25 Years Ago: Red Hot Chili Peppers Go Mainstream With ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’
The success of the fourth album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk, allowed them to get a new and better deal with Warner Bros. The follow-up, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, released on Sept. 24, 1991, turned them into major rock stars and has become the Southern California outfit’s defining work.
To produce the record, the band chose Rick Rubin, an interesting move given that he had mainly worked with rappers and hip-hop acts along with heavy metal artists like Slayer and Danzig. It would prove to be a more-than successful venture.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik was all the best parts of their previous four releases, delivered in a solid, streamlined fashion. Much of the credit was due to Rubin, who managed to bring out the best of each member and mesh their musicality together perfectly. Recording took place at the Houdini Mansion in Los Angeles and, according to guitarist John Frusciante, the Peppers benefited from the “good vibes” the spirits brought.
Opener “The Power of Equality” sets the tone, featuring all of the elements that would standout throughout the following 16 tracks, discounting the final, jokey cover of Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot.” To say the group had matured would be disingenuous, frontman Anthony Kiedis mainly sings about sex, then some more sex, and finally, sings some lyrics about sex. That’s not a knock by any means; he does it well and is obviously passionate about it.
Flea’s bass-work is epic; he spends the entirety of the record giving a clinic on how to present the instrument as a focal point on the song. “Suck My Kiss,” “Naked in the Rain” and “If You Have to Ask” are just a few of the tracks that he flat-out owns, getting nothing but powerful accents from drummer Chad Smith.
Despite being considered a funk or funk-rock band, the Chili Peppers explore a wide breadth of sounds on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Yes, there’s a funk backbone for the most part, but there are also aspects of hip-hop and metal sprinkled in as well. Kiedis tints many of the faster songs with rapping, which sometimes flows along smartly to Flea’s playing. Frusciante straight-up lifts the riff from Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” by the end of “Give it Away," which was resulted in likely by a mix of his and Rubin’s love for metal.
Now on his second Chili Peppers album, the guitarist expands his playing throughout, shredding on “Funky Monks,” or completely changing the mood on something like “I Could Have Lied” with a wrenching solo. His diversity is astounding, even when slowing things down for “Breaking the Girl” and “Under the Bridge.” The latter would go on to become the band’s most popular song, and the lyrical content about the effects drugs had on Kiedis' life exposed his vulnerability while the song and its accompanying video would launch Red Hot Chili Peppers into the stratosphere of popularity.
Red Hot Chili Peppers Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness