music

My favorite Queen songs; I couldn’t keep ’em to 10

queen_mic

How much Queen have you been listening to since seeing Bohemian Rhapsody? (If you haven’t read my review, compare your thoughts and let me know what you think.) I’ve been listening virtually non-stop while watching plenty of concert and documentary footage, and reading dozens of articles on the band.

That got me to thinking about what my favorite Queen songs actually are. Unless I’ve missed them, I haven’t seen many of the top 10-type lists that normally populate the pop culture internet since Bohemian Rhapsody was released. And many of my favorites are not what other fans might pick for theirs.

So as a way to distract myself from the 2018 midterm elections (which are now thankfully over, although nothing has been settled), note my preferences for posterity, and create some content for this blog, we have a list!

I couldn’t keep my favorite Queen songs to simply 10, though that’s probably a cop-out. (If I was editing a writer doing this, I’d tell him or her to make some tough decisions and not cheat on the exercise.) And even then, I left out some songs (“Killer Queen,” “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Seven Seas of Rhye”) that others might consider classics.

Geez, maybe I should’ve just made this a list of 20.

Honorable mention: Bicycle Race

OK, this is a ridiculous song. But it makes me feel something. I learned how to ride a bike later in life, like when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and it really meant something to me when it finally happened. And at some point “I want to ride my bicycle… I want to ride my bike” was singing in my head. It pairs nicely with your “You’re My Best Friend” or “Fat-Bottomed Girls.”

Freddie Mercury reportedly wrote this while watching the Tour de France, but there’s a childlike innocence to it that I think fits a more carefree narrative. But did he have to say he didn’t like Star Wars? Freddie!

15. Headlong

Is “Headlong” remembered as one of Queen’s best songs? Hell, it’s probably not remembered among that many people as a Queen song, recorded late in the band’s run (1991, to be exact). It seems like it should’ve been the theme to some movie on a soundtrack, which Queen did so much of in the 1980s.

I’m mostly about the “Boom Diddy Diddy, Boom Diddy Doo” in the song. It fits with the goofy charm of the band being playful in the studio for the video. (Thanks to the band’s official lyric videos, however, I’ve learned that it’s “Hoop Diddy Diddy, Hoop Diddy Doo.”)

Though with the hard-driving beat, it’s a good one to blast while driving too fast on the highway. (Not that I’d do such a thing.) Yet more than 25 years later, I’m still wondering what “Now you’ve got soup in the laundry bag” means.

14. You’re My Best Friend

This is just such a sweet song, like a gentle breeze or cool drink — especially among all the power and fire of most Queen songs. But it’s probably been used in more of a goofy context in movies and TV. It’s a cheesy song! That electric piano!

Still, you should sing “Oooh, you make me live” to a special person in your life while frolicking through a field of tall grass and dandelions.

13. We Will Rock You

How can this not be in my top 10? (Or at least right before “We Are the Champions,” as it’s often played?)

“We Will Rock You” is a memorable song, with three beats that are immediately identifiable. In Bohemian Rhapsody, Brian May’s explanation for wanting to create a song that the audience could perform with the band is compelling. And damn, it sounds great at a sporting event.

Many of us have probably blasted this in our room or car, singing “Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise… Playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday” and pumping ourselves up. But is it really a great song?

One thing I hope we can all agree on: This is one of the worst music videos ever made. Hopefully, someone was fired after suggesting the band just go outside and play in the backyard during the winter.

12. Somebody To Love

Doesn’t everybody live this song on a regular basis? “Each morning I get up I die a little…
Can barely stand on my feet…

It’s a prevalent theme through so many Queen songs: Yeah, we know life sucks and drags you down, but get on up and keep going because what other choice is there? We all need to hear that at least occasionally. And some of us unfortunate ones need to know that there’s somebody out there for us.

Later in life as I listened to the lyrics (and Gospel-type chorus), I realized that Mercury was talking to God, asking him how someone who tries so hard to get through a hard life can be left alone. I’ve struggled with my religious beliefs for a good chunk of my life, asking similar questions.

11. Flash

I fucking love this song. It may have been the first Queen song I ever heard, or the first time I became aware of the band, playing the theme song to a movie for which I still hold plenty of geek affection.

But just as Flash Gordon isn’t a very good movie, I can’t objectively say that “Flash” is a very good song (which is why it’s not in my top 10). The lyrics are sparse and goofy. Yet it has that opening bass line (with piano) that pulses, building toward the lightning bolt of Freddie Mercury’s voice and Brian May’s guitar. FLASH! AH-AHHH!

Not a great video. Hey, let’s have the band watch clips from the movie. But it works since those snippets are included in the song itself.

10. One Vision

Queen was sort of the unofficial soundtrack band of the 1980s, and “One Vision” certainly had a greater life than the movie it was attached to, Iron Eagle. But jets flying while Brian May’s guitar rocked out hits in the sweet spot. It has that quintessential Queen inspirational sound, beginning with synthesizers before going into the guitars.Still a great song for a workout playlist.

And Freddie Mercury sings “fried chicken!” at the end for seemingly no reason, other than it fits in the lyric. He was definitely having fun here.

The video is interesting — especially with the Iron Eagle clips taken out — showing a more fun side of Queen in the studio, and a callback to the band’s iconic pose from “Bohemian Rhapsody.” OK, it’s cheesy: Brian May playing pinball? Freddie Mercury reading the paper? And Roger Taylor has his name on his drumsticks. So rock star.

