The American funk rock legends, Red Hot Chili Peppers are making a comeback with a brand new single “Poster Child” from their upcoming album ‘Unlimited Love.’ The 6-verse song dives deep into some of the major socio-cultural phenomena from the past. The song namedrops dozens of prominent musical figures, songs, albums, movies, actors, politicians, and religious figures.
Red Hot Chili Peppers announced their return to music with their twelfth studio album ‘Unlimited Love’ coming out in 2022. This is their first major project in six years after ‘The Getaway’ album released in 2016. The lead single off the new album, “Black Summer” was released on February 4, 2022.
The term ‘poster child,’ according to the original meaning of the term, is a child afflicted by some disease or deformity whose picture is used on posters or other media as part of a campaign to raise money or enlist volunteers for a cause or organization [Wikipedia]. In the song, however, the term refers to the disease of fame and limelight. All the names mentioned in the song have had a significant cultural impact during their peaks.
Listen to “Poster Child” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers “Poster Child” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
We will try our best to list out all the references mentioned in each verse of the song.
- Melle Mel – legendary hip hop artist
- Richard Hell – American singer, songwriter, and guitarist
- Rebel Yell – song by Billy Idol
- Infidels – 22nd studio album by Bob Dylan
- Adam Ant – lead singer of Adam and the Ants
- Robert Plant – lead singer and lyricist of the legendary rock band Led Zeppelin
- Ulysses Grant – American military officer and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877
- Record Plant – a recording studio from New York City
- Islamabad – capital of Pakistan
- Havana – capital of Cuba
Lyricist Anthony Kiedis sings about his own crazy side that he has not hidden from his fans as the lead singer and frontman of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Yoko could be a reference to the one-and-only Yoko Ono, a Japanese multimedia artist and the former spouse of John Lennon.
- Atomic Dog – song by the band Parliament founded by George Clinton
- “death of everything in analog” – transition from analog to digital
- “the Seventies were such a win” – just facts!
- Led Zeppelin – the legendary rock band who were prominent in the 70s
- “Lizzy lookin’ mighty thin” – Thin Lizzy rock band
- “Thompsons had another twin” – Thompson Twins pop band
- “Ramones had a lobotomy” – punk band Ramones and their song “Teenage Lobotomy”
In the hook of the song, Anthony sings how he himself is a poster child of this generation he sings about. Red Hot Chili Peppers was a major name in music a while ago. With six Grammy Awards, twenty-eight MTV Music Video Awards, Hollywood Walk of Fame inductees, and Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums of All Time inductees, Red Hot Chili Peppers have had a massive impact on the landmass of music.
- Sandinista – fourth studio album by English punk rock band the Clash
- minor Mona Lisa – could be a reference to the small size of the iconic painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Judas Priest – legendary English heavy metal band
- “mother love was named Teresa” – refernce to Mother Teresa, Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary
- “Smoke banana” – possible reference to the psychadelic rock song “Music To Smoke Bananas By” by The Elopers
- Bernie Mac – American actor and comedian, passed away in 2008
- Caddyshack – an iconic 1980 American sports comedy film
- “future’s back” – iconic 1985 movie ‘Back to the Future’
- Steve Miller – American guitarist, singer and songwriter, known as leader of the Steve Miller Band
- Duran Duran – iconic English new wave band
- “the Joker” – song by Steve Miller Band
- “dancing in the sand” – a lyric from Duran Duran’s song “Rio”
- Van Morrison – legendary Northern Irish singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer whose recording career spans seven decades
- “the Astral man” – reference to “Astral Weeks” song and album of the same name by Van Morrison
- Chico and the Man – 1974 American sitcom television series that aired on NBC
- “the silence of a certain lamb” – iconic 1991 American psychological horror thriller film ‘The Silence of the Lambs’
- “MC5 kick out the jam” – ode to punk band MC5 and their debut album ‘Kick Out The Jams’
- Dairy Queen – American chain of soft serve ice cream and fast-food restaurants founded in 1940
- Motörhead – English rock band formed in London in 1975
Mixing in with some sexual innuendo, Anthony sings how the media and the fans blow up an artist’s popularity beyond reach. Thereafter, these artists cannot remain grounded. It’s the music’s consumer that elevates the music creators to a ‘poster child’ status. The artists, too, dedicate their entire lives for the gratification of their fans. And the cycle just continues.
- Creem magazine – a monthly American music magazine, based in Detroit (1969 – 1989)
- A Love Supreme – infamous Jazz album by John Coltrane
- Billie Jean – infamous song by Michael Jackson
- Status Quo – English rock band that formed in 1962
- “God would never save the Queen” – reference to the song “God Save the Queen” by the British punk rock band the Sex Pistols
- Dave Mushegain – possible shoutout to the ‘Fandemonium’ memoir by Red Hot Chili Peppers co-written by David Mushegain
- Ronald Reagan – American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989
- Flavor Flav – American rapper, who co-founded the rap group Public Enemy with Chuck D
- “Chubby Checker do the twist” – the 1960 song “The Twist” by Chubby Checker
- “house of red” – reference to “Red House” song by Jimi Hendrix from 1967
- “A fatty for the natty dread” – ‘Natty Dread’ is the seventh album by Bob Marley and the Wailers, released in 1974
- “pocket full of talking heads” – reference to the Talking Heads, American rock band formed in 1975
- “M.I.A.’s making paper planes” – 2007 song “Paper Planes” by indie singer M.I.A.
- “addiction to the days of Janes” – reference to the rock band Jane’s Addiction, formed in 1985
- “My stuff is made of purple rain” – reference to iconic song and album ‘Purple Rain‘ by Prince
- Karate Kid – 1985 action/drama film of the same name
- Sid Vicious – English musician best known as the bassist for the punk rock band Sex Pistols
- “The planet that we must forbid” – possible reference to one of the pioneering sci-fi movies ‘Forbidden Planet’ from 1956
That was a lot of online research. We might have gotten some wrong or completely missed some. Help us by commenting the references you recognize in the comments below.
The ultimate message of the song is that no matter how big or famous you get, all of these people are mere poster children for a generation. They may live in the highest of highs at their peaks, but ultimately everyone has to come down. Even if they retain their stardom throughout their entire career like Michael Jackson, they ultimately meet their maker, like Michael Jackson. All the posters wash away in the sun and rain, too.
You know the world is ours for a little while
And then I will be your poster child tonight
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.