament of how well Josh Klinghoffer was able to adapt to the band, allowing for something familiar to remain at the helm of the band’s core but still adding his own charm to the mixture. It feels close to a waltz, with blues tinctures through guitar licks and an uncanny emotionality.

21. Tearjerker

Album  One Hot Minute
Release Date September 12th, 1995
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

Kurt Cobain was an inspiration for many artists, including Anthony Kiedis. His admiration initially stemmed from witnessing all his eccentricities on stage when he first encountered Nirvana opening for Red Hot Chili Peppers in the 90s. He recalls being blown away by this guy who was in a torn nightgown and bonding backstage with the grunge icons. After his death, Kiedeis was in denial, eventually pointing out the particular grief he went through, wishing they could have been closer friends, a desire that wasn’t necessarily requited by Nirvana’s frontman.

This tribute is as heartwarming as it is bitter, and it has a different vibe than most RHCP songs for a handful of reasons, the main one being the fact that Dave Navarro was manning the guitar during this period, which gives it a different spin on an emotional song such as this, bringing a steadier more dated delivery in contrast to Frusciante’s psychedelic strokes.

Musically, it might not shake everyone’s ground, but there’s a vivid emotionality that permeates through the song following the candidly recorded request by Kiedis at the intro and overall performance that dives into a very specific form of love.

20. Tippa My Tongue

Album Return to the Dream Canteen
Release Date August 19th, 2022
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 15th Alternative, August 22th, 2022

Red Hot Chili Peppers took the world by storm in 2022, releasing two full LPs, so when people got treated to Tippa My Tongue as an almost immediate followup to Unlimited Love, it was only a question of how many more layers they could add to this new era. The tune delivers an amazing mix of P-Funk, blues, and rock that elevates the listener into a trippy vibe complimented by an equally vibrant psychedelic-infused music video directed by Malia James.

One could argue that the band has become truly successful when it gets to reference itself effortlessly. Needless to say that this tune is a particular callback to the Blood Sugar Sex Magik era, with chants directly interpolated from Funky Monks and a line that explicitly refers to the track.

Tippa My Tongue blew up as the band’s fourth number-one single on the Rock & Alternative Airplay chart, making them the only band with two number-one singles on that chart in 2022. It also got the 15th number one on the Alternative Airplay and became the band’s 27th top ten single.

19. Road Trippin

Album Californication
Release Date June 8th, 1999
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

A gentle folk lullaby that seals the poetic finale of Californication, Road Trippin also served as the fifth and final promotional single for the album, adding a final, more intimate layer to the record. The song is based on the ambiance that the tune itself breathes so effortlessly, entwined with a lyricism that reflects on the poetic imagery one may find on the road. Additional arrangements beyond its arpeggios were added by Rubin, who hired a session musician to secretly add a delicate vintage Chamberlain Keyboard solo, providing the track with a delicate atmosphere, one that lingers heavily on late-Beatles touch.

Road Trippin wasn’t a chart-topping hit for the Chili Peppers. However, it did reflect on the forged brotherhood the band had become while working on a record that has long since become an acclaimed road trip selection to many.

18. Eddie

Album Return to Dream Canteen
Release Date September 23rd, 2022
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

At this point, the band was no stranger to paying tribute to those who had made an impact on their lives and music. A single from the band’s latest album, Return of the Dream Canteen, is actually a tribute to Eddie Van Halen. In essence, Eddie is a lot more upbeat and vivid, staying true to the idea that we shouldn’t remember Van Halen for his death but for living his wildest dream.

Flea was the one that had the idea and lit the flame for this song to be made, with an emotional bassline that naturally inspired the rest of the band to come up with the song. Now, of course, being a song inspired by the one and only Eddie Van Halen, the guitar part had to fulfill certain standards, thankfully that was not a problem, with Frusciante shredding away an incredible solo that fits the overall Pepper’s sound with subtle hints of 80s Van Halen.

