Red Hot Chili Peppers
have always overstuffed their albums with songs that span genres, but Blood Sugar Sex Magik
might be their most generous offering ever, a record that takes everything the band members have attempted before – funk, punk, rock, metal, pop – and elevates it to a confident new level. At their best, RHCP records feel like parties, and Blood Sugar Sex Magik
sustains the festive mood from beginning to end.
From Horny to Haunted
At almost 74 minutes long, Blood Sugar Sex Magik travels across several different moods: horny, gleeful, haunted, boastful. No matter how despairing a certain song may be, a life-affirming vibe permeates the album as frontman Anthony Kiedis sings honestly about his conflicted emotions. Whether strutting around on “The Power of Equality” or crying over a lost love in “I Could Have Lied,” Kiedis imbues his lyrics with a wide-eyed innocence that makes him winningly vulnerable. While there’s no question that he still loves playing the role of the sex-and-drugs wild child, Kiedis reveals a little more maturity on Blood Sugar Sex Magik, weighing the negative costs of the freewheeling lifestyle.
Two Very Sad, Honest Songs
Two songs in particular speak to this older-and-wiser approach. The first, “Breaking the Girl,” finds Kiedis tracing his own failure to maintain a serious relationship to the bad examples he learned from his single father. Band member John Frusciante puts aside the electric six-string for once to strum an acoustic guitar, while drummer Chad Smith adds extra percussion, which makes the song sound almost Middle Eastern. These sonic effects give “Breaking the Girl” a meditative tone as Kiedis tries to figure out what’s gone wrong with yet another girlfriend. The other track is “Under the Bridge,” a ballad about isolation and the struggle to find happiness without drugs. Normally, Kiedis raps or barks his lyrics, but “Under the Bridge” represents some of the most melodic singing of his career, and it’s striking how effective it is. These two songs demonstrate a band digging a little deeper to look at themselves honestly as they enter their 30s and realize that adulthood is staring them in the eyes.
Still the Life of the Party
But this is still the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which means that Blood Sugar Sex Magik is not without its loony moments. “Give It Away” and the title track are funk-inflected, slightly mystical odes to sex, while “Suck My Kiss” and “Funky Monks” are sprightly rockers about sex. So, yes, despite the newfound maturity of Kiedis, sex remains this band’s great theme, and they keep exploring it from every angle. Around women, they’re naughty, cocky and awed, but they never come across as misogynists or jerks. Consequently, RHCP’s lascivious behavior feels playful rather than aggressive or threatening. If Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a party, Kiedis and the guys want to make sure everyone feels welcome.