12. “Higher Ground” / Mother’s Milk / 1989 / Directed by Bill Stobaugh and Drew Carolan
Although it’s comparatively bland next to future videos, the video for “Higher Ground” introduced an unsuspecting mainstream audience to the funk-punk machinations of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With guitarist John Frusciante’s neon colored jacket, and lead singer Anthony Kiedis’ hipster hat, this video screams out 1989. Even though the kaleidoscopic background doesn’t help with this, it served as the perfect image to convey the band’s maniacal zest and kinetic vibrancy. The video alone makes viewers want to get up and dance just as much as the song itself does. Throw in bassist Flea’s awesome stuffed animal pants (as seen in the video to “Bust a Move” as well) and you have the perfect video to introduce the Chili Peppers to mainstream America.
11. “Soul to Squeeze” / Coneheads Soundtrack / 1993 / Directed by Kevin Kerslake
Another black and white video, this time, one inspired by traveling freakshows of the 1930s, stands in stark contrast to the frenetic jubilance of “Give It Away”. The fact that this video was filmed after John Frusciante had left the band adds to the very somber nature of the song, thus serving as a strengthening link between the song itself and the music video. The bleak black and white footage of a wandering circus heightens the lonely atmosphere generated by the track. Without being depressed, the video is depressing despite seeing Kiedis with a headful of snakes or Flea ride an elephant. The video for “Soul to Squeeze” is so timeless because of its originality, yet still finds a way to evoke the exact same emotions as the song itself.
10. “Warped” / One Hot Minute / 1995 / Directed by Gavin Bowden
The first single off the unjustifiably maligned One Hot Minute, and the first music video to feature new guitarist Dave Navarro, “Warped” serves its purpose incredibly well. The video opens up with anticipation, leaving the viewer wondering what will happen next until the song kicks into high gear, suddenly, if not spasmodically answering the viewers’ questions. This was the publics’ first official look at the new band that had developed quite a different look since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Anthony Kiedis was back on drugs, Chad Smith looked like a member of Ace of Base, Flea is wearing a garbage bag as a poncho, and that guy from Jane’s Addiction is now the guitarist… Oh and everyone’s wearing leather underwear. But for however much the band had changed, here they were same as always, running rampant, but instead of a desert, they were rampaging in a tube with shutters. “Warped” showed the public that even though some things had changed within the band, their patented mania and vivaciousness still remained.
9. “Aeroplane / One Hot Minute / 1996 / Directed by Gavin Bowden
Because who doesn’t like pleasure spiked with pain? The music video for “Aeroplane” is incredibly creative and random as it includes synchronized swimmers, an aerial swing set, Fleas’ daughters’ third grade class, and finally the dancers whom were inspired by a group of Mexican prostitutes who also double as assassins as well. The background is vibrant and colorful, and creates an atmosphere of fun to play along with the upbeat melody while heavily contrasting the dark subject matter of drug abuse. The video was different and original, and like One Hot Minute, often gets excluded from the praise it rightfully deserves.
8. “Otherside” / Californication / 2000 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
This monochromatic masterpiece perfectly captures the gothic and somber emotion of “Otherside”. Like something from the mind of Tim Burton, the music video is almost horrific in imagery, yet provocatively poignant in concept. Being an homage to former guitarist Hillel Slovaks’ battle with drug addiction (which eventually claimed his life), it makes perfect sense for the music video to reflect the terrifying and inhumane visuals someone high on drugs might see. Easily, the most powerful part of the video is the ending, which concludes in the exact same place where the video began, symbolizing the cycle of addiction, a concept the band was all too familiar with.
7. “Scar Tissue” / Californication / 1999 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
The video for “Scar Tissue” is so great that Green Day felt the need to rip off the Chili Peppers with their video for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. Unlike most RHCP videos, this one does in fact reflect the song’s subject matter of rebirth. After almost starving to death, overdosing on heroin, and being immolated alive, guitarist John Frusicante was invited back into the band just as the band was on the verge of breaking up. Frusciante saved the Chili Peppers from collapsing, who in turn saved him from a life of drug addiction and depression. Accordingly, the video depicts a band that has been beaten and battered, playing broken instruments, yet they still soldier on through the hot California desert. This is symbolic of the band itself struggling to heal itself to push forward in light of professional failure and personal troubles. By 1999, the year the single was released, the band and all of its members had been through their fair share of tragedies, yet they still persevered against all odds, and re-emerged stronger than ever before.
6. “By the Way” / By the Way / 2002 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Another great concept for another killer song, the video for “By the Way” is one of the funniest ones in the bands’ videography. No emotive concepts, no social commentary, just pure fun and entertainment. Viewers too are taken for a ride along with Anthony Kiedis who’s been kidnapped by a deranged taxi driver and fan of the band. Said deranged taxi drivers’ flare dance (complete with a fanny pack) proves to be the highlight of the video up until the ending when an unwitting Chad Smith hails that same taxi cab.
