You can’t stay in the limelight for as long as the Red Hot Chili Peppers have without continuously evolving. Over their 30-year career, this band has transformed from a funk-rock group to an alternative rock band with elements of punk and rap. Their musical transformation is evident when listening to their five studio albums. The first two records are primarily funk-rock with a little bit of punk and rap sprinkled in here and there. On the third album, they began integrating alt-rock elements while on the fourth album they continued that progression by adding heavier guitar riffs, gospel-inspired backing vocals, and electronic sounds. Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of those bands that went through many changes over the years which made them stand out even more as artists.
1984 – 1986: The Funk Rock Years
The first two records, “The Red Hot Chili Peppers”, released in 1984 and “Freaky Styley”, released in 1985, were primarily funk-rock with a touch of rap. Although they were considered funk-rock, they had a unique style that separates them from other funk rock bands. They had a strong funk and punk rock influence that created a distinct sound and is evident in the way they play their instruments. Guitarist and vocalist Anthony Kiedis is a great example of this unique style; he often sings with a rap-like flow, delivering his vocals in short bursts. Bassist Flea, on the other hand, plays an aggressive slap bass; he often extends notes, adding a funky and rhythmic sound to the music. Drummer Jack Irons, who was the band’s original drummer that was replaced by Chad Smith a few years later, plays the drums with a lot of energy and intensity. His drum style is very unique because he combined different types of percussion instruments such as the tambourine and bongos with the standard drum set.
1989 - 1991: The Rap Rock Years
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ third record, “Mother’s Milk”, released in 1989, marked their first attempt at rap-rock. This record had a lot of elements that were similar to their first two albums, but they had matured a little and made some slight adjustments to their style to make it sound more dynamic. Although it was the band’s first attempt at rap-rock, it wasn’t their best work; it was pretty average. However, it’s interesting to note that out of all of the albums that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released, this one has the most commercial success. It was their first record to chart on the Billboard Top 100. It’s also the only record that they’ve released under contract with EMI. This record sounds extremely mainstream and radio-friendly.
1991 - 1995: The Alternative Years
The Red Hot Chili Peppers fourth record, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”, released in 1991, was their first full-length album with a more alternative sound. This album took influence from a variety of different genres such as funk-rock and rap-rock. However, the band made slight adjustments to their style to make it sound more alternative. One of the most notable adjustments they made was with their vocals; Kiedis sings with a softer and more melodic style; he often sings with a lot of emotion and uses a lot of vocal range. Flea also made adjustments to his playing style; he still plays with a lot of energy, but he’s not as aggressive as he was on the third record. Drummer Chad Smith, who replaced Jack Irons as the band’s drummer after this record, plays the drums with a lot of finesse. His drum style is very consistent and rhythmic. On this record, he makes the drums sound very smooth and clean.
2002 - 2012: The Electronic Age
Their seventh record, “By the Way”, released in 2002, marked the last stage of their musical transformation. This record is primarily an alternative rock record, but it has an electronic vibe to it that they had been moving towards since they released their fifth record. The electronic vibe is evident in the way they play their instruments. They use synthesizers and electronic sounds to create a futuristic and electronic sound that’s very different from anything they’ve done on previous records. Guitarist John Frusciante has been experimenting with different guitar techniques since he joined the band in 1988, but on this record, he makes more use of his guitar techniques than he had on previous records. Drummer Chad Smith also plays with a lot of finesse, but he also makes use of electronic sounds to create a futuristic sound.
2016 - Present: Still Going Strong
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most recent record, “The Getaway”, released in 2016, showed that this band is still going strong. Although this record is slightly different than their previous records, it still shows that they’re not afraid to reinvent themselves. This record is primarily an alt-rock record, but it has elements of punk rock, alternative rock, and a little bit of electronic music. The band took influence from a variety of different genres, but they included all of these different genres in moderation. They’re not afraid to try new things and they’re not afraid to experiment. They’re constantly evolving and that’s what makes this band so interesting.