Blood Sugar Sex Magik is Red Hot Chili Peppers' fifth studio album which was released on Warner Bros. Records on September 24, 1991.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1989 album, "Mother's Milk"became the band's second album to enter in the Billboard 200, peaking at number 52 and at the time the biggest of their career.
Although the album was mildly successful, production was weighed down by producer Michael Beinhorn. He convinced Frusciante to play with an overall heavier tone, and instructed Anthony Kiedis to write lyrics that would be more radio-viable, thus causing the band to feel restricted creatively.
As the band's contract with EMI came to an end, they began looking for another record label. They reached a consensus to go with Sony BMG/Epic, with the proviso that they buy out their last album from EMI. Though the label promised it would take only a few days, the process stretched out into several months.
Although a deal had been made with Sony/Epic, Mo Ostin of Warner Bros. Records called Kiedis to congratulate him on the successful deal, and complimented the rival record label.
Kiedis recalled of the situation: "The coolest, most real person we had met during all these negotiations had just personally called to encourage me to make a great record for a rival company. That was the kind of guy I'd want to be working for."
The group pursued the idea, and eventually dropped the contract with Sony in favor of a deal with Warner Bros. Ostin called an old friend at EMI, who immediately allowed for the label transfer.
Now settled into Warner Bros. Records, the Red Hot Chili Peppers began looking for a suitable producer.
One producer in particular, Rick Rubin, stood out as he was more broadminded than people the band had worked with in the past, even though Rubin had turned down the chance to produce their 1987 album, "The Uplift Mofo Party Plan" due to the drug problems of Kiedis & guitarist Hillel Slovak (who would die of a heroin overdose a year later).
Unlike the Peppers' previous producers, Rubin was someone the band felt confident in to ask for guidance and input during times of difficulty. He would often help arrange drum beats, guitar melodies and lyrics.
The band sought to record the album in an unconventional setting, believing it would enhance their creative output. Rubin suggested the mansion magician Harry Houdini once lived in, to which they agreed.
A crew was hired to set up a recording studio and other equipment required for production in the house in Los Angeles.
The band decided they would remain inside the mansion for the duration of recording, though according to Kiedis, Smith was convinced the location was haunted, and refused to stay; instead, he would come each day by motorcycle. Smith disputes this account, and instead claims the real reason he did not stay at The Mansion was because he wanted to be with his wife.
However, Frusciante disagreed with Smith, and said: "There are definitely ghosts in the house," but he felt they were "very friendly. We [the band] have nothing but warm vibes and happiness everywhere we go in this house."
Frusciante, Kiedis, and Flea each had their own rooms in the house. When not recording with the band, Frusciante would spend his time painting, listening to music, reading and recording songs he'd written.
Due to the seclusion, Kiedis ended up recording all his vocals in his room, as it was large enough to accommodate the recording equipment. For more than 30 days, the Red Hot Chili Peppers worked inside the house; Kiedis felt it was an accommodating and resourceful environment which allowed him to complete the rest of the lyrics.
During production, the band agreed to let Flea's brother-in-law document the creative process on film. When the album's recording was complete, the Chili Peppers released the film, titled "Funky Monks."
- The Power Of Equality 4:03
- If You Have To Ask 3:37
- Breaking The Girl 4:55
- Funky Monks 5:23
- Suck My Kiss 3:37
- I Could Have Lied 4:04
- Mellowship Slinky In B Major 4:00
- The Righteous & The Wicked 4:08
- Give It Away 4:43
- Blood Sugar Sex Magik 4:31
- Under The Bridge 4:24
- Naked In The Rain 4:26
- Apache Rose Peacock 4:42
- The Greeting Song 3:14
- My Lovely Man 4:39
- Sir Psycho Sexy 8:17
- They're Red Hot 1:12
"Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (which was released on the same day as Nirvana's album, "Nevermind") peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200. Two months later, on November 26, 1991 it was certified Gold. On April 1, 1992, it was later certified Gold. Since then, it has gone seven times platinum in the United States.
