Home > Tunes > What the horrible new Red Hot Chili Peppers song means

What the horrible new Red Hot Chili Peppers song means

September 13, 2011

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have a new song and it is predictably terrible. The cowbell in “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” is so out of place that even The Bruce Dickinson would have said to cut it from the song. Worse than that, though, are the lyrics. The chorus has frontman Anthony Kiedis crooning “Hey now, we’ve got to make it rain somehow.” That would be bad enough if it didn’t seem like a blatant rip-off of “Hey oh, listen what I say oh,” from their 2006 song “Snow (Hey Oh).”

It’s time to stop giving the Red Hot Chili Peppers a pass. They are not a good band and it’s time for us to admit that. Up until I heard “Rain Dance Maggie” if you would have asked me if I liked the Chili Peppers, I would have said yes. “It’s a shame that their new music isn’t as good, though,” I would have admitted. “I wish they would return to the music they made during their prime.”

Then it occurred to me that the glory days of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was the era between 1990 and 1992. In other words, it was Blood Sugar Sex Magik. They are a one-album band that has been living off of the reputation of that landmark album for the last 20 years, and even that album has some horrible songs (you’ve heard “Give It Away,” right?) Each time they release an album, people acknowledge that it is a disappointment, as if the greatness of Sex Magik is the norm. With only one good album, it is the anomaly, not the norm. Their good music is a fluke. The only decent album over the last 19 years is Stadium Arcadium, but that only has an album’s worth of good songs because it is a double album.

Serious artists Red Hot Chili Peppers

It’s easy to be fooled, because the Chili Peppers have a lot of talent. Flea is a talented bassist who does a good Bootsy Collins impression. With Hillel Slovak and John Frusciante, they have had two of the greatest guitarists of the last 30 years. They’re not particularly versatile, but the musicians do what they do well. Anthony Kiedis, on the other hand, isn’t really good at anything, other than convincing talented musicians to let him be in their band.

When it comes down to it, every Chili Peppers song that sucks does so because of Kiedis. His vocals range from passable to annoying and his lyrics range from terrible to I-seriously-hope-I-misheard-that. Take the hit “Scar Tissue” for instance. The song may sound catchy, but take some time to read the lyrics:

Blood loss in a bathroom stall/ southern girl with a scarlet drawl/ Wave goodbye to ma and pa/ ‘cause with the birds I’ll share/ With the birds I’ll share this lonely view.

It’s nice that Kiedis was able to put that rhyming dictionary that he got for Christmas to use, but stringing a bunch of phrases together that end with the same vowel sound isn’t songwriting. Sadly, this isn’t unusual. In fact, it seems to be Kiedis’s preferred method of lyric-writing. Chili Peppers lyrics are 1/3 I love California, 1/3 nonsensical rhyming, and 1/3 wordless babbling. The “hump de bump doop badu/ bump de hump doop bap/ hump de bump doop badu” pre-chorus in “Hump de Bump” is a good example of the latter.

Take your average Chili Peppers song and imagine little Anthony Kiedis handing it into his middle school English teacher. He would have received a big red F for his “poetry” and there probably would have been a lot of notes from the teacher saying “that’s not a word.”

When the band was expertly ripping off the funk pioneers who came before them, their catchy grooves could compensate for Kiedis’s idiocy. When the band transitioned from funk rockers to radio-friendly lite-rock, however, the rhythms were no longer able to cover up Kiedis.

I say this not to make the Chili Peppers seem like the archetype of terrible yet popular music. That’s what the Black Eyed Peas are for. I say this because we need to stop deluding ourselves. Every time the band releases a bad album, I convince myself that it is surprising. Expecting the Red Hot Chili Peppers to make good music because they did it once in 1991 is like expecting your college dropout kid to be a great artist based on how well he colored in kindergarten. It was 20 years ago. It’s time to move on.

Bonus Chili Pepper lyrics for your pleasure

The earth is made of dirt/ and wood/ and I’d be water if I could/ live in your dream/ in your stream (“I Like Dirt”)

I know, I know for sure/ that life is beautiful around the world/ I know, I know it’s you/ You say hello and then I say I do (“Around the World”)

I am you are me/ I am you are me/ Who? (“One Big Mob”)

I was riding/ riding on my bike/ me with my best friend/ We’re so alike (“One Hot Minute”)

Slow cheetah come/ before my forest/ Looks like it’s on today/ Slow cheetah come/ It’s so euphoric/ no matter what they say (“Slow Cheetah”)

White coulds I’m in/ a mitten full of fishermen/ C’mon Huckleberry Finn/ show me how to make her grin/ Well, I’m in Michigan (“Especially in Michigan”)

The dollar bill will mentally ill bill/ Mom and dad take your don’t be sad pill (“21st Century”)

Kiss that dyke/ I know you want to hold one/ Not on strike/ but I’m about to bowl one/ Bite that mic/ I know you never stole one/ Girls that like/ a story so I told one (“By the Way”)

  1. September 15, 2011 at 1:07 am

    “The song may sound catchy, but take some time to read the lyrics without the benefit of melody.”

    I don’t think it’s fair to evaluate a song on lyrics alone. As much as some people like to call song writing poetry, it isn’t. It’s song writing. They are two very different things. In poetry the words stand alone. In music, they are usually less than half of the experience.

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike post rehab Chili Peppers. I don’t think it’s fair to separate lyrics from music.

    That cowbell is a bit too much.

  2. Lola Gonzales
    July 17, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    You don’t have to be so mean! RHCP is amazing no matter what you think!!!!!

    • July 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      I respectfully disagree, but thank you for reading my blog.

