I experience an unreasonable amount of joy from watching the music-themed editions of the popular “Kids React” videos, where elementary-aged kids are given a pair of headphones and find themselves blasted with classic rock tunes. My favorite is this one:
It’s not surprising, at least not to me, that most of the kids are either Queen fans already, or take only a song or two to be converted. There’s one little girl who remains a holdout, but the results are still overwhelming affirming to those of us who claim the greatness of Mercury and company. I’ll, of course, allow a pass for young children. After all, they think the Easter Bunny is real and that green vegetables come from the garden of Satan himself. However, there are still a few adults who have decided they are too good for one of the greatest bands in the history of the universe.
Luckily for the haters, I’m here to help. It’s really quite simple… you are not allowed to dislike Queen. Allow me to explain with a short, numbered listicle of the British quartet’s selling points. Hopefully you’ll come to see why you’re wrong if you say you don’t like them. And, believe me, you are wrong.
1. Queen is 50 of the best bands in music history
Queen was rarely the same band from song to song, let alone album to album. Until Freddie Mercury’s untimely death, the lineup of Freddie, Brian, John, and Roger remained constant, but WOW, were they a versatile crew! It would be tempting when asked (although I never have been asked) what they sound like, to describe Queen as a hard rock band, and while that wouldn’t be a lie, it would be an incomplete picture. Queen made music that could be identified rightly as proto-metal (“Stone Cold Crazy”, later covered, nearly unchanged, by Metallica), folk rock (Brian May’s underrated “’39”), country (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, accepted as canon by many in the Nashville community), pop (all of the “Hot Space” album), and even songs in the style of 1920s English pub singalongs (“Dreamer’s Ball). The list could go on and on, but the point is that, no matter your personal taste, Queen’s prolific, musically diverse catalog has you covered. Particularly during their artistic peak in the 1970s, listeners who put a Queen record on the hi-fi could be delighted by the radical, unexpected genre-bending shifts delivered by each successive track. While the band’s hits, which are many, are a fine place to start, it would be absurdly lazy to claim distaste for Queen as a whole without exploration of their lesser-known gems. For that matter, if you consider yourself a Queen fan, but have never heard “Dragon Attack”, “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy”, or “Rain Must Fall”, do yourself a favor and dig a little deeper into some incredibly good music.
2. Are you really unimpressed?
Aside from the great songs, the musicianship on even the “worst” (relative term) Queen albums is something awesome for your ears to behold. There should be no question that Freddie Mercury is one of the finest singers ever to pick up a microphone. Skipping around the musical spectrum was much easier for a band whose frontman could successfully channel Robert Plant, Rudy Vallee, Elvis, and Pavarotti, sometimes all in the same song! It’s possible Freddie will never be surpassed in his combination of vocal power and versatility. His voice is heavenly and he ranks among the likes of Paganini and Liszt for being one of the greatest showman in music history, to boot.
Similarly, Brian May is an astonishingly brilliant guitarist. Nearly always playing instruments of his own design and construction, the sounds of his guitar are among the most identifiable ever recorded. Listen to the tone in both “Seaside Rendezvous” and “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon”, both from the “A Night at the Opera” album. In each case, Brian May manages to adopt the inflections of clarinets, trombones and anything else he wishes to emulate. Furthermore, I imagine most of the Western World can sing at least a portion of his “Bohemian Rhapsody” solo note for note.
While drummer Roger Taylor and bassist/keyboardist John Deacon played less flashy roles in Queen, and were perhaps less virtuosic than Freddie and Brian, it speaks volumes that they never failed to deliver performances which were complimentary to such levels of excellence. Keep in mind that John Deacon composed and played the B-3 on the flawless single “You’re My Best Friend”, while Roger Taylor wrote and sang the awesome/ridiculous anthem, “I’m in Love with My Car”. (“A Night at the Opera” is an obscenely great album, as if I need to point that out.)
3. The lyrics are as funny and original as the music is extraordinary.
While not all Queen lyrics are humorous by any means, the many which are come delivered with a wit and intelligence that is truly a rare thing in the world of popular music. We all know “Bohemian Rhapsody” with its many absurd phrases that reference such obscurities as silent early French cinema, loving/mocking tributes to opera choruses, and of course, the incomparably delirious line, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me”. “Bicycle Race” is not only one of Queen’s silliest songs, but certainly among their very best. Every line of it is completely insane. “Delilah”, from “Innuendo”, their final studio album is a uniquely comical and touching farewell from Freddie Mercury to his cat, recorded as the singer knew his days ahead were few. From the same record, “I’m Going Slightly Mad” is inconceivably both screwball silly and elegant.
Queen didn’t shy away from serious reflections, either. Love songs like “Love of My Life” and “You Take My Breath Away” show that the band could be devastating even when the instruments were reduced to a single piano (mostly). It’s worth noting that many of Queen’s songs about love mixed humor and tragedy. Think of “Somebody to Love” or “Save Me”. They’re gloriously epic fun, but heartbreaking when you look at the words alone.
4. Are you not convinced at this point?
In addition to all I’ve highlighted so far, Queen is the soundtrack to our very existence. It’s true that stadium anthems “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” have been nearly exhausted. It’s also fair to say (and I have) that “Bohemian Rhapsody” needs a little time away from classic rock radio, just to breathe long enough that we can appreciate its perfection. In many respects, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the Beethoven’s 5th Symphony of rock. Sure, we’ve heard it a ridiculous amount, but we nonetheless never cease being amazed by it.
As a last piece of evidence, if you are of an age where you remember seeing performances of Live-Aid on TV, you don’t need to a reminder to recall which band dominated the star-studded concert.
If none of this is compelling, and you remain convinced that Queen is anything but awesome, I probably have little else to discuss with you. You may need to reflect on your poor life choices that have led to this reality.