17. True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes

Album Red Hot Chili Peppers
Release Date August, 10th 1984
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 201, December, 10th 1984

Not quite a single format, but it was the first music video released by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, with favorable exposure and radio play. True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes opens with a western bass slap line and keeps the wild dessert feeling throughout the entire track. The tune is enhanced by an aggressive chorus and classic psychedelic licks by Slovak. While the lyrics ramble on to narrate wild coyote behaviors, it seems the music seeks to set the scene for a wild animal roaming the Hollywood Hills.

Even though the lyrics may come across as ramshackle, its chorus is pretty straightforward regarding the respect of Native American culture towards these outlaws of the West. Kiedis, on the other hand, has been open about his appreciation of native-American culture, and from time to time, this has been a subject of inspiration for him.

At this point, the band was in its early stages and sought to experiment with psychedelic music from time to time. The composition took place with Cliff Martinez and Jack Sherman instead of the original line-up (Hillel Slovak and Jack Irons). The idea of diving into psychedelic P-Funk inspired Kiedis to go into native-American lore for lyrical content.

Regarding reception, the song wasn’t an immediate success. However, it was the Peppers’ first attempt at going commercial. The self-titled Red Hot Chili Peppers album, however, did achieve some exposure; despite “bubbling under” in the Billboard Top 200, it made it to #201 due to radio play. This was a major achievement for the band in its beginnings. Additionally, the song has earned some cult following love due to its fun and wild ahead of its time sound.

16. Goodbye Angels

Album The Getaway
Release Date April 4th, 2017
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 25 Alternative Chart, November 22nd 2017

With a dark mood set up, a beautifully crafted guitar intro slides in to smoothly opens room for Kiedis’ paced lyrics in a lighter tone. The contrast between the lead guitar and vocals is finely-tuned and nuanced toward an atmosphere of loss and acceptance. The bass sums up the energy build with timed snare hits before a stretched note chorus of releasing nature and essence. As the tune proceeds, the acceptance and moral-based lyrics develop and sum up to a final outro, with one of the most brilliant syncopation-built bass and guitar solos of the past decade.

Goodbye Angels drew lyrical inspiration from Anthony Kiedis’ relationship and breakup with the Australian model Helena Vestergaard. Lyrics cleverly cover a wide spectrum, from introspective grieving processes to mundane, anecdotic facts, all the way to powerful references. Kiedis mentions the palpable age gap, the journey Helena had made to California in order to pursue her career like him, and a painful reference to The Matrix’s blue pill, red pill dilemma. These subjects are referenced in a brilliant fashion, and many of them were written down before the band joined into work in the tune. Klinghoffer’s chemistry with the rest of the band played a key role regarding the craftsmanship and powerful energy of the track yielding a heavily emotional final product.

Goodbye Angels was overshadowed by Dark Necessities in regard to mainstream attention. It peaked at #25 on the US Alternative Billboard chart. However, it has become a fan-favorite tune amongst fans due to its blasting bass and guitar solo. The single also saw the last release of the band with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer after nearly 11 years before John Frusciante’s return was announced.

15. Soul to Squeeze

Album Coneheads: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack
Release Date August 19th, 1993
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 22, October 23rd, 1993

A mellow smiling-sad-sounding tune all over, the opening riff varies in tone regarding its colors and atmosphere. Soul to Squeeze bends emotions with its shifting guitar, from the main focal point to a complementary element to the warm, embracing bass lines and melancholic, soft, charming vocal delivery by Kiedis. The song mildly paces to an energetic bridge, landing in a final, essence-defining verse right before the song’s final chorus. Soul to Squeeze captures two different sides of the Chili Peppers, an introspective melancholy blend with an optimistic smile during tumulus times.

Originally, the track was to be featured in Blood Sugar Sex Magic, but it was soon relegated as a B-Side track to single releases Give it Away and Under the Bridge. The tune explores the healing powers of kindness, the drifting nature of depression, and the gratifying feeling of a silver lining. Inspiration for the tune came similarly as it did for Under the Bridge. However, Kiedis pointed out that Soul to Squeeze came from the solace provided by former romantic relationships and his friendship with friends/bandmates.

Soul to Squeeze became an unexpected hit for the band, debuting as #1 on the US Modern Rock charts, #7 on Billboard Album Rock Track charts, and #22 on Billboard Hot 100 charts. The Red Hot Chili Peppers had little to no expectations for the commercial success of the song. It was the first tune to become part of a soundtrack. Subsequently, it is one of the most beloved tracks of the band; it was then added to the Greatest Hits compilation in 2003.

14. Knock Me Down

Album Mother’s Milk
Release Date August, 22nd 1989
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 6 Modern Rock Charts, October 10th, 1989

Knock me down was perhaps the first transitional song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unlike their previously adolescent-sexual-themed tunes, it was Knock Me Down the first track to take onto introspective themes while condensing the funk-punk sound we all know and love. By this time, Frusciante had become a driving creative force for the band; while there are tinctures of Slovak’s particular sound, there’s certainly something fresh in here. Knock Me Down is one of the first iconic Peppers sounds with pace all over and a sense of raw melody; it becomes more palpable towards the gospel soloist in the outro.

The idea for the music of this single was brought from a jam session at the Hully Gully period of the band. However, the lyrics were the first to be heavily inspired by the passing of former guitarist Hillel Slovak. The subject revolves around coming together as a group of friends and overcoming addiction and the stereotypical “rockstar” lifestyle.

“If you see me gettin’ mighty, if you see me gettin’ high
Knock me down”. The chorus, according to Kiedis, is a direct reference to Slovak’s behavior and lack of compassion towards his own life as he felt beyond life and death in the last months of his life. “The idea of “knock me down” came to me, like someone’s got to knock him down before he dies.”

Knock Me Down marked the band’s second hit song, however, the band remained with limited recognition on a national level. On the other hand, the Red Hot Chili Peppers consecrated their spot as one of the most notorious bands in the L.A musical scene after this release. The track peaked #6 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks charts. The tune hasn’t been performed since 1990 after its 32 presentations during the Mother’s Milk Tour; ever since then, Kiedis has refused to sing it for any audience.

13. Dark Necessities

Album The Getaway
Release Date April 4th, 2017
Peak Billboard Position Rank 67, July 9th, 2017

The first single from the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers album opens with a swift guitar/bass build and is jumped and silenced by Flea’s iconic, funky bass slap and pull, appropriately setting the mood for the entirety of the song. Soon thereafter, Chad Smith’s drum snare joins the funk while Kiedis’ warm vocals greet the listener in the most compelling of ways. A track that reels you in from the first strum of the guitar, Dark Necessities welcomed the audience to the Peppers’ most recent album, The Getaway.

Centered around the dark times the band has been through. Kiedis sheds an optimistic light on those hardships, claiming his creativity and growth were sparked during said times. The song’s chorus emphasizes the point further, “Dark Necessities are part of my design,” welcoming every flaw, imperfection, and uncomfortable part of the self with a now mature and youthful spirit.

No stranger to drug use and addiction, Kiedis openly remarks in his songs about the struggle of overcoming those demons. Dark Necessities is no exception to the rule – as the dark necessity is an interpretation and more mature acceptance of the band’s continuous relationship with drugs. A more optimistic Anthony recalls his struggles with a certain fondness as they caused a more profound version of himself. Attempting to make the most of his inner struggles, the track’s bridge reminds the listener once again that “Darkness helps us all to shine.”

Hitting #1 on Billboard’s Alternative chart, the Adult Alternative, and Mainstream Rock charts simultaneously, Dark Necessities was an undeniably praised track by both fans and critics alike. Though not intended to be released as the lead single of the album, Danger Mouse, the song’s producer, and co-songwriter, pushed the band to make it so. Dark Necessities, in other words, not only gave the Chilli Peppers a solid comeback track, but it also made them a universal listen after many years. This is easily one of the best red hot chili peppers songs of the last decade.

