By the beginning of the 1990s, Red Hot Chili Peppers had released four albums, but still were ain’t no big deal in music industry. They just were unable to fit in the music landscape of rock scene of the 1980s, as they didn’t take themselves too serious like most of the hair-metal bands, while cock-obsessed lyrics didn’t suit college rock. Considering the fact that their fifth album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” was released on the same date as Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, and regarding the dark tone of the latter record, it was unlikely that the band’s career would face any significant change.
But despite that, the funkiness and cock-obsessed lyrics, which prevented the band from mainstream success in the 1980s, helped them to become one of the biggest bands of the 1990s. While Red Hot Chili Peppers’ previous album “Mother’s Milk” peaked at #52 on Billboard 200 and received RIAA Gold Certification, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” charted as high as #3 and sold in excess of 7 million copies in the US alone, while becoming the band’s second best-selling record worldwide with sales exceeding 14 million copies.
But how a thing that limited Red Hot Chili Peppers to being a simple live act that performed songs about cocks wearing socks on their coks in one decade, opened the door to the mainstream success in the next decade? The answer is on the surface. It’s no secret that each decade saw the releases of dark records, but it was the 1990s that became the dawn of the mainstream appeal of albums and songs on dark matters. Singers had been open about their insecurities, vulnerabilities, secret desires, loneliness and depression in their songs. That allowed Red Hot Chili Peppers to achieve success by contrasting themselves from others.
Basically, all you need to do is compare the music videos for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Give It Away”. The dark music video for the former, and the glossy, stylish, glam-rock inspired music video for the latter. Same goes to the lyrical content. While both of the songs provide the critic of the ideals that prevailed in the past decades, Cobain’s lyrics were rather observative, without providing any solution. While the lyrics of “Give It Away”, while criticizing materialism, is full of hippie-inspired ideas.
So, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” prompted Red Hot Chili Peppers to mainstream success by providing listeners with less depressive, although far from being pop, view on the world, which contrasted the band from the music material that was dominant, at least in the first half of the 1990s.