      • Bruce
        May 16, 2014 at 11:14 pm

        What kind of music critic are you? Are you even qualified for this? Maybe you’ve never heard of funk rock before. Or maybe you haven’t hear rock before. I don’t know what kind of trash you listen to, but clearly you don’t know anything about music. The chili peppers are on of the most famous bands of all time BECAUSE OF THE LYRICS AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE SONGS. Anthony wrote those lyrics, he knows what they mean. Sure, they have some bad songs, but so does everyone. Many of the chili peppers’ songs, even the ones that aren’t famous, have a balance between the instrumentalists. Kiedis paints a picture for the listener.
        Hopefully, you no longer write music critiques, for you clearly aren’t qualified to do so.

  3. Bruce
    May 19, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Do you even play an instrument? Do you even know anything about music? The chili peppers are widely considered one of the greatest funk rock bands of all time (they’re in the rock and roll hall of fame). Read up on what you don’t know before you post something idiotic and laughable.

  4. Wil Tulowitzki
    May 20, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Yes Bruce, just double checked, Jeremy is right. There has never been one positive review on the peps. In fact I just found out after all these years I’ve been listening to garbage. I’m actually quite embarrassed that I thought I liked this. Thanks jeremy for setting us straight!

    • Bruce
      June 8, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      Funny man, real funny. Write an article once you’re qualified to. Read up on what music is, son.

  5. Bruce
    June 13, 2014 at 7:32 am

    You’re offending millions with this garbage. How is “hey now we’ve got to make it rain somehow” in any way similar to “hey oh listen to what I say oh” besides that both lines have “hey” in them? Rhythmically, and totally, not even close. Many of the chili peppers’ songs deal with coming through in times of struggle.

  6. Aiden
    June 13, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    You are WRONG!! Most I those lyrics have meanings, I agree about the ‘scatting’ and the “that’s not a word” did amuse me, but if YOU were literate, you would know his lyrics have a signature style of circumlocution (Google it, I dare you)

    • Aiden
      June 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Plus, you’re picking a certain few, but not the most meaningful songs. For example; Hey, Hard To Concentrate, Tear, Soul To Squeeze, Knock Me Down, and many, many, many others.

  7. July 8, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Yeah, I don’t want to rant a comment out on your review. I’ll play. You kinda come out as extremely hostile in your defense against what you’ve written. Especially when you say “only Anthony Kiedis” can feel offended. You disregard the role fans/critics play altogether, the latter of which you are actually playing rather consciously in this piece you have constructed against the RHCP. So, to conclude the first part of my post, if you have the right to opine critically about things about the RHCP that offend you then you have also got to consider equally the fact that your article could offend (which it has) a lot many RHCP fans who naturally then question your qualifications/know-how to write this piece. Fair enough.
    I think you miss the whole point of RHCP. I am just an ordinary fan, not a music history expert and I’m not closely associated with the band, heck I even live in a different country altogether . RHCP have always struck me as a “super fun” band. No pretense, no presumptuous lyrics and yet ultimate showmen and exploratory preset against a good idea of what they are good at. They made good money, entertained scores and scores of people and have evolved themselves as any person does in the course of their lifetime. The post rehab RHCP may not appeal to some but they’ve grown up and their fans have grown up. It’s impossible to be on top of your game always and if someone says they are changing with the times, then they are either pretentious or there’s a certain degree of compromise. Now, when I say presumptuous it’s obviously subjective. Some ppl like serious lyrics and the Steven Wilson’s and Thom Yorke’s do that but they are different people and different bands. You could relate to their lyrics as a fan. I think you highly understate the lyrical quality of Kiedis btw. Great lyrics doesn’t just mean hundreds of metaphors. Kiedis talks about deep issues without being complicated about it and yet deep enough where it doesn’t shout out at you but rather strikes a chord. All while having fun and jumping and laughing at it. I know I can relate to it. You clearly don’t. What’s the fuss?

    • July 8, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks for your input. I always welcome differing opinions if done civilly. You make a good point that RHCP have always been a “fun” band and were never meant to be taken as seriously as someone like Radiohead. Fair enough. But I still think post-rehab Chilis lack the musical chops to compensate for Kiedis’ shortcomings.

      • Danny
        July 8, 2014 at 11:55 pm

        I’d have to disagree. I don’t think they exist just for “fun,” I think each member loves music. Sure, they have some silly songs (Hump de Bump, purple stain) but many songs that are powerful emotionally (scar tissue, soul to squeeze, under the bridge, californication). I don’t think you should view them only for their stage presence, the music is well written, and in their serious songs, you realize the genius behind it. John frusciante is regarded as one of the top guitarists of all time, flea is definitely up there with top bassists. Yes, I’m with you wasn’t a great album (in my opinion, many would disagree). But to fully understand my argument, listen to stadium arcadium (the album), soul to squeeze, under the bridge, californication, and otherside. Listen to the way the different instruments interact and communicate with each other. The chilis achieve their own unity, and when you dive beneath the surface, you realize how amazing their music is.

  8. Analog83
    July 30, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Wow reading this blog was as painful as listening to the RHCP, I can’t believe I managed to read the whole thing. This style of writing manifests when a person doesn’t have enough talent to turn their ideas into sounds that please people. Writing music people can relate to whether the lyrics make sense or not is a special gift that not many people have. Are their album sales what make them suck, or is it the fact that they sell out stadium sized venues when they tour? Instead of bitching about how much a band sucks go buy a guitar or hell, any musical instrument, write a better song than them, and not only will I be the first to buy your music, I’ll go back stage and kiss your ass when the tour comes through my location. For the record John Frusciante is one of the most brilliant musicians alive. Thanks.

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