12. My Friends

Album One Hot Minute
Release Date September 19th, 1995 (Single)
Peak Billboard Position Rank 1 Alternative Chart, November 9th, 1995

One of the most bittersweet sounds of the Red Hot Chili Peppers from one of the darkest periods of the group. The song starts with a somber folk progression, and Kiedis warms vocals and dark lines, “My Friends are so depressed,” before the rest of the elements join in. The song scales up after the first chorus, blending and painting a darker but slightly uplifting vibe that is taken over by a releasing guitar solo. “Release is Peace” are the final words of the bridge before jumping to the most hopeful verse in the song, before a warm, loving chorus. The song finally ends with an emotional instrumental escalation, to end with a bitter “left to expectation” main riff.

My Friends is a milestone in the middle for the Chili Peppers. The inspiration for it came from Kiedis as he watched yet another downhill of his friends. Navarro sunk deeper into heavy drug use, Smith was frustrated with the process of One Hot Minute, and Flea was going through a traumatic divorce. The ghost of Frusciante drifting away from the band due to heroin addiction haunted Kiedis, and it seemed as if Navarro was following in his footsteps as well as Slovak’s years before him.

As Kiedis spectated the rough patch, he saw the acceptance speech of a little girl, which he referenced in the lyrics. The result was a love letter to his seemingly continuous turmoiled friends and bandmates, which he often refers to as his true love.

My Friends received mass critical acclaim and peaked as #1 in both alternative and mainstream rock Billboard charts, while internationally, it reached #29 in the UK Single Charts. It was regularly performed during the One Hot Minute tour, and the record shows an emotional reception from the crowd, without a doubt one of the most emotionally compelling tracks recorded by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

11. Venice Queen

Album By The Way
Release Date July 9th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

Venice Queen slides in with cold but breezy, jittery surf guitar arpeggios, appropriately setting the mood for the song, soon joined by Kiedis’ warm, mourning, and melodic vocals. Slowly, the tune builds into a celebration of life with a classic banging Spanish guitar chord progression and marked by energetic snare and toms. Anthony Kiedis’ joy of having met Gloria Scott is a key element for the emotional charge of the track.

Not only is By The Way one of the Chili Peppers’ most critically acclaimed albums, but it is also one of the most personal ones, withholding many of the band’s greatest hits – and rightfully so. Kiedis has never shied away from writing about his frequent drug addiction problems. Having lost former guitarist and friend Hillel Slovak from drug abuse, the band’s front-man has been open about his desire to quit his drug habit but his ever-present struggle to do so. A considerable amount of tracks in By The Way surround themes of love and drug addiction – Venice Queen, the album’s final track, is where these two subject matters meet.

The song’s story has got to be one of the most painfully beautiful lyrics by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Delving into a close, personal friendship with Kiedis, who not only served the role of his friend but as a helper in the singer’s road to recovery from addiction. Gloria Scott, a former heroin addict of twenty-two (22) years without any use, was Kiedis’ drug habilitation counselor. The track is a tribute to Gloria, who passed away after Anthony purchased her home as a “thank-you” in Venice Beach, California, hence the title of the track.

Venice Queen received moderate attention but was overshadowed by power jam singles, By the Way, and Can’t Stop. Nevertheless, it has gained a cult following since its release and is held as one of the stand-out tunes and live performances of the Peppers.

10. Otherside

Album Californication
Release Date January 11th, 2000
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 14, May 27th, 2000

Unlike the rest of the album, Otherside presents a nostalgic and somber take on death and addiction in a new glass for the Chili Peppers. With a grieving nature revolving around the song, its music video makes it all the more compelling. The dark musical opening of the track, along with the exhausting question of “how long will I slide,” sets the scene for a dark reminiscing sound. Sharp unnerving guitars with even more poignant lyricism complemented by a dramatic chorus and backing vocals in every way. Otherside takes on the reflection and love-hate relationship of an addict and his or her experience, trauma, and longing for just one more hit.

The song’s subject isn’t a particularly fresh one for the Chili Peppers at this point in their career. However, the artistic and darker approach to its composition stands out. Otherside is an outcast on its tracklisting, preceded by Scar Tissue and followed by Get On Top. The tune appeals to desperation, longing, loss, and introspection rather than a simply emotional take on hardship.

