If there’s one band that’s synonymous with mixing rock, funk, and a dash of California sunshine, it’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers. These guys have been delivering pure musical awesomeness for decades, and their catalog is a treasure trove of anthems that can instantly transport you to a state of groove-induced euphoria. From the funky basslines to the passionate lyrics, the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs are a burst of pure energy, and their iconic blend of rock and funk is a recipe for musical magic.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, formed in Los Angeles in 1983, emerged as a pioneering force in the alternative rock and funk rock genres. The band’s original lineup featured vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1984, but it was the addition of guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith that marked a turning point for the band.
The release of “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” in 1991 catapulted them to mainstream success with hits like “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away.” The Chili Peppers have continued to evolve their sound over the years, blending elements of punk, funk, and rock. They remain one of the most enduring and influential bands in the music industry.
As they continue to tour throughout the United States and abroad, what’s truly awesome about the best Red Hot Chili Peppers’ songs is their ability to stand the test of time. StudyFinds has got you covered with the seven hits you should listen to next, according to music experts. Check out the playlist and let us know your favorites in the comments below!
The List: Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs, Per Music Experts
1. “Under the Bridge” (1992)
Number one in the list of expert recommendations for the best Red Hot Chili Pepper songs is “Under the Bridge.” “The song that catapulted the band to superstardom was also one in which Anthony Kiedis laid his soul bare for all to see. The track was about the singer’s heroin addiction and his own isolation the deeper he got into the drug. The lyrics initially were part of a poem, and producer Rick Rubin reportedly convinced the singer to explore them as a song. The track also featured a wide style shift, from the somber opening guitar chords through the mid-tempo drum beats up to the climactic finale,” says Loudwire.
Brace yourself for a rhythmic rollercoaster with this memorable classic. “Their gentlest and most touching song to date, ‘Under the Bridge’ emerged from an awkward starting point. While making that album, the newly sober Kiedis found Flea and Frusciante toking up in a studio and, on the drive home, freestyled a poem and melody ‘to deal with my own anguish.’ (The title referred to an actual overpass in L.A. where Kiedis used to get high.) He initially resisted giving the nascent song to the band — telling Rubin it was out of their wheelhouse given how ‘slow and dramatic and melodic’ it was — but eventually Kiedis relented. What emerged was a downcast tune that still managed to soar and be hopeful (like in the way he stretches out the word ‘love’), leaving behind all the pain and drama that went into it,” writes Rolling Stone.
Curious about the deep cuts that made the RHCP’s legend even more legendary? “Rick Rubin’s quest for a more honest Chili Peppers — less obviously ‘produced,’ more vulnerable and real — is best exemplified by ‘Under the Bridge.’ Legend has it Kiedis had these lyrics in a notebook, not intended for sharing, but Rubin found it, encouraging him and the rest of the band to turn it into a song. An aching ballad detailing the loneliness Kiedis felt in the throes of addiction, the band turns it into a sweeping epic, different from anything they’d done before. The song became their highest-charting single and continues to be beloved, a timeless classic for the ages. The fact that Frusciante, his mother, and her church choir provided the operatic backing vocals for the finale is the audio equivalent of guardian angels watching over the narrator in his darkest hour,” shares EW.
2. “Suck My Kiss” (1991)
Number two in the list of expert recommendations for the best red-hot chili peppers songs is “Suck My Kiss.” “Seasoned comics know a ‘hard K’ sound will almost always get you a reaction. The Chili Peppers wholeheartedly embraced that trick in ‘Suck My Kiss,’ a song that finds Kiedis dropping ‘motherf***ers’ left and right, spelling out ‘k-i-s-s-i-n-g,’ and scatting ‘Chicka chicka dee/Do me like a banshee.’ That’s in addition to the chorus, where the music drops out and it’s just Kiedis’ naked voice begging you to ‘Suck my kiss!’ One of the most primal of RHCP songs, it’s the beating heart of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and proof that what you’re singing about sometimes matters less than how you’re singing it,” writes Rolling Stone.
“Before the Red Hot Chili Peppers became the darlings of MTV, they were hard and they were funky, with a tightly coiled aggression that set them apart from the rest of the pack. Suck My Kiss is them at their early ’90s best. It’s lean and it’s mean, with more grove and more power than should strictly speaking be legal. Anthony Kiedis’ performance is off the scale (as is his libido, judging from some of the lyrics). It’s effortless and it’s brilliant, and if you haven’t heard it already, prepare for a revelation,” says Chaospin.
Which RHCP track turns your room into a party zone? “The iconic ‘90s Chili Peppers sound: aggressive, heavy funk that could not have been written by anyone but them. Built on Flea’s powerful rhythmic bass, and Chad Smith’s in-your-face beat, it’s a barnstormer showcasing everything that was great about their early ‘90s incarnation. It has groove, it has power and it has Anthony Kiedis letting his libido loose all over the place with lines like ‘Little Bo Peep, cumin’ from my stun gun’. Never again would the Chili Peppers operate as such a unified creative unit as when they made Blood Sugar Sex Magik and never again would they write songs this effortlessly brilliant,” writes Louder Sound.
