Saturday, April 2, 2011

"Give It Away:" Not The Best Red Hot Chili Peppers Song Nor Single.

The Good: Instrumental accompaniment is often interesting.
The Bad: Inane lyrics, Short, Poor use of medium/Better versions, Unremarkable vocals, Often annoying instrumentation.
The Basics: A lame song, "Give It Away," is made even worse by the fact that this particular version of the single has only one track, unlike all the others!

In the annals of great music, the band Red Hot Chili Peppers has some songs that might qualify for legendary status. And despite all of their great songs, there are some that are arguably just lemons. Indeed, I was surprised when their song "Give It Away" from Blood Sugar Sex Magik ended up on their Greatest Hits album. It was never one of their strongest singles and it preceded the popularity of the band as it was the single that was released before "Under The Bridge" came out. Even so, as buyers look for Red Hot Chili Peppers singles and debate which ones are worth buying and which ones are not, "Give It Away" is easy to not recommend, but this listing of the single is very much just for the die-hard collectors.

Indeed, there are at least seven known single releases of "Give It Away" from 1991 on c.d., 7" record and audio cassette and this one, which is the radio release c.d. is the least valuable one to most listeners. First, this single is recognizable to fans as the radio release compact disc single because it has only one track: "Give It Away." The other seven known single releases of "Give It Away" all have at least two-tracks, from the lesser valued 7" vinyl single which has the radio edit of the song on one side and a longer remix of the exact same song on the b-side, to the second c.d. single version which had four different mixes of "Give It Away" and the songs "Search And Destroy" and "Soul To Squeeze." Only the single intended for radio airplay had only the one track of "Give It Away." As such, those looking for more Red Hot Chili Peppers music will find this disappointing and only those searching for the track for the novelty of the type of single will want this version.

With a single song occupying 4:43 on compact disc, "Give It Away" is a real waste of the compact disc medium. All four members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers collaborated in the writing of the song (sadly) and the three who play instruments play their guitar, bass and drums on the song. Anthony Kiedis sings the song and longtime producer Rick Rubin is responsible for producing it, so it is hard to argue that this is not exactly what the Red Hot Chili Peppers wanted for the song at the time.

Unfortunately, this single is a mess and when it is ordered , it is repetitive beyond belief. "Give It Away" is a very traditional rock and roll song that sounds like exactly what it is: the work of a guitar, bass and drums combination. The guitars are higher and scratchier on this song, so it becomes very easy for the song to sound fast, cacophonic and sloppy. John Frusciante might be technically skilled to get the guitar fingerings for the song "Give It Away" sounding so consistent and energetic, but the result still sounds terrible. The melody to "Give It Away" is a singsong rhythm and melody that make very basic progressions and with the guitars made to sound scratchier, the song is sometimes painful to listen to.

FleaĆ­s bass is not prominent in the song, but Chad Smith's drumming is competent and appropriately loud. Smith bangs on the drums and between the drums and the guitars, "Give It Away" is a hellish song for those who have a headache.

At least as bad as the instrumental accompaniment to the song are the vocals by Anthony Kiedis. Kiedis, who has the ability to sing, does not so much on "Give It Away." Instead, he leers out the song in a way that makes it sound like he is moaning it unpleasantly, as if a part of his anatomy is being tugged on as he tries to sing the lines. So, for example, when he gets out the lines "Realize I don't want to be a miser / Confide with sly you'll be the wiser / Young blood is the lovin' upriser / How come everybody wanna keep it like the Kaiser" he sounds as if his vocal chords are rubber bands and he is sneering. To Kiedis's credit, when he goes the banal refrain of "Give it away give it away give it away now" he sings it fast and articulately enough to be understood.

The thing is, while under most circumstances having comprehensible vocalizations of the lyrics would be a plus, with "Give It Away," it is not at all a key selling point. This song, about rejecting capitalism and ownership of material things, has some of the most inane lyrics of any rock single. The rhymes are absolutely lame (it could easily have been written by a second grader or while any member of the band was high) and arguably the only way to present it is like some manic nursery rhyme. It is hard to consider that the band that came up with "Scar Tissue" and "Don't Forget Me" also wrote the pathetic verses "Greedy little people in a sea of distress / Keep your more to receive your less / Unimpressed by material excess / Love is free love me say hell yes / I'm a low brow but I rock a little know how / No time for the piggies or the hoosegow / Get smart get down with the pow wow / Never been a better time than right now."

As I listen to more Red Hot Chili Peppers albums and singles, I am finding quite a bit that is laudable or enjoyable. However, "Give It Away"
 is neither. And for those who might disagree with my analysis of the song, this single is still a poor way to go as EVERY other version of it offers the listener greater value.

For other works by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, please check out my reviews of:
Mother's Milk
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
"Soul To Squeeze" (single)
"Otherside" (single)
By The Way
Greatest Hits And Videos
The Best Of Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stadium Arcadium


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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