Whenever I hear “Bohemian Rhapsody,” no matter where I am, I do the head banging and hand choreography from Wayne’s World. It will always be inextricably linked to Wayne and Garth. Party on, Freddie Mercury!
This is definitely not your typical rock song, but most of Queen’s music fits that description. Their music is very dramatic and theatrical, and this composition is especially operatic. The lyrics are quite sad, and Freddie makes you want to cry when he wails “I don’t wanna die/I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.” Wipes tears. Yes, boo, I understand.
Sometimes I wonder why straight men listen to Queen. I mean, when they started out in the 70s there were hard core macho bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to compete with. Queen’s vibe was so different, so much more complete and complex, I think. Not to take anything away from the other great bands who were around at the time, because I am addicted to their music as well. But their name was Queen, so right there they sounded like a bunch of girly men, right? Freddie had a very macho stage persona no matter what he was wearing, even though his music was often sad and enigmatic. He had total control over the audience, which is always very sexy. But I don’t think of him as the same kind of masculine as Robert Plant or even Mick Jagger, even though Mick’s sex appeal is definitely a bit on the androgynous side. Freddie was a different kind of man and performer altogether, perhaps because of his ability to bring hard rock together with classical drama. I don’t even put Freddie in the same category as David Bowie, because Bowie went out of his way to be a work of art onstage, and his androgyny was absolutely more affected than anyone else who was considered glam. Besides, I don’t really think of Queen when I think about glam rock, even though they were lumped in with the others who were placed in that category. They brought drama. That is not the same thing as glam.
That said, maybe I don’t give straight guys enough credit for their musical taste. Perfectly heterosexual men love Queen, and that’s okay. Their music is great fun to sing along with, and even straight men enjoy the drama sometimes! Freddie’s voice was unmatched. Nobody else could fuck shit up vocally like he did. He made it seem so effortless. Queen’s music is brilliant, and that reaches beyond any prejudice people may have. These days things are different as far as tolerance for those who are or are perceived to be LGBT and LGBT-adjacent. I’m impressed with straight men who love queens! And I love straight men who love Queen.
I knew Queen’s music before Wayne’s World helped bring “Bohemian Rhapsody” back into the American mainstream after 17 years (it reached Number 2 on the Billboard chart in 1992), but I learned more about it once I saw the movie. Freddie had passed away just a few months earlier, and the song had been rereleased in the United Kingdom in late 1991 and reached Number 1. Interest in Queen and in Freddie in particular was at an all-time high, and it was fun to hear more of their music. I’m not sure how high “Bohemian Rhapsody” was on everyone’s list of greatest songs of all time before this renaissance, but in the past two decades it is always voted the best song ever in British music polls.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is absolutely right up there with “Stairway to Heaven” on my list of greatest songs of all time. Before the Great Queen Revival of 1992 the Queen songs I knew best were “Another One Bites the Dust” and “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions.” Those are also epic compositions, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” stands alone because of the way it’s constructed, the different elements Freddie brought together. It reminds me of a Broadway medley, perfect snippets of cripplingly beautiful music from some grand rock opera that changed the world. There is no song like this in music history. Artists who use samples of assorted sounds and other musicians’ pieces can create interesting listening experiences, but Freddie Mercury fucking sat down and wrote this shit. He did not have a computer or DJ equipment. He used his creativity and his soul. Nobody can ever do better than that.