“Bohemian Rhapsody” deserves a deep rewind
POSTED November 20, 2018
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”
The brilliant product of stunning creativity, exceptional musical talent and angelic imagination, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a seemingly vast, melodic masterpiece that’s delivered in five minutes and fifty-six seconds of inspirational, never-ending rhythms and harmonies.
Whether one first heard this song in 1975 or 2018, the most barbarian of expectations were tamed as soon as the second verse magnificently introduced itself and left one looking around his room trying to find where the song blew his socks to. It borrows and takes from no one, expressing the multiple stories in entirely separate sections with fascinating originality, and any predictions made during the experience through this song are going to wind up providing foolish and impolitely wrong assumptions on just where Queen is going to take them next while they’re riding the ferris wheel of genius imaginativity.
Alright, let’s backtrack a little bit.
On November 21, 1975, Queen released its fourth studio album “A Night at the Opera”, which peaked at number four on the US Billboard 200 and number one in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Dutch charts. “A Night at the Opera” hammered down the door of skepticism and backlash for the British rock band as it propelled them internationally and exposed the world to one of the best songs of all time.
As of 2018, the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” has reached the top position on 11 different international charts, has gone 6x platinum digitally in the United States (4,445,000 as of May 2013), has been named the best British single of all time by the Guiness Book of World Records and has been inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame as of 2004. The song itself defined Queen and music culture as an energetically fresh and exciting anthem that, when performed in breathtaking fashion by Freddie Mercury (may he rest in peace), created the thrilling combo of jubilant emotions and gave one this astonishing, sudden injection of inspiration and encouragement to try to replicate this unique feeling that he won’t ever go through again.
It’s somewhat depressing actually. Mercury (unintentionally or intentionally) instills this false sense of accomplishment in the listener, beckoning and allowing them to feel like they are somehow a part of the reason the song is as glorious as it is. However, Mercury forbids us from the act of thinking, and he does this by constantly switching the story, direction, tempo and even the volume of the song.
How does this stop the listener from thinking?
If one were to sing a ballad about a budding relationship between a lowly servant and an elegant princess, we would have a pretty good idea what the song is about. This is because the one who sang the song is allowing us to follow along with the story and create a version of the story of the song in our minds. Now if we heard this song the next day or week later, we would already know what the song is about because we already have a carbon copy of the story in our heads, so the same authentic experience we went through on our first listen can’t be recreated.
What’s the story of “Bohemian Rhapsody?”
Sure the narrator kills a man and doesn’t want to face the punishment, but how the heck is the listener supposed to follow along with “Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?”
This hits us like good SNL episode; we didn’t expect it, but we’re still pleasantly surprised.
This method of Mercury’s is exactly why this song is so great. If we as listeners can’t envision the story–not because of poor word choice but because of our unfamiliarity with it–we have no choice but to trust Queen to hold our hands and guide us through its song instead of subconsciously walking through its creation on our own. We can keep experiencing the same authentic first-time feeling because we’re still not sure what’s gonna happen or how we as listeners will react when the song is listened to again.
So is this song the real life or just fantasy?
I have no idea.