10. “I Could Have Lied”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Perhaps one of the most subdued RHCP songs, Kiedis is full of regret as he laments over a lost relationship. That relationship was reportedly with Sinead O’Connor, although that sounds a little far fetched. She supposedly dumped him amid cheating rumors. In a 2009 interview with Q Magazine, O’Connor denied she ever had a relationship with Kiedis, saying, “I hung out with him a few times and the row we had was cos he suggested we might become involved.” O’Connor said she doesn’t “give a shit about” this song, adding: “I’m not a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. I can’t bear them, I don’t get it.” Whether or not it’s true, it’s still one their best, even though Kiedis is basically admitting he’s a douchebag. –Kyle Eustice
09. “Hard to Concentrate”
Stadium Arcadium (2006)
Fifteen years earlier, a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called “Hard to Concentrate” would have come with an “Explicit” label, but the band that used to want to “Party on your pussy” was now ready to propose. It was Flea who was actually getting married at the time, and his bass forms the palpitating heartbeat of the best pure love song in the Chili Peppers’ canon.
The lyrics are scatterbrained and very sweet. The way Kiedis starts a thought and runs it into another and another mimics a kind of manic nervousness. The band that broke through on the back of their braggadocio found a new depth by being utterly vulnerable. –Wren Graves
08. “Don’t Forget Me”
By the Way (2002)
This came from a spontaneous jam, but the end product features Frusciante on both bass and guitars (and no Flea anywhere!). Listen closely to the light backing vocal and keyboard part during Frusciante’s three-note solo to have an extra layer of ethereal touch, but on its own this song is still great. It features a handful of toss-away Kiedisisms, but it also touches on something greater: that sense of loss and the need to be remembered. Though never released as a single, it’s still become a trademark of the band’s live show, even with Klinghoffer in the lineup. –Dan Bogosian
07. “Soul to Squeeze”
Coneheads OST (1993)
Forget the Coneheads connection — there’s no other RHCP hit that weeps like this one. Weeping doesn’t always mean sad. It means emoting through music, through their instruments, through their bond with each other, through the tear-shaped notes floating away from Frusciante’s guitar neck. He had already left the band for the first time when “Soul to Squeeze” was released, and looking back, it sounds like his farewell letter. Even if there were hard feelings at the time, they no doubt become softer every time this plays. –Dan Caffrey
The European tour in support of The Uplift Mofo Party Plan had been hell, but with the support of his friends, Hillel Slovak had managed to keep his heroin addiction under control. When he returned home, however, he became reclusive and stopped returning his bandmates’ calls. The coroner would later say that Slovak had overdosed two days before his body was found.
Anthony Kiedis struggled with addiction himself, and for years he was haunted by a kind of survivor’s guilt. Some of the Chili Peppers’ best songs deal with Slovak’s death, including “Knock Me Down” and “My Lovely Man”. But the greatest of them all is “Otherside”. Frusciante’s 13-note riff is one of the most iconic in modern rock, but the brilliance of the song is in the way that tension builds, releases, and returns again — always a little stronger than before. It’s the furious helplessness of it all, the cycle of rage and resignation, the acknowledgment of where you’re heading and the admission that you are powerless to stop it. –Wren Graves
One Hot Minute (1995)
Opened with Flea’s childish “Yeah, aw yeah” vocals whispered lightly, this song has it all: a children’s choir, a bass solo, one of the all-time greatest slap basslines by any artist, some sweet wah-wah guitar, and lyrics that aren’t gibberish at all. Kiedis raps about secretly spiralling back into his drug addiction and his personal insecurities. Everyone’s on fire for the whole session. It was somehow left off of Greatest Hits in favor of “My Friends” — apparently only one One Hot Minute track could survive — but don’t let that fool you about this top 40 hit. It’s almost as good as it gets. –Dan Bogosian
On some level, typically the surface, every RHCP song is about their hometown of California. In a sense, their entire existence has been built around the band trying to come to terms with the lurid history of their state and its impact on the millions who live there. Their approach is often clumsy, and they may place more importance than is really necessary, but every once in a while, they are able to truly capture the many nuances of the grand dreams and crushing disappointments that California has to offer.
“Californication” is one of those times, a somber meditation on the cost of fame, both physically and emotionally, and the parts of themselves people sacrifice to try and achieve it. Sure, the song’s a little ludicrous in moments, but that’s the whole point. No one understood the cliches of rock and roll quite like RHCP, and this song sums up their lifelong conflict with its draws and destructive nature. One of the band’s most well-known songs, it epitomizes their puzzling, tragic nature in a way unlike any part of their discography, no small feat. No one really knows exactly what the term “Californiation” means, but we all understand it. If not their best, this is truly the quintessential Red Hot Chili Peppers song. –David Sackllah
03. “Give It Away”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
In 8th grade, this song was like an anthem of rebellion for me. I was a K-Swiss-wearing, MC Hammer-loving teenager on the verge of graduating from Catholic school and just beginning to discover “alternative” music. My father had exposed me to The Clash, Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop, and things like that, but the RHCP were the first group I felt I truly discovered on my own (although, in retrospect, I did steal Mother’s Milk out of my father’s cassette collection). “Give It Away” represented artistic freedom, a wild adventure, and unadulterated funk. Kiedis apparently wrote the song’s lyrical refrain in response to an experience he shared with ex-girlfriend Nina Hagen regarding (his?) altruistic behavior and the value of selflessness. The video was even more alluring — who wears gold glitter on their lips? The RHCP do — that’s who. –Kyle Eustice
02. “Scar Tissue”
The RHCP knocked it out of the park with the first single from their seventh studio album, 1999’s Californication. After an extended “break” (read: rehab) from the band, Frusciante — at Flea’s request — returned once again to round out the lineup with Flea, Kiedis and Smith. Dave Navarro had just been fired, and the classic lineup obviously had the magic formula. Californication sold over 16 million copies and earned the group a Grammy Award in 2000. “Scar Tissue” now gets frequently mentioned in the same breath as “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away” as part of the group’s very best work. –Kyle Eustice
01. “Under The Bridge”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
Few songs reach the same level of universal fame that this does, and even fewer of those songs are as profoundly meaningful. Kiedis was driving around Los Angeles thinking about his time as a junkie (and one specific time he pretended to be his drug dealer’s brother to get a score under a bridge), former guitarist John Frusciante wrote the music, and everything swiftly fell into place.
It hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It got covered by All Saints. The Peppers performed it on Saturday Night Live with a strung-out Frusciante rebelling against the others and again in the Tsunami tribute after Kanye West famously said “George Bush hates black people.” Kiedis claims in his autobiography that within a month after Blood Sugar Sex Magik’s release, he lost his voice during this song, but the crowd already knew all the words and sang so loud he could hear it — and that was what convinced them to make it a single. True or not, it’s one of the few universally beautiful songs out there that seems to say something deeper about loneliness and where you’re from, even if the music video is just a shirtless Californian walking around Los Angeles. –Dan Bogosian