3. “Californication” (1999)
This song tones things down a bit from our second choice with more of a “surfer-esque” groove to it. “John Frusciante returned to the band for 1999’s Californication and the Chili Peppers notably upped their game from 1995’s One Hot Minute. The title track – ripping into plastic Hollywood culture – was a bugger to complete. Kiedis, delighted with his lyrics, presented them to the band who struggled to write a song around them. Finally, it came to Frusciante, who wanted to channel The Cure in the song, and the subsequently sparse partnership between guitar and bass has become a staple of the band’s live set,” writes Louder Sound.
Fans of the band simply know the vibes of this one. “The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a few songs that would be considered decade-defining for the ’90s, but perhaps most of all this would apply to ‘Californication’, the title track off their 1999 album of the same name. This song takes a jab at the superficial lifestyles and attitudes of the Hollywood elite, and what one might have to do to get there,” says Extra Chill.
“The Red Hot Chili Peppers presenting their home state as a seething cesspool of depravity — a pretty surface masking dark undercurrents — is like a musical version of a 1940s film noir. Many of these films were set in L.A., the land of contrasts — image vs. reality, dark vs. light, good vs. bad — a duality with which the Chili Peppers are quite familiar. ‘Californication’ feels like clicking through photos on a found phone — blood in the bathroom stall, plastic surgery disasters, teenage brides — accompanied by the achiest guitar this side of Sunset. ‘Space may be the final frontier but it’s made in a Hollywood basement’ sums it up quite well: You think you’re looking at the glorious universe, but it’s only fantasy commodified, packaged, and sold,” shares EW.
4. “Soul to Squeeze” (1993)
The lofty guitar used throughout this track almost makes you feel like you are floating. “Feather-light, carried along by a breezy guitar riff and a burbling-brook bass, ‘Soul to Squeeze’ has an easy-does-it quality that belies the subtext — this is a song about recovery. And on paper, when Kiedis steps into this springtime field of flowers with ‘I got a bad disease/Up from my brain is where I bleed,’ the effect sounds jarring, like the wrong lyrics accidentally cut into this pretty tune. Then again, this couplet kind of proves the thing fans already know and love: Self-expression takes priority over commercial appeal. A slow, steady build follows the lyric’s advice to take it slow and find peace of mind. As a ‘lost’ track from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the song wasn’t included on the album but instead released as a B-side (and as part of the Coneheads soundtrack, of all things), eventually hitting No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Modern Rock chart. But it’s not all mellowship here; Kiedis can’t resist a little ridiculous scatting. In the words of the immortal bard: Doo doo doo doo dingle zing a dong bone/Ba-di ba-da ba-zumba crunga cong,” shares EW.
Turn your room into a dance floor with the perfect RHCP anthem and groove to the rhythm. “Recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions but only released as a single two years later — when it turned up on the Coneheads soundtrack, of all places — ‘Soul to Squeeze’ felt a little like a sequel to ‘Under the Bridge.’ It had the same mellow, mystical vibe, driven by an airtight Flea–Smith groove and a dreamy Kiedis chorus hook. Frusciante had left the band by the time the video dropped — a carnival-themed clip featuring a cameo from Chris Farley and Kiedis befriending a chimp— but the guitarist’s double-tracked lead break is the cherry on top of the song’s melancholy lope,” writes Rolling Stone.
“Those who fell in love with Kiedis and co’s signature hit, Under The Bridge, will have been thrilled to discover another of the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs on the single’s flipside. Recorded during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik sessions, the excellent Soul To Squeeze remains a pop song of a similarly high calibre, featuring one of Kiedis’ most intimate, close-miked vocals and a gloriously restrained performance from his bandmates. The song was simply too good to languish as a B-side and it enjoyed well-earned mainstream success as a standalone US Top 30 hit in 1993, after featuring on the soundtrack to Steve Barron’s sci-fi comedy, Coneheads,” says ThisisDig.
5. “Black Summer” (2022)
This track was the first song the band released with guitarist John Frusciante after her returned to the band in 2019. “The long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s The Getaway, 2022’s Unlimited Love rode in on especially heightened anticipation, due to the return of the Chili Peppers’ prodigal guitarist John Frusciante. It didn’t disappoint, either: Frusciante played with his customary fluidity, and his bandmates performed with all the zeal of a group confidence that they’d struck gold all over again. From the off, its mellow yet robust opening song, Black Summer, sounded like a classic-in-waiting,” says ThisisDig.
