Snow has arrived on the east coast. It’s cold. I’m sitting in my house wearing a snowsuit and drinking hot chocolate. The outside is a mess of fallen branches and frozen roads, and so I can’t replenish my dwindling soup supply. Now would be a great time to get on a plane and fly to California, the land of non-cold.
I welcome you to join me. For the trip, I’ve built a playlist of nine grooving songs to put us in a California state of mind. You may be wondering why I have chosen nine songs to feature rather than ten despite the fact that there are hundreds of California-centric songs to choose from. The explanation is obvious: Everything about California is odd.
What better way is there to take off than with Flea and crew? “Dani California” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers rocks hard. This anthemic track sings California’s praises and sounds good doing it. With a steady, Wu-Tang inspired drum beat and a wicked guitar solo that nods to Hendrix, it can be said that this song is a fantastic representation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ commendable yet accessible musical style.
The Grateful Dead’s “Estimated Prophet” is perhaps just as funky as anything the Chili Peppers have put out. This song off of the 1977 album Terrapin Station is full of uncanny bass and grooving guitar. It’s dark overtones are outweighed by the uplifting inclusion of both harmonica and saxophone. What makes this Dead track worthy of inclusion within this particular playlist is its exclamatory chorus, which rings, “California, a prophet on the burning shore / California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door.” “Estimated Prophet” from the Grateful Dead is a dope addition to this list (No pun intended).
The Eagles’ “Hotel California” is a song that everybody loves, and for good reason. It features some splendid acoustics, vivid lyrics, and an unforgettable guitar solo. Heck, I don’t need to explain to you why “Hotel California” is a fantastic song. It just is. You know it, I know it, and your mother knows it. Throw this song on your California playlist. Actually, throw it on twice because it deserves the extra attention.
“Going to California” by Led Zeppelin tells the sad tale of a man who departs for California in an effort to try his hand at love after having his heart broken. As if we needed another exhibit to refer to, “Going to California” shows that Robert Plant can sing. In this case, he restrains himself, yielding a delicate-sounding yet forward-moving vocal delivery. The song’s rustic chords emulate those of Johnny Cash’s interpretation of “Ain’t No Grave,” which was originally a classic gospel track. “Going to California” is a simple song that tells a sweet story, a nice addition to our list.
Coming off of U2’s new controversial album, “California (There Is No End to Love)” is another sweet track that we can throw into our mix. “California” has an adventurous feeling to it, almost as if it was written as an ode to the Golden State. The song begins with a harmonized chanting of “Santa Barbara,” which segues into a tender passage that starts, “California / then we sail into the shining sea.” Further mention of “Zuma” and a “blood orange sunset” convinces me that this song is a poppy love letter to Cali. One of the better songs from Songs of Innocence, “California” is certainly a joy to have on this playlist.
The Ramones’ “California Sun” is hilarious. It’s ridiculously catchy. Anyone can sing along with it because there are no true words included. There is only a mumbling vocal melody paired with overly-excited instrumentation. “California Sun” has a secure spot on this list, as the sum of its parts is a fun time indeed.
While New York was given Jay Z’s inspiring “Empire State of Mind,” California was blessed with Katy Perry’s frothy “California Gurls.” “West coast represent / now put your hands up” is one of the many declarations of Californian pride within the song. Snoop Dogg adds an additional layer to the track, providing his insightful lyricism to the already solid tune. Okay, I truly don’t care for the song very much, but it’s a staple of the California playlist. Nobody vacations alone, and so you’ll need a poppy song to please whomever you’re traveling with. Throw “California Gurls” into the playlist for their sake.
Tupac’s “California Love” hits hard. Featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman, this classic hip-hop track has endless good vibes. It’s a lively salute to California, and a bumping one at that. The instrumental is fresh, highlighted by looping piano that is amplified by the inclusion of horns and whistles. Add this song to your vacation mix and bump.
To conclude the playlist, I felt that we should bring it back around to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of the best from the band’s repertoire, “Californication” is a song that bids reflection upon life and society. The powerful chords and subdued vocals create an atmosphere ripe for contemplative thinking. Perhaps this is a song that is more appropriate to listen to after having partied so hard that you wake up with a tattoo of a dolphin on your back. After all, who in California hasn’t make a detrimental mistake in their life?
Hot playlist, huh? Go to California, catch some waves, and listen to these songs. Note that they’re not appropriate solely because of their nominal focus on Cali. Each of the songs is high-quality in its own right. Have a safe flight! I’ll pack my bags as soon as my fingers defrost.