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For The Record: Inside Red Hot Chili Peppers' Masterpiece 'Stadium Arcadium' At 15

Red Hot Chili Peppers at the 49th GRAMMY Awards in 2007

 

Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

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For The Record: Inside Red Hot Chili Peppers' Masterpiece 'Stadium Arcadium' At 15

Released in 2006, 'Stadium Arcadium,' Red Hot Chili Peppers' four-time GRAMMY-winning masterpiece, is an ambitious project from one of the most daring rock bands of their generation.

GRAMMYs/May 9, 2021 - 09:07 pm

By the mid-2000s, Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) were deservedly enjoying the most commercially and creatively successful period of their 20-year career. After all, they'd triumphed over their tumultuous and tragic early years—which, however, musically venerated and influential, included multiple lineup changes and bouts with drug abuse—to achieve massive artistic and mainstream prosperity via Californication (1999) and By the Way (2002).

Admittedly, not all fans were pleased with the group substituting some of their beloved, raucous playing and risqué subject matter with more accessible approaches; yet, it's hard to deny that both albums were significant for their high quality and myriad industry accolades as well as for how they embodied the band's mostly shared sense of healing and growth. (This was particularly true for guitarist/backing vocalist John Frusciante, who'd conquered his heroin addiction and rejoined the group with newfound confidence and ingenuity in 1998).

Feeling immensely prolific and capable, the Chili Peppers, following the two-year tour for By the Way, reteamed with Rick Rubin, who produced their previous four albums, in September 2004 to embark on their most ambitious and diverse project thus far: Stadium Arcadium.

Recorded at The Mansion in Los Angeles, where the group also laid down Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991, Stadium Arcadium, a 28-song double album, incorporated virtually every style the quartet had ever done. Naturally, that flexibility and inventiveness led to some of the most extensive songwriting and captivating arrangements they'd ever made. As a result, Stadium Arcadium is best viewed as an incredibly rewarding and varied tribute to the group's history.

Of course, double albums had been a popular music tradition for decades: Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde (1966), Pink Floyd's The Wall (1979), 2Pac's All Eyez On Me (1996)—the list goes on. It was almost inevitable that the Chili Peppers would issue one, too. (In fact, they'd intended to release Stadium Arcadium as a trilogy, dropping six months apart, before deciding to put out everything at once, the band told NME in 2006.)

In his July 2006 interview with Total Guitar, Frusciante revealed they had no reservations about attempting such a feat, either: "We don't just make music … for our own pleasure; we make music for our audience. We write 28 songs that we think are top-notch, that's what we want to give to the public … We're putting out what we believe is worthy." To his credit, every track on Stadium Arcadium earns its place and contributes to the greater whole.

It's also worth noting that making Stadium Arcadium was more congenial and collaborative than By the Way, due mostly to the repaired relationship between Frusciante and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. Due to his melodic prowess and characteristically adaptable methods, Frusciante was often seen as the heart of the Chili Pepper's sound around this time. That was especially evident on By the Way, on which he desired to move further away from the edginess of the band's past and toward the harmonious arrangements of groups like the Beatles, the Beach Boys and his own fruitful solo discography. Consequently, Flea, who wanted to emphasize their prior funk and punk elements, felt somewhat uninvolved and unappreciated to the point that he contemplated quitting after the band finished their By the Way World Tour; the two worked out their differences by the time Stadium Arcadium got underway.

Speaking to Kerrang! in May 2006, Frusciante admitted, "It's more of a band now. I don't force my ideas on people as much as I did." Flea concurs, clarifying that creating Stadium Arcadium was a healthily democratic and communal process. In a 2007 chat with MTV News, vocalist Anthony Kiedis noted, "There was very little tension, very little anxiety, [and] very little weirdness going on … everyone felt more comfortable than ever bringing in their ideas."

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Those creative peaks and compromises undoubtedly make Stadium Arcadium such an all-encompassing victory. In fact, it became the Chili Pepper's first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and earned them four GRAMMY Awards at the 49th GRAMMY Awards in 2007: Best Rock Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, and Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, the latter two for album opener "Dani California." (Producer Rick Rubin would also win the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical that night.)

Fifteen years later, Stadium Arcadium endures as one of the quartet's most representative and striving projects. Divided into two parts—the engaging "Jupiter" and the comparatively esoteric "Mars"—it logically continues the contemporary rock templates and earworm songwriting of By the Way and Californication. Specifically, the ironically sunny elegy "Dani California," which centers on the same character from the title tracks off the aforementioned predecessors, is undeniably catchy and tightly composed, while "Snow (Hey Oh)" and "Stadium Arcadium" are lovingly poppy and symphonic. Later, the acoustic guitar strums and radiant harmonies of "Slow Cheetah," "Desecration Smile" and "Hey" border on folk rock, whereas "So Much I" is peak alternative rock smoothness.

