Every Song the Red Hot Chili Peppers Released in 2022 Ranked

All 36 cuts from 'Unlimited Love' and 'Return of the Dream Canteen' from worst to best

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Alex HudsonPublished Dec 28, 2022

Quick: name another band who, 39 years into their career, had a more productive year than the Red Hot Chili Peppers did in 2022. I'll wait.

The Chili Peppers released a whopping 36 songs in 2022 — two 17-song albums, plus a bonus track from each — marking an incredible burst of creativity following the return of classic-era guitarist John Frusciante, who reunited with singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith to recreate the band's classic lineup.

What's even more remarkable than the quantity of the material is that, for the most part, the songs were pretty good. They may not have released another classic hit single like "Scar Tissue" or "Under the Bridge," but this spring's Unlimited Love and the fall's Return of the Dream Canteen hold up respectably against the band's best albums, and one track even made the cut for our list of the band's best-ever songs.

Of course, it's tempting to imagine what it might look like if RHCP whittled their 2022 material down to a single album — so we decided to separate the great from the merely okay, and ranked every song they released in 2022.

From worst to best, here's our ranking of every song the Red Hot Chili Peppers released in 2022.

36. "Not the One"
(Unlimited Love)

The only true stinker of the year, "Not the One" was a bizarre choice for the Chili Peppers to share as a pre-release digital single. Anthony Kiedis's voice wobbles with ugly Auto-Tune as he sings a melody that lazily follows the plodding piano chords for four and a half dull minutes. The only upside was that, by releasing this as a preview of Unlimited Love, it set expectations low and made the rest of the album a pleasant surprise.

35. "Nerve Flip"
(Unlimited Love Japanese bonus track)

Wisely left off the Unlimited Love tracklist and released as a bonus track on the Japanese CD edition, "Nerve Flip" has cool-sounding fuzz guitars, so it's a shame that Kiedis neglected to write a memorable melody. "RHCP do grunge" sounds cooler in theory than it does in practice.

34. "My Cigarette"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

Hey, at least they tried. With an electronic beat, a melody that borrows from Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and a jazzy sax outro, this is the weirdest of the experimental tracks on Dream Canteen's back half. The melody's a little too listless to really come together, and "Jumping Jiminy, the cat is in the chimney" is maybe the silliest lyric that the notoriously inane Kiedis sang this year.

33. "Shoot Me a Smile"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

There's nothing wrong with this song, with its pleasant arpeggios and lushly harmonized chorus. The problem is there's not all that much right with it either. Forgettable.

32. "Bastards of Light"
(Unlimited Love)

More interesting than it is enjoyable, "Bastards of Light" curiously grafts its verse of bloopy synths onto a country rock chorus. It's neat, but they did this kind of electronic experiment more effectively on Dream Canteen.

31. "Handful"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

RHCP try on jazzy rock, with Frusciante's atmospheric arpeggios leaving space for fluttering drums from Smith and a sing-speak cadence from Keidis. A more memorable chorus could have taken this one to the next level.

30. "Copperbelly"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

One of a few songs in 6/8 time on the back half of Dream Canteen, "Copperbelly" has perfectly functional verses that set up a loud-quiet-loud structure and a biting chorus lyric: "Someone's in love with emotional pain."

29. "Veronica"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

Another intriguing combination of a verse and chorus that don't really fit, "Veronica" goes from synth-treated guitar arpeggios to a waltz-time acoustic chorus. "My name is Veronica" is one of Kiedis's more compelling opening lyrics.

28. "Reach Out"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

The weird verse melody sounds like it should be accompanied by a harpsichord in some sort of medieval folk ballad. It kind of stinks until the absolutely enormous fuzz chorus swoops in and makes it all better.

27. "Black Summer"
(Unlimited Love)

I've had nearly a year to sit with it, and, for the life of me, I still can't figure out why no one told Kiedis not to sing in a stupid pirate voice. "Black Summer" performed decently well on the radio thanks to its vintage RHCP chorus and uncharacteristically coherent lyrics about climate change. But that fucking voice! Don't you dare try to blame this on Cate Le Bon.