"Blood Sugar Sex Magik" was well received by critics, who praised the Red Hot Chili Peppers for not overpowering the listener with heavy metal guitar riffs as their previous album had done.
Rolling Stone's Tom Moon credited Rick Rubin for the change in style; Rubin "[gave] the Chilis' dynamic." He went on to praise the overall sound, which "displayed a growing curiosity about studio texture and nuance."
Steve Huey of AllMusic said the album was "The Red Hot Chili Peppers' best album ... John Frusciante's guitar is less overpoweringly noisy, leaving room for differing textures and clearer lines, while the band overall is more focused and less indulgent." He considered Blood Sugar to be "varying ... it expands the group's musical and emotional range."
Guitar Player magazine credited Frusciante with the Chili Peppers' drastic change in style: "by blending acid-rock, soul-funk, early art-rock, and blues style with a raw, unprocessed Strat-and-Marshall tone, [Frusciante] hit on an explosive formula that has yet to be duplicated."
Devon Powters of PopMatters said that "in one funked-out, fucked up, diabolical swoop, Blood Sugar Sex Magik reconfigured my relationship to music, to myself, to my culture and identity, to my race and class."
In an article published in The Tampa Tribune, editor Philip Booth praised the record as "an ambitious effort that amounts to a culmination and blossoming of the musical forces that have been brewing in the band's sound since Kiedis and Flea birthed the band in 1983."
Robert Christgau gave it an honorable mention in his Village Voice consumer guide, naming "Give It Away" and "Breaking the Girl" as highlights while writing "they've grown up, they've learned to write, they've got a right to be sex mystiks."
Chicago Sun-Times critic Michael Corcoran was more reserved in his praise, deeming the record "great" only on occasion while finding the length of the album excessive.
"Blood Sugar Sex Magik" is considered to be an influential album, throughout the nineties, by establishing itself as a fundamental foundation for alternative rock. It has also been referred to as "the cornerstone album of funk rock" by FasterLouder.
"Under the Bridge", which became a breakout song for the band, was considered to be a highlight of the album by several critics.
Allmusic reviewed the song individually and called it a "poignant sentiment ... it is self evident among the simple guitar which cradles the introductory verse, and the sense of fragility that is only doubled by the still down-tempo choral crescendo", and ultimately "has become an integral part of the 1990s alterna-landscape, and remains one of the purest diamonds that sparkle amongst the rough-hewn and rich funk chasms that dominate the Peppers' own oeuvre."
However, Entertainment Weekly criticized the seriousness that the Red Hot Chili Peppers explored as being "disapproving of the band's usual Red Hot antics", and "Under the Bridge" had "fancy-shmancy touches." The song ended up peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1992.
The song, "Give It Away" was also praised, though as "... a free-associative mixture of positive vibes, tributes to musical heroes, and free love", with Frusciante "adding the song's two most unpredictable change-ups: a sudden contrast to Kiedis' hyperactivity in the form of a languid solo pre-recorded and dubbed backwards over the rhythm track, and a hard-rocking riff which is not introduced until the song's outro"
However, tracks such as "Sir Psycho Sexy" were criticized for being overly explicit.
Devon Powters of PopMatters said that "Eight minutes of 'Sir Psycho Sexy' will turn RHCP's young listeners into quivering masses of hormonal jello. Oversexed lines sneak their way into 'Apache Rose Peacock'; 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik', simply, sounds like fucking. Even the purest virgin comes away from Blood Sugar Sex Magik with a degree of sexual maturity; even the slickest playa can learn a couple of new moves."
In contrast, the song "Suck My Kiss" (according to Amy Hanson of Allmusic) "completely flew in the face of the established pecking order of alternative rock."
With the song, the Chili Peppers "fully allied themselves with the very few genre-bending bands that were able to make a radical impact on the sonic landscape that was dominated, it seemed, from every minute angle by grunge."