Of course, the real brilliance of Stadium Arcadium is how it peppers (no pun intended) more modern flavors with comprehensive doses of wide-ranging nostalgia. In particular, tracks like "She's Only 18," "Animal Bar" and "Turn It Again" harken back to the heavier funk and metal motifs found on earlier RHCP albums such as Mother's Milk (1989) and One Hot Minute (1995). Similarly, songs like "Charlie," "Hump de Bump," "Warlocks" and "Readymade" recall the frisky funkiness of Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987) via playful horns, resourceful percussion and Flea's trademark slap bass vigorousness. RHCP even recapture a bit of their early rap rock sound, a genre they helped define on albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magik, on "So Much I" and "Storm in a Teacup," among other tunes.

Although Kiedis, Flea, and drummer Chad Smith excel throughout the album's two-hour runtime, it's perhaps Frusciante who shows the most range and advancement throughout Stadium Arcadium. From start to finish, he implements some truly exploratory vocal and guitar techniques, retaining his recent minimalism while tapping into a newfound appreciation for double-tracked recording and the flashiness of Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and the Mars Volta's Omar Rodríguez-López, the latter of whom he'd collaborate with throughout the decade. "We Believe" finds Frusciante employing angelic backing harmonies, quirky psychedelic licks and echoey progressive rock weirdness. His supplemental singing is also sublime on "Torture Me," "Stadium Arcadium" and "She Looks to Me." Meanwhile, he flexes his improvisational soloing skills on "Strip My Mind," "Wet Sand," "Hey" and closer "Death of a Martian" to conjure the emotional heft and fuzzy theatrics of Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.

Red Hot Chili Peppers have long been one of the most daring and diverse bands of their generation; each album and phase has its unique touch and deserves its own audience. Even so, Stadium Arcadium, an all-encompassing magnum opus, offers just about everything one could possibly want from a Chili Peppers record—and then some. It sees the quartet expanding upon their stylistic past while commemorating their newly restored bond; all the while, Stadium Arcadium amplifies the idiosyncratic essentialness of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as both a collective force and individually distinctive musicians.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

Iggy Pop

Photo: Harmony Korine

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Iggy Pop Announces New Album, 'Free', Shares Title Track

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained… I wanted to be free," the Godfather of Punk explained

GRAMMYs/Jul 18, 2019 - 11:47 pm

Today, GRAMMY-nominated punk forbearer Iggy Pop revealed the details for his forthcoming 18th solo studio album, along with its short—at under two minutes—yet spacious title track, "Free." The 10-track LP is due out Sept. 6 and follow's 2016's GRAMMY-nominated Post Pop Depression.

"This is an album in which other artists speak for me, but I lend my voice," Pop explains in a press release.

The statement notes jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas and L.A.-based electric guitarist Noveller as the "principal players" collaborating with Pop on this exploratory new project. On "Free," Thomas' horn and Noveller's guitar add layers of depth, somberness and exploration, as Pop's echoing voice cuts through twice to proclaim, "I want to be free."

Pop adds that his last tour left him feeling exhausted but ready for change, and the shifts eventually led him to these new sounds:

"By the end of the tours following Post Pop Depression, I felt sure that I had rid myself of the problem of chronic insecurity that had dogged my life and career for too long. But I also felt drained. And I felt like I wanted to put on shades, turn my back, and walk away. I wanted to be free. I know that's an illusion, and that freedom is only something you feel, but I have lived my life thus far in the belief that that feeling is all that is worth pursuing; all that you need—not happiness or love necessarily, but the feeling of being free. So this album just kind of happened to me, and I let it happen."

Post Pop Depression earned the former Stooges frontman his second GRAMMY nod, at the 59th GRAMMY Awards for Best Alternative Music Album. It was produced by GRAMMY winner Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and as a tribute of sorts to David Bowie, Pop's longtime friend the producer of his first two solo albums, and was released shortly after Bowie's surprising passing.

As the press release states, "While it follows the highest charting album of Iggy's career, Free has virtually nothing in common sonically with its predecessor—or with any other Iggy Pop album."

You can pre-order and pre-save the new album now for the Sept. 6 release here. You can also check out Pop's new book, 'Til Wrong Feels Right, on Sept. 26.

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?