26. "Carry Me Home"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

RHCP at their most classic rock, the bluesy "Carry Me Home" is pure 1960s, especially thanks to those dramatically walking guitar riffs that evoke "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" by way of Jimi Hendrix. Shame Kieidis forgot to write a chorus.

25. "One Way Traffic"
(Unlimited Love)

It's silly as hell, but the goofiness is infectious, as Kiedis adopts a very 1980s flow while rapping about trying to get to the beach for a surfing sesh. Choice lyrics include "Anyway, took a left on 3rd" and Kiedis randomly shouting "spirographic anagram!"

24. "Roulette"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

It's not the most distinctive song RHCP released this year, but every part of it works nicely, its breezy verses swelling to sunny choruses before being shrouded with cloudy chord changes in the bridge. It doesn't need to be five minutes long, but it's a pleasant piece of pop composition nevertheless.

23. "Poster Child"
(Unlimited Love)

John Frusciante famously claims to have never listened to One Hot Minute, the album his Chili Peppers bandmates recorded with replacement guitarist Dave Navarro when he quit the group in the '90s. That's why it's so funny that the band basically copied that album's "Walkabout" for this tongue-twisting trip through pop culture history.

22. "Tangelo"
(Unlimited Love)

This Beatles-y ballad is a simple song of love and loss, with Kiedis singing, "When I'm with you, I feel like myself." An acoustic ditty with synthetic choral backing, it's a sweet way to end Unlimited Love.

21. "Let 'Em Cry"
(Unlimited Love)

A faintly reggae feel anchors some playful, sing-song melodies from Kiedis before giving way to a drifting, vibey outro. It's an effective way to keep the momentum up as Unlimited Love drifts through a back half that's not quite as memorable as the first.

20. "Bag of Grins"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

RHCP's worst melodies and best outro jam of 2022 both happen to be part of the same track. Your finger might be twitching towards the "skip" button during the drab verse, chorus and bridge. But be patient! Make it to the three-and-a-half-minute mark and you'll be rewarded with a sublime rock outro, complete with howling harmonies from Frusciante and a bloopy arpeggiator.

19. "Tippa My Tongue"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

The lead single from Dream Canteen sounds like a Chili Peppers song written by artificial intelligence. Funky grooves, bluesy licks and nonsensical lyrics that quote '90s track "Funky Monks" all make this RHCP-by-numbers — which is why it's good, but also why it's not great.

18. "The Great Apes"
(Unlimited Love)

John Anthony Fuckin' Frusciante! The guitarist makes his presence felt on this very Stadium Arcadium-sounding rock anthem, which features one of his screechiest, most intense solos ever. The repeating pattern of notes he hits from 3:10–3:16 is wild stuff.

17. "In the Snow"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

A perfect closer for the adventurous Dream Canteen, the surprising "In the Snow" is an icy six-minute expanse of chilly synths, drum machines and spoken-word abstraction. It's exciting to hear RHCP push the limits of their sound like this.

16. "She's a Lover"
(Unlimited Love)

Bright and funky with a bubbly, harmonized chorus that sounds a bit like "Lovefool" by the Cardigans, "She's a Lover" could have been a perfect summer single. Instead, it remains a standout deep cut.

15. "It's Only Natural"
(Unlimited Love)

Frusciante and Flea play off one another in compelling ways, with slap basslines contrasted against wafts of echoing guitars. It's a more, ahem, natural-sounding expression of the atmospheric direction the band went in on 2016's The Getaway, and it ends with a particularly vibey guitar solo with cavernous reverb.

14. "The Drummer"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

Hop-skipping like By the Way cut "On Mercury" but with synth chords in place of that earlier song's ska harmonica, "The Drummer" unfurls into a lovely pop chorus — even if it was a strange choice for a single.

13. "These Are the Ways"
(Unlimited Love)

Another weird single choice, "These Are the Ways" has turned "THE SMELLS" into a meme on the RHCP subreddit. Clunky lyric aside, the punk chorus hits hard, and the post-chorus crescendo features Chad Smith's best drumming ever captured on a Chili Peppers album.

