Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
How do you review the album that changed the way you thought about music, the album that moved you away from listening to punk, towards funk, hip hop and dance? How do review an album that led to you owning more dance than rock for a rock music website? How do you write an objective review for your favourite album of all time?
That is how important Blood Sugar Sex Magik is to me, and it is an album that has won the hearts of millions. At its essence the album is no more than a mashup of styles, a sum of its influences ranging from Public Enemy to Jimi Hendrix to Parliament/Funkadelic to X. The Red Hot Chili Peppers> have never denied their influences though; this album is a testament to them.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the cornerstone album of funk-rock. Of course, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were no strangers to this genre, piloting it since the early 1980s under the direction of greats George Clinton and Gang of Four’s Andy Gill. For this album, the Chili Peppers were teamed with Rick Rubin, one of the most prolific producers in popular music since the late 1980s.
Rick Rubin’s production works perfectly with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Whereas previous producers had pushed them towards exploring funk (Clinton) or worked their music from the rock angle (Michael Beinhorn), Rick Rubin leads them towards a stripped-back version of themselves, and an ultimately cleaner, rawer sounding Chili Peppers.
Gone are the songs reliant on Flea’s rapid-fire slap bass. Guitar solos are less about flash and more soulful instead, the solo in I Could Have Lied being a perfect example. Every member of the band is given equal presence in the mix, leading to a more balanced record. There is no longer a focus on wowing the listener with the technical wizardry of the musicians; this album is all about establishing a groove, and getting down, dirty and funky with it.
In addition to the raw, sexed-up funkyness of the album, there is an emphasis on songwriting that the Chili Peppers had barely touched on previously. This album spawned their worldwide classic Under the Bridge, a ballad about the loneliness of drug abuse. The two other ballads on the album Breaking the Girl and I Could Have Lied are also solid song writing efforts from the band, not to mention the funk-rock hits Give It Away and Suck My Kiss. It was the popularity of the singles which drove the success of the album and eventually cemented the Red Hot Chili Peppers a place the mainstream.
While all the band members pushed themselves for this record, especially John Frusciante’s melodic tunes on guitar, it’s Anthony Kiedis who pushes himself the furthest. His shout-rapping about sexual prowess is toned down considerably, and while there is no shortage of sex talk on the album (Sir Psycho Sexy, Blood Sugar Sex Magik), his lyrics are maturer. Moreover, it’s his exploration of darker themes, not only in Under the Bridge, but also the death of a friend (My Lovely Man) and others, that makes his songwriting skills deeper and worthy of repeat listens.
The overall result is a funky record that can be soulful; emotionally touching whilst equally rocking. Clocking in at 74 minutes with 17 tracks, there is barely a wasted moment on the record. One of the best albums of the 1990s and a must have in any collection.