9. Keep Yourself Alive

This one makes the list almost entirely because of the opening guitar riff. Those gritty, scratchy notes (which play throughout the song) just feel like the build toward something big, like a band getting ready to take the stage and blow the roof off the house. Sure enough, that’s what the rest of the song does once the bass and drums kick in.

“Keep Yourself Alive” wasn’t Queen at its greatest. The song very much sounds like the early days of the band, performed in a bar or club, with the promise of bigger and grander things to come.

8. I Want to Break Free

I loved this video as a kid. Something about Freddie Mercury dressing up in drag blew my young mind. (The whole band dressed in drag for the video.) I’m sure I saw rock stars in drag before this, but it was so fun for a badass lead singer to dress up like a woman. Queen showed they didn’t take themselves too seriously here. And the song is a nice change of pace with its skippy bass line.

Personally, my favorite part of Bohemian Rhapsody is that it includes a scene in which Queen is filming the “I Want to Break Free” video. (I actually clapped — once.) Rami Malek is given an upgrade in the fake boob department, though.

7. We Are the Champions

I’m sure this would be rank higher among many other people’s favorite Queen songs. “We Are the Champions” is an unforgettable rock anthem and surely been overplayed for too many sports teams after they won a championship (or by TV networks looking to close out their coverage).

Though it may be too somber for a true celebration song, it’s certainly inspirational (“I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face… But I’ve come through…“) and warrants blasting it in your car. Everybody probably needs to play this song for themselves once in a while. I just don’t think it would be my first choice for a Queen song I’d want to listen to, though that probably depends on the mood.

Mercury’s black-and-white leotard for the video is also a bold, memorable choice. It’s like he broke out of the mime box. And he kind of looks like a black-and-white cookie come to life.

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

I’m guessing I might lose some Queen fans here who think this should be ranked much higher.

Yes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Queen wanted to be experimental and stand apart from their peers with the A Night at the Opera album and certainly did so. The song demonstrated its timelessness when its popularity was revived in Wayne’s World, rocking the world of a whole new generation of fans.

Nothing else sounds like it. Was there any other song that a movie about Queen could be named after? Of course not. But hey, there are five other Queen tunes I like more. That takes nothing away from this song and its grandiosity.

5. Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Here’s a great example (along with “Another One Bites the Dust”) of Queen’s versatility. Their music always didn’t have to be big rock anthems and melodramatic ballads. Sometimes, they could just have fun with their music and create a catchy tune that emulated Elvis and the rockabilly sound. It’s impossible not to tap your foot to this.

The video also seems to hint (maybe rather strongly) at Mercury’s bisexuality, performing with both female and male dancers. Or is that reading too much into it?

4. Another One Bites the Dust

I say these are the most memorable eight opening notes in rock and roll. Some might say “Another One Bites the Dust” was Queen’s attempt to get in on the disco craze, but bassist John Deacon had a background in soul and R&B, and spent time in the studio with Chic. He wanted to do a more grounded song like this, and Mercury was excited about Queen getting played in clubs. This was a big crossover hit for the band too.

As a Detroit Lions fan, I also remember “Another One Bites the Dust” fondly when “Spiderman” Allen recorded a cover theme song after the team began the 1980 season 4-0. (That eventually backfired spectacularly as the Lions finished 9-7.)

3. Radio Ga Ga

The best part of Queen’s 1985 Live Aid performance, and thus the best part of its re-enactment in Bohemian Rhapsody. Lyrics like “my only friend through teenage nights” and “don’t become some background noise” really spoke to me. I also wonder if the use of footage from Metropolis for the song’s video influenced my interest in movies (though I was already into Star Wars, Blade Runner, etc.)

“Radio Ga Ga” was inspirational in a different way than stadium anthems like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” It was also more electronic with the use of synthesizers and electric drums. And for a band that made several bad videos, this was a really good one.

2. Under Pressure

I almost didn’t include this because it’s a Queen and David Bowie song. But it’s on a Queen album, Hot Space. And Mercury was reportedly the primary songwriter, though Bowie wrote many of the lyrics (and all five artists are credited for the song). The build-up to the song’s crescendo at the 2:27 mark, with Mercury hitting his high notes and Taylor going crazy on the drums, is one of my favorite parts of any rock song ever.

I’ll never forgive Vanilla Ice for stealing the opening bass line for “Ice Ice Baby,” and giving me false excitement every time I heard those notes on the radio for at least two years, thinking I was about to listen to “Under Pressure.”

1. Fat-Bottomed Girls

Before I started writing this list, I knew “Fat-Bottomed Girls” would be No. 1. It’s not operatic, though it is anthemic. But it’s just a great fucking rock ‘n roll song.

Some might think the title is a little bit mean, but it’s a better ode to big butts than Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I feel like I should join a motorcycle gang when listening to this song. Or at least dress as Freddie Mercury might envision a motorcycle gang.

“Fat-Bottomed Girls” has everything that makes a Queen song great: The anthemic tone and beat, the driving guitar riffs, thumping bass lines (Does John Deacon get enough credit as a great rock bassist?) and playful lyrics. This is Queen at its roll down the windows and blast the speakers best.

2 thoughts on “My favorite Queen songs; I couldn’t keep ’em to 10

  1. I’d have to think about mine, but I suspect it’d be all over the place. Don’t stop me now and I Want to Break Free and Somebody to Love are definitely top 5. Maybe March of the Black Queen would join then, as well as Bohemian Rhapsody? Or would I’m Going Slightly Mad or Stone Cold Crazy pull an upset to sneak into the upper echelon?

    Liked by 1 person

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