With the release of their self-titled debut album in 1984, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) broke down musical barriers and introduced an innovative new style that incorporated elements of funk and punk rock. Despite inspiring others to follow their lead, RHCP remained one of the most popular bands in this genre into the early 21st century. Currently composed of Anthony Kiedis, Michael Balzary aka Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante, the group has had 10 other members and produced 11 studio albums since its 1984 debut. Below are its five best-selling albums based on worldwide sales.
The RCHP’s seventh studio album, Californication, sold 5.9 million units in the US and 16.27 million worldwide. Outside of the US, it was particularly popular in the United Kingdom and Germany, where it sold 1.25 and 1 million units, respectively. Its songs also have in excess of 1.4 billion combined streams on Spotify. Regarding singles, “Scar Tissue” was the most successful with 250,000 physical single sales. Other album singles included “Around the World,” “Otherside,” “Road Trippin’,” and “Californication.”
Released in 1999 under Warner Bros. Records, the 15-song album was produced by iconic producer Rick Rubin. The recipient of eight Grammy Awards, Rubin has produced more than 100 albums across diverse genres for groups and artists including Kanye West, Aerosmith, Adele, Justin Timberlake, Dixie Chicks, and Metallica. He has produced 12 studio and compilation albums for RHCP.
Californication followed the critical flop One Hot Minute and marked a turning point for RHCP as the group focused on creating more mature and introspective tunes dealing with fame, addiction, and success. Inspiration was drawn from band members’ personal lives and the record, as Kiedis relayed to the media, told “tales of wandering souls who’ve lost their way searching for the American dream in California.”
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Although it was the band’s fifth studio album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik marked a break into mainstream success for RHCP. None of its prior releases had eclipsed 2.7 million in sales, but Blood Sugar Sex Magik has sold 14.43 million units worldwide. It also has more than 845 million Spotify streams.
Similar to Californication, the album represented a shift in sound and approach for the band. Previously perceived as a party rock band without much radio appeal, RHCP began writing and recording more serious songs for the prior album, Mother’s Milk, and found its footing in that regard on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. This shift was facilitated in part by Frusciante, who had recently replaced Hillel Slovak after the founding guitarist’s unexpected death. It was also the first time the band worked with Rubin.
The album’s most popular single in regard to physical sales was “Under the Bridge,” which is a perfect example of its newfound, slowed-down, melodic sound. Interestingly enough, this song, which originated from notes in Kiedis’ notebook, wouldn’t have come to fruition if Rubin didn’t insist on the lead singer showing it to other members of the band. The song and video helped legitimize RHCP as a “serious” band.
By the Way
The follow-up to Californication, By the Way wasn’t as big of a commercial success as its predecessor but still sold an impressive 9.45 million units worldwide. It sold considerably less units in the US — 2.25 million compared to 5.9 million — but is actually the band’s most successful album in the UK with 2.1 million units sold. Californication, in contrast, sold 1.25 million units in the UK. It also performed better than Californication in Japan.
The album solidified the band’s shift into the mainstream by doubling down on the success of Californication’s “Scar Tissue,” again with the support of Rubin as producer, while also staying true to its roots. Rolling Stone called the album a “near-perfect balance of gutter grime and high-art inspiration.” In addition to the album’s title track, popular singles included “The Zephyr Song” and “Can’t Stop.”
The third most recent RHCP release, Stadium Arcadium, followed up By the Way and sold 7.13 million units worldwide. Despite a slight drop in overall sales, it performed better in both the US and Canada than By the Way. It also has more Spotify streams at 1.17 billion compared to 892.6 million.
Released in 2006, the double album again featured several songs about common RHCP topics including sex and California. It wasn’t as critically acclaimed as its prior releases, but featured popular singles such as “Dani California,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” and “Tell Me Baby.”
One Hot Minute
Sandwiched between two of the band’s most critically acclaimed albums, One Hot Minute was a relatively underwhelming record, critically speaking, that still managed to sell 5.85 million units worldwide. Frusciante, who played a major role creatively in the success of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, left the band in 1992 and was replaced by former Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, who admittedly wasn’t as enamored with the band’s funk sound as other members. The album’s singles included “Warped,” “Aeroplane,” and “My Friends.”