12. "La La La La La La La La"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

One of the quietest ballads RHCP have ever recorded, its pillowy new age synths are like nothing they've ever done. They should try sounding like Enya more often, since this is very pretty.

11. "Peace and Love"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

In an Apple Music interview with Zane Lowe back in the spring, Kiedis revealed that "Peace and Love" was left off Unlimited Love after his bandmates convinced him that "Poster Child" was the "superior funk." I am here to confirm that his bandmates were wrong, and "Peace and Love" is the superior funk.

10. "Aquatic Mouth Dance"
(Unlimited Love)

Another superior funk, "Aquatic Mouth Dance" is a perfect piece of RHCP gibberish: vaguely sexual, complexly syncopated and groovy as hell. It sounds a bit like their past work (think "Charlie") until the caterwauling New Orleans jazz horns of the outro.

9. "Fake as F@ck"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

A sleepy verse doesn't make much of an impression, but it serves its function: speeding up into a chorus that's the best funk groove the Red Hots have released in years. The goofy echo of Kiedis's voice emphasizes just how much fun this song is.

8. "The Shape I'm Takin'"
(Return of the Dream Canteen Japanese bonus track)

Bizarrely left off the album but thankfully unearthed as a bonus track, "The Shape I'm Takin'" rides a clickity-clacking dance pulse into its tuneful chorus. With splashes of synth, a heroic guitar solo and a blissful pop chorus, it's a perfect mix of RHCP sounds old and new.

7. "Whatchu Thinkin'"
(Unlimited Love)

Flea gets his moment to shine, strutting all over the fretboard with his coolest bassline of 2022. Frusciante lifts the song to the next level with brute force by stepping on his distortion pedal for the gigantic chorus. 

6. "Afterlife"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

A grower rather than a shower, "Afterlife" might have been a massive anthem had RHCP given it the By the Way treatment and beefed up the chorus with harmonies. But instead of crescendoing, the chorus shifts down a gear, with a serene pop melody and a vision of "warm-ass horizons." For the closing solo, Frusciante barely even plays any notes, instead coaxing wild feedback out of his amp.

5. "The Heavy Wing"
(Unlimited Love)

Frusciante has sung lead on a handful of choruses over the years ("If You Have to Ask," "Dosed"), but he's never fully taken the spotlight like he does on the howling refrain of Unlimited Love's penultimate track. There are memes about how Kiedis isn't the best singer in the Red Hot Chili Peppers — and this song proves those jokes true.

4. "White Braids & Pillow Chair"
(Unlimited Love)

Two beautiful songs in one, the tender love ditty "White Braids & Pillow Chair" begins as a classic mid-tempo ballad before unexpectedly picking up with a chug-a-lugging country feel and echoing spaghetti western guitar. We always knew that Kiedis would name-check California at some point in 2022, and he saved it for one of the best songs.

3. "Bella"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

Is it a love song with some canine references? Or is Bella a dog? Either way, Kiedis brings his best melodies of 2022 to this 7/4 funk tune about choosing Los Angeles over life in the country. In case you were wondering, Anthony's name definitely isn't Bradley.

2. "Eddie"
(Return of the Dream Canteen)

A tribute to Eddie Van Halen, who died the day before RHCP jammed "Eddie" out in practice, Frusciante devotes half of the song's six-minute runtime to an absolutely epic guitar solo that's possibly the flashiest fretwork ever heard on a Chili Peppers album. It sounds nothing like Van Halen, but it's a perfect tribute because it's unmistakably Frusciante. There's no rhythm guitar, with the minimal arrangement allowing the solo to truly shine.

1. "Here Ever After"
(Unlimited Love)

"Here Ever After" is not only the Chili Peppers' best song of 2022, it's one of their best ever. Following Frusciante's return, it's ironically his bandmates who really shine here: Flea and Smith anchor a dirty, thunderous post-punk groove, while Kiedis goes ham with fast and furious rhymes delivered in an array of cadences. It's a total blast that captures RHCP at their silly, giddy, virtuosic best.

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