April 21, 2015 by NowhereButPop
There’s something about the Red Hot Chili Peppers that makes them so accessible and universally acceptable in a way that’s never been seen by any other band. No one doesn’t like the Chili Peppers, the worst thing that people will say about them is that the lip-synched during the Super Bowl halftime show, the worst feeling that people feel about them is mild indifference. The Chili Peppers are the one band that people will cite when they claim that they’re a fan of rock music…even if they only know “Dani California” and “Give It Away”. When people talk about the RHCP, it unites them in a way that casual conversation about other bands just can’t do. There’s a connection, no matter how brief or fleeting, that’s forged when people talk about the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Even if you’re not a recovering heroin addict, everyone can relate to “Under the Bridge”; despite its dark subject matter, “Aeroplane” can put anyone in a good mood, and for anyone who’s ever heard “Quixoticelixir”, the unanimous consensus is that it should have made the cut for Californication. Many of their songs elicit a collective emotional reaction in people. Their most universal album, the one that most articulates and exemplifies this idea of an unconsciously universal uniformity is their 2006 opus, Stadium Arcadium. Although it’s not the band’s best album, it was their only #1 record, and it had arguably the biggest influence on mainstream culture than any of their albums before or after.
The summer of 2006 was a huge year for music as not only did the Chili Peppers have a new album out, but Nelly Furtado had just released Loose, and Justin Timberlake brought “SexyBack” to a grateful population of teenage girls trying to act more mature than they really were. Neither Nelly Furtado nor Justin Timberlake were able to be as bipartisan as the Chili Peppers were that summer however as Stadium Arcadium seemed to concern everyone. It was an album that the pretty girls listened to, the lax bros listened to, the skaters listened to, the regular kids listened to, and the weird art kids who never said more than 11 words throughout all of high school listened to. One of my 9th grade teachers even pulled me aside just to confirm the rumors that the Chili Peppers were in fact coming out with a new album.
“Dani California” was released as the first single on April 3, 2006, about a month before the album dropped, and the very next day in school all anyone was talking about was the new RHCP single. Sophomores were talking to juniors about it, and seniors were giving freshmen the time of day at the mere mention of “Dani California”. That day everyone became St. John the Baptist, proselytizing the good news about the return of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As a freshmen in high school back in 2006, it was the first time that I had felt a part of a wave that was stirring up so much fervor. Remember, back in 2006 all anybody was listening to was Jay-Z, the Black-Eyed Peas, and T.I., while I was listening to Guns N’ Roses and N.W.A. Musically, I had very little in common with everyone else in high school. “Dani California” and eventually the album itself changed all of that.
It was after the release of Stadium Arcadium that I realized pretty much everyone is a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, at least in some capacity. I became friendly with some of the cool kids because of our shared interest in the band, and even people who disliked me would come up to me in the hallways and talk about the album and the band. Kids would be less standoffish to one another after they found out that they both liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At a point in time when kids are constantly trying to use anything as a partition, a way to divide themselves and their clique from everyone else, Stadium Arcadium was something that did the opposite; it forged a sense of inclusion, that everyone regardless of what high school clichéd clique they belonged to could be a part of this shared culture. In a sense, it fostered maturity. In Spanish class that fall, half the class had an unauthorized debate about which was the better album: Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Californication. It was a culture that everyone could take part in, where there didn’t seem to be much, if any, ridicule. Every favorite song or album was accepted as being valid because there were at least a dozen other people who felt that same way.
While the vast majority of people liked disc one, “Jupiter”, more than side two, “Mars”, there was one song above all else that resonated with every high school kid who listened to the album- “Wet Sand”. Every time the album came up in conversation, “Wet Sand” was named as either the favorite track, or a top three track, but it was easily recognized as the best song on “Jupiter”. The reason why is because it’s one of the most teenager-y songs on the album. It’s pretty much about realizing that the person who you really care about, who you’ve been pursuing non-stop either doesn’t feel the same way, or is a completely different person than who you thought they were. As teens we tend to needlessly amplify and exaggerate these feelings, but now, we had a song that perfectly surmised those exaggerated, hormone driven teenage feelings of dejection. And no matter who you were in high school you felt that shitty feeling of rejection…at least twice.
Even three years later, as a senior in high school, people were still talking about Stadium Arcadium. After we had finished our AP exam, all the guys in my English class spent the next class period talking about which songs would make the cut if Stadium Arcadium was trimmed to a single album. Whenever I would drive friends home from school, they would make requests for me to put on the CD and skipped to “Readymade” or “Hump De Bump”. There’d be times just driving around town with the girl I had a crush on, blasting “Tell Me Baby” after school had ended. The more I think about it, Stadium Arcadium was the background noise for most of high school; for myself and my experiences, it casted quite a pall on my memories and perception of the past.
This unifying affect wasn’t just limited to Long Island, as I visited California during the summer of 2006 and found that Stadium Arcadium was more of a behemoth there than it was back east. Everyone in Southern California was adorned in Chili Pepper t-shirts from across the band’s career. Every radio station was playing either “Dani California”, “Snow” or “Tell Me Baby” at least once an hour, and some stations were even playing songs that weren’t issued as singles, like the title track, or “Hard to Concentrate”. All anyone in California could talk about was the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
2006 was the last time that the Red Hot Chili Peppers mattered, and although they had better albums before Stadium Arcadium, I’m not unconvinced that they didn’t matter more than in 2006. For all I know, Californication could have had the exact same effect on teens back in 1999 that Stadium Arcadium had on me and my peers. Stadium Arcadium was more than a big release, it was an album that consciously brought people together just because of what it was. Kids who normally had nothing to say to each other could now share their excitement about seeing the band live, or talk about how criminally underrated One Hot Minute was. It revealed a much deeper network that no one knew existed as it exposed a common ground between kids who would otherwise try to disassociate themselves from one another. Stadium Arcadium was an album that anyone could stake a claim in because it seemed like the album was meant for everybody.
Stadium Arcadium was the last, and only one of a few albums that everyone was eagerly anticipating. Music has changed from what it used to be in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s where people would wait on line for days for the new Led Zeppelin or Michael Jackson Album. In 2006, it was a rarity for people, much less teens, to gravitate to an entire album on the same scale that they did for Stadium Arcadium. But, it’s like Kiedis says on “21st Century”, “There’s a reason for the 21st century, not too sure, but I know that it’s meant to be”. Even though Stadium Arcadium isn’t the band’s best album, there’s something about it that makes you feel as if it was meant to be.
 As teenage girls are want to do.
 Except for the Dave Navarro years for some reason.
 Which I’m sure part of the reason why was because the Lakers sucked at that point.