Rejoined by a now sober and clean John Frusciante, the band took the time to reinvent their sound and reflect on their past and evolution. Otherside makes a statement for Chili Peppers, regardless of their maturity, the ghost of drug abuse, the passing of Hillel Slovak, and the road so far.

The music video makes a rather strong allusion to the fragility of life. The German expressionism-inspired video shows Anthony drifting from his usual energic persona, singing on top of a tower, Frusciante playing a metaphoric single string of life. Flea playing on top of a voltage post, and Chad Smith on a clock tower with clocks and gears as a drum set. The video as a whole is a brilliant artistic depiction of the band’s fragility, time, and always seemingly present haunting death.

The single was the band’s 4th most successful release, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot and #1 on the Alternative Billboard chart. Like Californication, it has become a mythical track for younger generations and has been frequently used on EDM and house remixes. This is easily one of the best RHCP songs.

9. Aeroplane

Album  One Hot Minute
Release Date March 14th, 1996
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 8, September 9th, 1996

With a smooth intro before breaking into a funky jangly guitar beat and smooth groovy basslines, Aeroplane was probably the first Red Hot Chili Peppers song for most 90s kids. The jolly-sounding tune blended with dark imagery of sexual innuendo and the pleasure of making music is one of the Chili Peppers’ most graceful qualities. Towards the outro, a children’s choir joins in to sing the chorus making the tune all the more humorous and contrasting, if you may. Many consider this to be one of the essential Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes and, by far, one of the very best.

Aeroplane, like Under the Bridge, is a renegade track from its album. One Hot Minute stands out for its heavier, darker, more introspective sound. But when this song comes up in the track listing, one can’t help but feel uplifted. The song alludes to the R&B single Jeasus is My Aeroplane it also adds a fun twist to it while taking the chance to say music is a drug to Kiedis.

There are also darker references to be found, as the song also relates to a drug-fused decayed lifestyle. Kiedis pointed out that he was sneaking and slipping his sobriety during this time, the lyrics lay the clue tracks for this. “Looking in my own eyes / I can’t find the love I want / Somebody’d better slap me before I start to rust before I start to decompose.” These lines are a cry for help according to Kiedis’s memoir, “Scar Tissue.”

As the 3rd single for One Hot Minute, Aeroplane gained massive attention despite being overshadowed by the album’s flagship single, My Friends. It peaked at #8 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and #12 in Mainstream Rock Billboard charts, there was also international attention reaching #11 on the UK singles chart.

8. Californication

Album Californication
Release Date May 20th, 2000
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 69, October 14th, 2000

Perhaps the most iconic guitar riff by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a smooth surf opening gives a feel as if you were riding the California sunset, with timed refreshing beats. Flea’s bass line warms up the track just before Anthony Kiedis starts blending poetry flow and tenderness to his tone as he breaks down Hollywood’s darkest side. The tune presents a steady path until Frusciante’s guitar comes in with a breezy electric solo just before a brilliantly delivered closure.

Californication came to the table when Anthony overheard a woman from New Zealand ranting about “Psychic spies from China”. He claimed that after being stuck with the phrase there was a need to get home and the rest just poured out of him. The song gives a blunt, humorous, darker version of what Hollywood and California can be if one just wipes off the gloss and glamour that actual Californication has sold over the decades. The song reflects on the impacts of California in western civilization “Little girls from Sweden dream of silver screen quotation” among many other seductive traits of the city of stars.

Frusciante teamed up directly with Kiedis to find a perfect fit for the lyrics, according to memoir “Scar Tissue” it took several attempts before the right flow came up. Referencing Nirvana, David Bowie, San Andres’ fault, Star Wars, and the faking of the moon landing theory, Californication is a brilliantly crafted piece with a unique sound that stands out from the Chili Peppers’ own sound.

This self-titled tune was consecrated as one of rock’s finest songs ever due to its massive impact. It peaked at #69 on the US Billboard Hot 100, #16 on the UK Singles Chart, and number #1 on both the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. Californication has become a mythical song in recent decades. It is often used as a reference for Red Hot Chili Peppers, it has been broadly used in media and as the subject of experiment for EDM music.