5. “Dani California” / Stadium Arcadium / 2006 / Directed by Tony Kaye
Directed by Tony Kaye of American History X fame, this trip through rock history is still a blast to watch almost 10 years later. Tributes to Elvis, the Beatles, British punk-rock, glam metal, grunge, and more are paid in this iconic video as the band pull off spot on impressions of Nirvana, Cream, Mötley Crüe, and the Sex Pistols (Is it me or does Anthony Kiedis kinda look like Ben Stiller in the punk scenes?). Seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers pay homage and lampoon all these different musical fads is a real treat as they go about it in their own memorable way. It’s simply a fun and entertaining video that proved that even after nine albums and over 20 years of making music, the Chili Peppers still had something left up their creative sleeves.
4. “Give It Away” / Blood Sugar Sex Magik / 1991 / Directed by Stephane Sednaoui
It’s such a simple concept: The Chili Peppers running amok in the desert, and yet it catapulted the band to superstardom seemingly overnight. The black and white video captured the band doing what they do best by entertaining viewers with their offbeat and hyper activities. Less was definitely more in this video as the band authenticated themselves as amusing partiers without a party. From Kiedis’ chainmail skirt, to drummer Chad Smith’s WWI German war helmet, to Flea’s spiral haircut, the video for “Give It Away” will most assuredly stand the test of time despite the lessening importance of music videos. Just like the meaning of the song, no one really understood what the video was about. After all, it’s just four guys prancing around the desert like they just chugged two cans of Four Loco. But, just as the song itself proved, that hardly mattered with such a great music video.
3. “Tell Me Baby” / Stadium Arcadium / 2006 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
One of the few examples where the music video reflected the lyrical content, the video for “Tell Me Baby” opens up with a monologue from quite a few people who moved to Hollywood in hopes of making it did. None of them did which is why they’re in this video, but it’s a nice consolation prize. From punk rockers, country singers, hippies, and Anthony Kiedis look-a-likes, this video is more of a cynical commentary on the dangerously seductive dreams of fame that Los Angeles inspires. Although most of their videos have been funny and entertaining, “Tell Me Baby” is one of the few where it looks like the band is actually having fun. In this video, the band takes people spurned by dreams of fame and fortune and throws them a giant party, turning a negative into a positive and putting a smile on all our faces in a way that only the Chili Peppers can.
2. “Can’t Stop” / By the Way / 2003 / Directed by Mark Romanek
Once again, the music video for “Can’t Stop” sees the Chili Peppers do what they do best: run around a certain area doing random shit. Never was this trope better executed than in this video. From the opening tunnel crawl, to seeing Chad Smith balance a custodial garbage can, to Anthony Kiedis cemented into a wall, “Can’t Stop” is one of the band’s most entertaining and zaniest videos. Although it lacks the abrasiveness of “Give It Away” or “Warped”, this video still follows the same structure but does so in a more accessible way. Part of the reason why is because they aren’t dancing or thrashing around as much as they are actually working on projects. Flea is balancing a ball against a bucket against a wall, John Frusciante is wearing a Barney-inspired mask, and Kiedis is working as a human tent. The fact that there’s so much going on prevents the video from ever getting boring or predictable. The video is random without ever being chaotic, energetic without ever being maniacal, and besides the number one video on this list, the best directed Chili Pepper music video.
1. “Californication” / Californication / 2000 / Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Besides being the best Red Hot Chili Pepper music video, “Californication” is one of the greatest music videos of all time, right up there with Michael Jacksons’ “Thriller” and the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”. Not only is it the most watched RHCP video on YouTube, it’s also the band’s best music video. Inspired by the rapid rise of 3D video games, this video IS californication and everything it means. It’s artificial and superficial, but it’s sure-as-shit fun to play. The video is so imaginative and amongst a uniquely creative discography, “Californication” takes the cake as being the best and most inspired. Not only is it incredibly entertaining and fun, but it still manages to work as a social commentary, speaking towards the growing commodification and insincerity of the material world around us. With this video-game of a music video, the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought “Californication” to life.
In light of changing rosters, drug addictions, lip-synching controversies, and even death, the one thing that has always been constant is that the Red Hot Chili Peppers make great music videos. Not only are they zany and memorable, many are also iconic and should be considered as some of the greatest music videos ever made. From the spontaneity of “Can’t Stop” to the absurdist “Give It Away”, most Chili Pepper videos leave memorable impression behind. Besides the Beastie Boys, no other musical act can top the Chili Peppers as the kings of music videos. As such, here’s a look back to a bygone era featuring the bands’ 12 best music videos.