This one is much newer than the rest on the list, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t embody RHCP’s signature sound. “While it’s obvious that the Red Hot Chili Peppers nailed almost all of their songs in the ’90s and 2000s, the 2020s started off strong for them. Their 12th studio album Unlimited Love was released in 2022, and Black Sumer was the first single to be released from the album. It was also the first track to feature guitarist John Frusciante after a 10-year hiatus. This became an instant rock hit, reaching the top of the Alternative Airplay chart to give them their 14th number one and setting or tying several records. It would also go on to win the MTV Video Music Award for Best Rock Video in 2022,” shares Music Grotto.
“It took 16 years for the band’s first new song with Frusciante, but Unlimited Love’s ‘Black Summer’ was totally worth the wait. The wayward guitarist brought the song structure with him when he rejoined the Chili Peppers, and Kiedis, Flea, and Smith jumped on it. The result is the group’s most vital — and most RHCP-sounding — song in ages, propelled by Flea’s slinking bassline and Frusciante’s melodic but in-your-face chords. ‘I was sitting there with the guitar thinking that I hadn’t written any rock music in so long,’ he told NME. ‘Could I still do that?’ Uh, yeah,” writes Rolling Stone.
6. “Dark Necessities” (2016)
Another more recent song in their repertoire, “Dark Necessities” is also beloved by fans. “In their own way, the Chili Peppers have never been strangers to brooding nights of the soul, and the kick-off single from 2016’s The Getaway wallows in them: ‘You don’t know my mind/Dark necessities are part of my design,’ Kiedis sings. The song’s somber textures, enhanced by a rumbling piano, reflect their first-time collaboration with producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. Kiedis was given an instrumental demo of the song by Burton and the band and supplied lyrics that, he said, addressed ‘how much creativity and growth and light comes out of those difficult struggles we have inside our heads that no one else can see,'” writes Rolling Stone.
“The Chili Peppers broke with tradition on their 11th album, The Getaway, by choosing to work with Danger Mouse instead of their long-time producer/associate Rick Rubin. Ever a hip name to drop, Danger Mouse (aka Brian Burton) has an impressive CV, both as a musician (with soul duo Gnarls Barkley) and as the producer of key releases by genre-spanning artists as diverse as Gorillaz, The Black Keys and Norah Jones, and he discovered that the Chili Peppers were just as open to influences from across the board. Framed with hip-hop beats and housey piano breaks, and infused with an irresistibly soulful chorus, The Getaway’s lead single, Dark Necessities, showed that Danger Mouse had broadened the Peppers’ palette without sacrificing their core values. It remains one of he most satisfyingly mature entries among the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs,” says ThisisDig.
“Dark Necessities was the first single to be released from their 2016 album The Getaway and had a limited cassette release that came with the album’s deluxe package. It gave the band their 13th number-one and 25th Top 10 single on the Alternative Airplay chart, which was both records at the time. It then became the fourth track ever to top the Alternative Songs, Mainstream Rock, and Adult Alternative Songs charts simultaneously,” shares Music Grotto.
7. “Aeroplane” (1995)
Rounding out the list is the unforgettable classic, “Aeroplane.” “It combined Flea’s skill on the base with a much more pop-oriented sound than normal for the band, giving them something more radio-friendly than our last entry. It was oddly excluded from their Greatest Hits album, but the music video for it was included on the DVD that came with the hits album,” shares Music Grotto.
“Aeroplane” is your ticket to a wild ride with funky basslines and fiery vocals. “Like everything else about 1995’s One Hot Minute, ‘Aeroplane’ is polarizing. Part of the band’s Dave Navarro Period, it was made after Frusciante quit the band (for the first time) and while Kiedis was using again. The lyrics are darker, the sound harder…But the bop of the ‘Aeroplane’ chorus and Flea’s euphoric slap groove are like a dysfunctional family trying their best to put a happy face on for the holidays. And maybe when the children’s chorus (featuring Flea’s daughter Clara and her pals) comes in at the end to creepy-cute sing ‘It’s my aeroplane’ over and over, we can pretend that all is forgiven and we had a good time,” writes Rolling Stone.
Ever wondered which RHCP songs can instantly lift your spirits and set your feet tapping? It’s probably this one. “Having hit the big time with Blood Sugar Sex Magik, the Chili Peppers seemingly had the world at their feet, but they were forced to regroup after an increasingly disaffected John Frusciante quit in 1992. After a series of short-term replacements failed to work out, the band drafted in Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, who brought with him a schooling in classic rock and psychedelia. Navarro shifted the band’s dynamic during his five-year tenure with the group, and One Hot Minute, his lone album as a Chili Pepper, was darker and harsher than anything the group had released to date. The standout among its three hits, the gloriously catchy Aeroplane remains one of the poppiest moments among the best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs,” says ThisisDig.
Which RHCP song do you love the most? Leave a comment to let us know!
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