7. Give it Away

Album Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Release Date September, 4th 1991
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 73, August 8th, 1992

Energetic since the very first second, Give it Away cuts in with bouncy funk all over, banging drums, sharp guitar, and paced chopped lyrical work. The music was crafted by Frusciante and Flea during a jam session, shortly after, Kiedis added seemingly sexual lyrics, however, it’s a song about altruism.

The juxtaposition between “a kingpin or a pauper” brings in the question: “Is he a kingpin that wants to give all away or a pauper who gave everything away?”. Kiedis thought of this tune to be an opportunity to humorously break from his “always sexual” lyricism, and so sought to be seen as a more generous guy.

“Give It Away” is the Chilis’ funky preaching theme, although it may not seem at first, the term “Give it Away” comes from the selflessness involved with altruism. This idea came across Kiedis through an experience with his then-girlfriend and punk rock singer Nina Hagen. Hagen according to Kiedis lived an altruist lifestyle, she gave him a jacket under the pretext of “making the world a better place” by just giving away small details. According to Kiedis, this was a cathartic experience, as he heard Flea’s bass line he thought of the incident and thought the subject and feeling would go accordingly.

After signing to Warner Bros. and teaming up with Rick Rubin, The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in for a lifetime partnership. Give it Away was Blood Sugar Sex Magik’s first single release and first jump to international recognition. This single earned the band’s first Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance and earned its place as #1 in the Billboard Alternative charts. It also landed in #73 on the Billboard Hot chart and #9 on the UK Single Charts. The latter one took nearly 2 and a half years after its release since it was slightly overshadowed by the following single Under the Bridge.

6. Readymade

Album Stadium Arcadium
Release Date May 9th, 2006
Peak Billboard Ranking N/A

Heavy and mean in every aspect, Readymade presents a brilliant interplay and syncopation between Flea and Frusciante. Along with Chad Smith, the outstanding rhythmic section of the tune stands out, with Kiedis melodically following them with his characteristic peaked singing. The song channels a raw sense of energy, staying on a lineal structure until Anthony signals Frusciante to “clean it up” and engage in one, if not the best Chili Peppers solo. Readymade has a jam essence that has proven to be more than ideal live material to get the crowd revving up.

The song drew inspiration from The Ramones and pays homage to the punk band as it has been described by Kiedis and Frusciante as a “Readymade” piece of art. The song follows a lineal punk-rock structure and was conceived with energy as a focal point during the band’s residence at “The Mansion” where the band also recorded their 1991 release Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Frusciante referred to this place as a “haunted house with friendly spirits”. The spirituality and mysticism of the location compelled the band to smoothly engage in the creative and recording process, it was the band’s most effective and joyous period according to Kiedis.

Readymade received minimal mainstream attention. Despite lacking chart results or any other type of recognition, the tune earned its spot in the hearts of fans because it displayed chemistry between members. The solo announcement made by Kiedis “Oh clean it up Johnny!” was reportedly a favorite feature among the fanbase.

5. Dani California

Album Stadium Arcadium
Release Date April 3rd, 2006
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 6, May 27th, 2006

Funky and rocking all over, Dani California is one of the most instantly recognizable tunes in recent history with a swinging beat and jumpy guitar.
Its electrifying essence with banging snares and groovy bass lines condensate many of the characteristic sounds of the band. From pure groove to overdrive guitar and compressed bass highlighting notes, Dani California can be considered the Peppers’ musical resume in a single track. Perhaps the most characteristic Red Hot Chili Peppers element is Frusciante’s powerful solo which breaks from the track to deliver an exhilarating finale.

Dani is a mythical creature in the Chili Peppers lore. She is a composite of all the women Kiedis has been with but the name comes from a troubled girl who lived from one hardship to another. The song briefly narrates the life of Dani from her birth in Mississippi, to her death at the hand of a policeman in North Dakota.

