Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career-defining fifth album Blood Sugar Sex Magik, released in September 1991, was a game-changer, popularizing a unique fusion of funk-rock-rap-metal that would propel the band to prolific heights, and pave the way for melodic alternative, guitar-based music in the early 90s mainstream.
We’re celebrating the breakthrough album’s 30th anniversary this month with a look back at the singles that have risen to the status of classics and remain some of the band’s most beloved, in the three decades since it was released.
Despite the Chili’s previous album Mother’s Milk enjoying some relative success on the Billboard charts in 1989, nothing could prepare them for the cyclonic success of their fifth studio effort, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. With legendary producer Rick Rubin at the helm The album arrived sounding completely new, like nothing they’d ever released before; dialling back the bass-driven funk and distorted guitars and accentuating the melodic songwriting of guitarist John Frusciante created a sound that was fluid and heavy – the perfect bed for Anthony Kiedis’ lyrical themes of lust and exuberance, delivered with the manic energy of a Californian Beat poet, pre-occupied by free love and the expansion of consciousness.
Give It Away
The album’s first single, Give It Away Now, is a perfect example of that vocal duality, sounding like a hyped-up war cry, Kiedis raps about surrendering one’s desire for material possessions and seeking fulfilment in selfless acts of kindness. The song gave the band their first top 10 hit in the US and landed them heavy rotation on MTV with a standout arthouse/space-punk music video directed by French film-maker, Stéphane Sednaoui.
Under The Bridge
Their follow-up single, Under The Bridge remains one of the most iconic, and perhaps most emotionally-driven, cuts in the Chili’s canon. The minimalist acoustic composition, highlighted by a soaring chorus choir was an unexpected offering from the established heavy hitters, however, the song’s raw sensitivity and weighty reflections of loneliness and addiction struck universally recognizable chord – to date, Under the Bridge is the band's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100.
Suck My Kiss
Catapulting us back to the adrenalized funk-rock-rap revolution is the album’s third single, Suck My Kiss blasting heavy, pointed guitars and Flea’s obliterating bass over Kiedis’ lusty oeuvres.
Breaking The Girl
The Chili’s moving lament to doomed love, Breaking the Girl captures the heartbreak of divergent desires with melodic yearnings that eloquently showcase Kiedis’ singing chops and Chad Smith’s mastery of tasteful complex rhythms in the epic percussion break.
If You Have To Ask
Fifth and final single, If You Have To Ask joyously celebrates the band’s funk roots with a Sly Stone inspired groove and soaring solo from Frusciante elevating the ode to self-trust with his transcendent fluidity.
Guitar Player magazine credited Frusciante’s playing as a turning point for the Chili’s, "by blending acid-rock, soul-funk, early art-rock, and blues style with a raw, unprocessed Strat-and-Marshall tone, [Frusciante] hit on an explosive formula that has yet to be duplicated."
Blood Sugar Sex Magik wasn’t just one of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most definitive albums, it was one of the most definitive album’s of the 1990s, helping propel alternative rock into the mainstream. Revisit Blood Sugar Sex Magic below!
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