Los Angeles is Red Hot

My research examines the relationship between the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the cultural trends of Los Angeles from the early 1980s to present day. The intent of this investigation of connection was, initially, to uncover the impact of the city’s social and political shifts on the style and genre of the band’s productions. As my work progressed, I began to focus in on the relevance of the Los Angeles soundscape, using what I had already gathered to interpret the correspondence between sound and place. It became apparent that the auditory backdrop of the city has changed in accordance with its various sociopolitical alterations. Knowing this, I argued that changes in the Los Angeles culture—effectively, change in place—prompted change in its accompanying soundscape, which was causatively related with the evolution of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music.


During the 1990s, when the song Under the Bridge was written and recorded, Los Angeles was heavily ridden with crime and drug abuse. The soundscape was filled with the sounds of the urban bustle of life, but also the sounds of the struggling Los Angeles Police Department. Sirens, gunshots, and screeching tires were all far from uncommon, each contributing to the auditory interpretation of melancholy. Under the Bridge mirrors such despondency, with its downbeat tempo and tortured vocals, which contain lyrics referencing the desperate condition of substance addiction.

6 thoughts on “Los Angeles is Red Hot

  1. We are studying similar topics my dear comrade. It is very interesting how changes in the general soundscape of a region can impact the music produced in that region (similar to the dub scene). I am curious to see how the music evolved in Los Angeles.

  2. Your research sounds rather similar to mine in that you are studying the relationship between music and a particular city. However, I am studying an entire genre and the effect it had on mainstream rock. It would be interesting to study RHCP’s effect on modern rock in general, and how they influenced subsequent funk bands. RHCP would be a great group to do this with because they have truly stood the test of time.

  3. You mention that that the evolution of the RHCP’s music was related to the changes that happened in Los Angeles. I’d be interested to see the band’s changing tone in comparison to sociopolitical changes that were happening in LA.

  4. I really like the idea of using the chile peppers as a way to gain a better understanding of LA culture, because I think the embody so many aspects of the city and its inhabitants. I think it would also be interesting to compare their music with contemporary hip-hop coming out of LA as well; I think you might find some interesting similarities/differences on how the two different styles may have interpreted the drug, violence, and crime filled surroundings. Bizarre Ride II by the Pharcyde and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic are just two albums I know of that also dropped in 1992 out of LA. As a side note, I think it’s very interesting that this song came just over a month before the LA riots.

  5. As a Chili Peppers fan, interesting subject! LA is a super interesting city, that’s cool you’re focusing in on it. Just curious to what effect to you think the Chili Pepper’s music had on other cities around it, or even across the country? I also think it’s good you went into depth about the soundscape of the city itself and connected that to the music instead of just talking about the music. I also like how you’re looking at the band’s influence on the city, but also the city’s influence on the band.

  6. I like this idea a lot, very similar to Feld’s argument we discussed earlier in the year, and I feel as if the Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the only bands you could choose to model any particular city, so my compliments on the narrowing of your topic. You mentioned “Under the Bridge” as a specific example of the music being an aural expression of the soundscape and I was simply wondering if other albums continue this trend or if this is an anomaly?

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