Kiedis believes Dani the girl embodied the wild not-so-glamorous side of California, the song references her motherhood, hard attitude, painful life, and tragic ending. Nevertheless, Dani California pays an epic homage to the life of Anthony’s rebel girl-friend as he expresses his desire to mourn and her laughing in the face of death.

Dani California is one of the most successful single releases, it peaked as #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock, Alternative Songs, and Adult Alternative charts. It also became the 3rd single of the band to reach the top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 as it reached #6 in a week after its release. The single drew major controversy as personalities Dan Gaffney and Jared Morris alleged the main riff was plagiarized from Tom Petty’s Mary Jane’s Last Dance. Nevertheless Tom Petty himself stated that even if Dani California drew inspiration from his authorship he didn’t see any foul, to which he added: “I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock & roll songs sound alike.”

4. Snow (Hey Oh)

Album Stadium Arcadium
Release Date November 20th, 2006
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 22, March 3rd, 2007


Soft, melodic, and refreshing, the reinvigorating sound of Snow (Hey Oh) builds a wholesome, sublime experience to the naked ear. Starting with an iconic guitar phrase, bass, and drums that sum up to a heightened abrasive, warmer sound. Kiedis vocals deliver a balanced tonality between sharp and low, as he rambles on a reflective note his desire of starting on a “clean slate”. The track peaks in the last chorus building a euphoric finale with exhilarating guitar work, banging drums, charming backing vocals, and key participation of mellotron to heighten a joyous feel to the tune.

The song came from a Hendrix inspired riff by Frusciante, who added a flamenco styled pattern. When the idea was presented to the rest of the band, Flea and Kiedis referred to it as a “dense and ethereal riff”. The fresh start essence of the song, according to Flea, came from working on the piece as a group. Kiedis quickly interpreted the flow of the song as the “fresh start” milestone for the band.

Unlike other approaches to addiction, Snow is perhaps the most optimistic approach on the subject: “When will I know that I really can’t go /To the well once more time to decide on”. This verse serves as a final rejection of the habit despite being tempted to dwell back on it. When asked more broadly about the meaning of the tune, Kiedis had to say: “It’s about surviving, starting fresh. I’ve made a mess of everything, but I have a blank slate—a canvas of snow—and I get to start over.”

Snow (Hey Oh) became one of the most recurring tracks of the Chili Peppers since its release. It peaked as #1 Billboard Modern Rock chart, where it stayed for 5 consecutive weeks. It also marked the 11th single for the band to top the charts which earned them the all-time record for the artist with most singles to top the Modern Rock chart. In the past decade, Red Hot Chili Peppers earned legendary status, and one of their reference tracks and perhaps as one of the best alternative songs from recent decades.

3. By The Way

Album By The Way Single
Release Date June 10th, 2002
Peak Billboard Ranking Rank 34, August 34th, 2002

Opening with one of the most iconic bass/guitar intros and a harmonic blend of the two, By the Way is an undeniable power-jam. Kiedis’ vocals perfectly match the feeling of the song, shifting from mellow and melodic to fast chopped rapped verses throughout the entire song. It brings playful, exhilarating layers to the track. With an infectious chorus, heavy drums, rough bass and mean guitar, By The Way makes for a perfect Chili Peppers anthem. One that any fan will pinpoint immediately as an all-time favorite due to its euphoric essence.

Anthony Kiedis has revealed that the song was inspired during the 9/11 aftermath, where negativity and heaviness were at an all-time high. Decided to take matters into his own hands, the band wanted to ensure that despite the rough patch, there was “infinite beauty” in the world and a balance between glee and depression. Taking this into account, Kiedis revisits the mythical Dani – one that was mentioned in Californication and later on in Dani, California. She comes in to display an example of optimism in the face of adversity.

By the Way topped the Billboard Modern Chart as #1 for 14 consecutive weeks, the second longest period at the charts for the band, right behind Scar Tissue. The positive critical reception shocked the Chili Peppers, claiming that they were attempting to make the most anti-commercial song possible. It was even more of a shock when the band’s management decided to make it the leading single of the album, to which they enthusiastically agreed.

