10 Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

Choosing the ten best Red Hot Chili Peppers songs isn’t easy. They’ve had enough singles to make any list a simple best of the best. We’ve attempted to avoid that route, and throw in a few left-field choices.

  1. Higher Ground: The Peppers’ early, barn-burning cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” is five minutes of insanity. Flea and Chad Smith are rhythmic monsters, while the vocals and guitars are somewhere in outer space. The track was unlike anything at the time, a manic mixture of punk and funk that opened the floodgates for a decade of rock/rap fusion. An early success, it’s one of the Chili Peppers’ best songs.
  2. Under the Bridge: From the Hendrixian riff to the impassioned vocals, “Under the Bridge” is a classic song, and one of the Chili Peppers’ best. While Kiedis’ lyrics can err to the moronic (ie -“Gorilla/Cuntilla/Sammy D and uh/Salmonella”), this personal tale of his struggle with drug addiction is harrowing and heartfelt.
  3. The Righteous & The Wicked: “Righteous” opens with a descending bass riff that sounds like a funk Black Sabbath. The tremendous, popping groove of the verse is unstoppable. Coupled with the blazing guitar work and a huge chorus, it’s an infectious groove that is one of the Peppers’ best songs.
  4. I Could Have Lied: “I Could Have Lied” is a gorgeous, underrated acoustic track from “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”. Again, Kiedis comes up trumps with the lyrics, while Frusciante’s melancholy fuzz solo cries across the track. “I Could Have Lied” is a regretful ode to failed love, and one of the band’s best.
  5. Soul to Squeeze: Along with “Under the Bridge”, “Soul to Squeeze” served as early proof that there was more to the Chili Peppers than party raps and socks on dicks. Released on the “Coneheads” soundtrack, the song is another tragic tryst between Kiedis and heroin. Neither perfectly in line with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” nor “One Hot Minute”, “Soul to Squeeze” proved a glimpse of things to come. An indication of RHCP’s development, “Soul to Squeeze” is one of the band’s best.
  6. Scar Tissue: “Scar Tissue” isn’t just one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ songs; it’s one of the great rock songs of all time. The band opened vast new vistas with the track. Flea’s aching bass perfectly complements Kiedis' bittersweet tale of loneliness, while Frusciante’s slide leads are some of the most sorrowful, yearning guitar ever laid down on tape. It was a hell of a comeback single.
  7. Easily: “Easily” is one of “Californication’s” lost tracks. Chad Smith’s drums and Flea’s bass lock into a headlong groove, pushing the song forward. With the chorus, the groove stumbles, crashing with waves of melody. Frusciante’s playing maintains a frantic, post-punk choppiness until the end of the track, when he layers four lead guitars, doing with six strings what the Beach Boys did with vocal harmonies.
  8. By the Way: If “By the Way” were just the verse, which is classic late period Chili Peppers, it would be just another RHCP song. If it were nothing but the anthemic chorus, reminiscent of their funk days, it would be a silly act of nostalgia. But it’s both of these things, a perfect marriage of their late-period melodies and early stomp. This juxtaposition makes “By the Way” one of the Chili Peppers’ best songs.
  9. Cabron: Cabron, buried deep into “By the Way’s” extensive track listing, is a lost gem. The track starts with finger picked Spanish guitar, before skipping into a bounce somewhere between mariachi and ska. The song is anchored by a sweet, innocent melodiousness. Cabron is unexpected, original, and wonderful, making it one of the Pepper’s best. 
  10. Dani California: What do you get when you steal the riff from Tom Petty’s “Last Dance With Mary Jane”, throw some funk slap under it, and toss off a massive chorus? The latest phase in the Chili Peppers’ twisted career trajectory. The tightness of the band’s interplay makes the standard rock single a great song, while Frusciante’s ridiculous culminating guitar solo and underlying wrecking-ball groove takes the track into the stratosphere. The flanged drum fill is pretty sweet too.

Honorable Mention:

  • Aeroplane
  • Give it Away
  • Californication
  • My Friends
  • Can’t Stop
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