Top 10 Songs From the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Essential Playlist From This Iconic LA Band

After such a long career studded with so many hits, the Red Hot Chili Peppers don’t make it easy to narrow down their catalog to 10 essential tracks. With that in mind, this list will probably start a few disagreements, but these songs are some of the group’s most enduring.

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Californication Cover
Courtesy Warner Bros.

As one of Los Angeles' most iconic bands of the last 25 years, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have steadfastly chronicled their hometown. For the title track of their 1999 album, the band produced a somber, epic song about the city’s dark side as frontman Anthony Kiedis sings of drug addiction and pornography. “Californication” does a superb job of capturing both the city’s glamour and its repellent excesses.

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'Snow (Hey Oh)'

Stadium Arcadium Cover Art
Courtesy Warner Bros.

The band transitioned into elder-statesman status in the 21st century, and “Snow ((Hey Oh)” is a good example of the group’s newfound interest in laid-back, slightly funky pop tunes. RHCP’s rhythm section powers the song ​along and guitarist John Frusciante gives the track a feel-good vibe that helped it catch on with mainstream audiences.

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RHCP one hot minute album art
Courtesy Warner Bros.

Frusciante left the band during the making of 1995’s album "One Hot Minute," and he was replaced by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The band’s new member acquitted himself well on this song from that album about life’s intersections of pleasure and pain, a thematic staple of the Chili Peppers’ lyrics. Bassist Flea shows off his skill, but Navarro’s flashy guitar technique is equally memorable.

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'Behind the Sun'

the uplift mofo party plan cover art
Courtesy Warner Bros.

“Behind the Sun” first appeared on RHCP’s 1987 album "The Uplift Mofo Party Plan," but after the band became superstars thanks to 1991’s "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," the track was reintroduced to the group’s growing fan base on a greatest-hits collection. Featuring guitarist Hillel Slovak, who died a year later, “Behind the Sun” is a psychedelic, vaguely Middle-Eastern tale about talking dolphins and islands in the sky. They would make more polished songs later in their career, but here’s an early example of their playful, hippie essence.

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'Breaking the Girl'

Red blood cover art
Courtesy Warner Bros.

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers write a love song, it tends not to be a straightforward tale. Take this "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" cut. Frontman Kiedis is lamenting a girlfriend who seems to have left him, but “Breaking the Girl” is just as much about his own inabilities to love and his complicated relationship with his father. Featuring acoustic guitar and Mellotron (provided by Brendan O’Brien), the song’s unusual musical arrangement is as disorienting and engaging as the singer’s candid, rambling thoughts.

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'Scar Tissue'

Californication Album Cover Art
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

When Kiedis wrote his 2004 memoir, he titled it "Scar Tissue." Not surprisingly, this song, which was released five years earlier, is equally confessional, detailing his problems with drug abuse. But the real star of “Scar Tissue” is Frusciante, whose mournful, slow-motion guitar riffs and solos re-create the feeling of being at the end of your rope and wondering what the point is in ​waking up tomorrow morning.​

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'Give It Away'

blood sugar sex magik cover
Courtesy Warner Bros.

Emphasizing the “sex” portion of "Blood Sugar Sex Magik’s" title, “Give It Away” is a salacious, slippery ode to gettin’ freaky. Well, that’s what it sounds like anyway – Kiedis raps random lyrics about Bob Marley and his virility, while Flea lays down a booty-shaking bassline. “Give It Away” is about capturing a feeling, and audiences understood the message: It’s time to get the party started.

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Californication album art
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

The height of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “mature” era, “Otherside” combines emotional lyrics and subdued, complex musicianship for a plea for transcendence. Kiedis sings about his difficulties with cleaning up his act, and the band delivers an articulate mixture of stripped-down instrumentation that complements its frontman’s quiet anxiety.

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'My Friends'

one hot minute album cover
Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

"One Hot Minute" tends to be disparaged by the band’s fans, but that album produced one of RHCP’s most soulful ballads. In “My Friends,” the narrator combats his loneliness by acknowledging that everyone goes through similar depression – and sometimes at the same time. “I love all of you hurt by the cold,” Kiedis sings on the chorus, making this big-hearted track on par with R.E.M.’s equally comforting “Everybody Hurts.”

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'Under the Bridge'

RHCP album cover art
Courtesy Warner Bros.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career can be divided into two halves – the period before and after “Under the Bridge,” released in 1991. The band’s most famous ballad established the template for many of the group’s later hits – introspective lyrics, a melancholy melody and a rousing sing-along chorus. After “Under the Bridge,” the RHCP were clearly determined to become a superstar band, but this song remains their most memorable and cathartic moment.

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Your Citation
Grierson, Tim. "Top 10 Songs From the Red Hot Chili Peppers." ThoughtCo, Nov. 17, 2017, Grierson, Tim. (2017, November 17). Top 10 Songs From the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Retrieved from Grierson, Tim. "Top 10 Songs From the Red Hot Chili Peppers." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 24, 2017).