2. Scar Tissue

Album Californication
Release Date May 25th, 1999
Peak Billboard Position Rank 9, October 2nd, 1999

A counterpart to Otherside, Anthony Kiedis refers to Scar Tissue as a “Playful happy-to-be-alive” song. A jangly cheerful opening riff and wishful-thinking lyrics may come across as slightly bitter. However, the breezy feel and refreshing nature shine the colorful essence of the tune. A harmonic chorus, refreshing beats, and a mellow expressive guitar solo enhance a sense of a lonesome peaceful scenario.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers made a comeback and established themselves as superstars with Californication, much of that success is owed to this song in particular. With a clean Frusciante back for a second tenor with the band following the departure of Navarro, the Chili Peppers seemed to finally straighten up their dark past.

Scar Tissue can be considered the flagship sound for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. During its early stages of conception, it was a therapeutic, safe place for Kiedis, who said: “I ran outside with my handheld tape recorder and, with that music playing in the background, started singing the entire chorus to the song.” He also pointed out that Scar Tissue has a phoenix rising from the ashes’ nature, as it points out the now healed scars of the band.

Additional to mass and continuous radio play up until this date, Scar Tissue earned The Red Hot Chili Peppers Best Rock Song in the 2000’s Grammy Awards. It was also placed on Guitar World’s 63rd best guitar solo and peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot chart, as well as #1 on Billboard’s Alternative and Mainstream rock charts. The song has a universal listen to trait, no matter what genre you prefer, Scar Tissue will appeal and make its way to your playlist.

1. Under the Bridge

Album Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Release Date March 10th, 1992
Peak Billboard Position Rank 2, June 6th, 1992

With a mellow and melodic guitar intro and progression, Under the Bridge is one of the most iconic Chili Peppers tracks. Its soothing and melancholic nature remains, compliments, contrasts, and turns uplifting during its peaks in both chorus and outro. Flea’s lines add a warmer fill to Frusciante’s sharp arpeggios and chord progression. Smith’s tom and snare fill brings in new dimensions to the song while Kiedis’ heartfelt vocals stand as the centerpiece and lead just before an uplifting climatic choir chant.

This piece contrasts a beautiful chord progression with the emotional nature of the lyrics, hence the chemistry and charming balance of the tune. It all started with a poem written by Kiedis after driving the L.A 101 Freeway after rehearsing with the band. It was a time when Anthony felt his sobriety was distancing him from the rest of the band, pondering about addiction and the recent passing of Hillel Slovak.

Kiedis claims that his lack of connection to his loved ones led him to find solace only in the city. He claimed that the buildings and hills were looking out for him more than anybody out there. Soon enough, he started singing his poem for comfort. Under the Bridge took the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the next level. It was an unexpected side of the band by the time it came out.

On the other hand, its references to drug use and love for their hometown didn’t drift away from their essence. This second single from Blood Sugar Sex Magic earned the band Viewer’s Choice Award and Breakthrough Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Additionally, it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot Charts, where it remained for 26 consecutive weeks.

Besides introducing the band into the world of Top 10, it went platinum in the US. It’s probably their most renowned song, regardless of how familiar you are to the band. The Peppers hadn’t foreseen the success of this tune but didn’t deny its commercial potential. Nowadays, it is seen as one of Rock ‘n Roll’s alternative anthems. This is easily one of the best red hot chili peppers songs of all time.

Final Thoughts: The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been around for nearly four decades now. Their legacy explores a wide diversity in genre and sound, and there is no telling what the future holds for them. Will there be a new funky evolution with more electronic elements? A decade with Klinghoffer as ax-man brought a progressive, mellow asset to the Chili Peppers’ traditional funky groove.

His departure, even though it leaves a bitter mark on the fanbase, however, it opens up a new exciting prospect for the band’s future sound. It would be exciting to see Frusciante pick up where Klinghoffer left things and see a few The Getaway tracks performed by the veteran guitarist.

With Frusciante back in the game, claiming that he’s back with the Peppers to “Continue to play electronic music,” it’s exciting to see what will come next in this era of RHCP.

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