Blissful, impassioned, and anthemic. These are just a few of the many adjectives you could use to describe Queen. And even still, you might not be able to capture their brilliance in all its glory.
What started as an oddball group of musicians that anyone would harbor doubts over quickly acclaimed success. It’s safe to say that they’ve cemented a perpetual place for themselves in music history.
That’s what makes the question of their triumph so interesting. For a band as timeless as this, surely you can expect some big reasons as to why they hold such high esteem.
So, what makes Queen one of rock music’s greatest bands? How has their music been able to cross borders and cultures to latch on to the minds of both old and young? Well, we might not have a single concrete answer. But we can think up just some of the aspects that make them so decorated.
Why Queen is One of the Best Bands of All Time
Queen is just one of those bands that makes you want to sing along as loud as your voice can handle. After all, with so many huge all time hits, it’s not hard to see why this is the case. Between We Will Rock You, Don’t Stop Me Now, and We Are the Champions, there is certainly no shortage of hit music that this band has created.
Although the music industry has evolved drastically since Queen was at the peak of its popularity, there is no denying the fact that it still remains one of the most influential bands of all time. Just think about the fact that Freddie Mercury just had his own biopic movie created about him
Queen is, or was, comprised of lead man Freddie Mercury, lead guitarist Brian May, bassist John Deacon, and drummer Roger Taylor. The band first got its start in 1970, when Mercury joined Smile, the band that Taylor and May had already created together. The addition of Mercury to this duo would prove to be one of the most successful decisions that the music industry has ever seen.
Freddie Mercury is of course usually seen as the reason why Queen became as popular as it did. A large part of this was simply due to the legend surrounding the controversial lead singer, from his sexual preferences to his battle with disease towards the end of his life.
However, one thing that always stood out about Freddie Mercury was his ability to sing vocals like no one else before or after him ever could. Freddie Mercury is often considered to be one of the most influential and inspirational musical artists of all time. There are plenty of artists out there, whether we are talking about Lady Gaga, Nirvana, The Foo Fighters, Vanilla Ice, and so many more, who all took so much inspiration from Freddie Mercury. Some of the biggest bands of all time have taken their inspiration from Queen.
Perhaps the most iconic song ever produced by Queen is Bohemian Rhapsody, a near six minute long song that takes listeners on a massive rollercoaster, with changing tempos, pitches, and lyrics. Not one minute of the song is like the next, which is one of the exact things that makes it such a huge hit. It’s one of the best songs out there regarded for having such minimal repetition, yet still coming together to form one amazing piece of music.
There’s No Shortage of Great Hits
With any artist, there’s always a question of hits and misses. Two or three songs that hit the top get largely overshadowed by the rest of the discography. But with Queen, it’s all hits as far as the eye can see.
Take any song of theirs, and there will be a good chance that it is appreciated in some capacity. And here’s the thing, they’re not just hits for the band, but for rock music in general. Songs like We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust, and We Will Rock You are just some of the examples of what the band is capable of.
When you listen to Queen, there’s a good chance the song you’re about to land on is a heavy hitter. That’s part of what makes them so memorable; their greatest hits are the greatest of the greatest hits.
Freddie Mercury is an Icon
It would be criminal to start a discussion about the greatness of Queen without involving Freddie Mercury. He was more than just a valuable asset to the band’s lineup; he’s practically an icon.
Freddie’s incredible singing voice spans four whole octaves, all the way from a low F2 to a high F3. But the real feat lies in how he manages to use this range so well. Each note manages to gracefully slide into another without a hitch.
But more important than that was the harmonic character that he was able to add. Even notes sung in the same range sounded so vastly distinct, thanks to his tone and delivery. His vocal inflections were so unique that he was averse to the idea of having surgery to fix his oral posture, fearing that it might cause him to lose his vocal ability.
His stage presence and vocal ability lead him to be the most recognizable members in the group. That’s why he’s made his place as Queen’s frontman. And definitely, one that people won’t easily forget.
They Inspired an Entire Generation of Artists
It’s one thing to be loved and adored by your fans. But when your musicianship is used as the primary inspiration by other artists, then there’s no higher praise. Queen is instrumental at this, with no less than a dozen or so artists naming the band as the primary influence.
You don’t have to look too far to find examples. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was so inspired by Brian May that he wanted to create his guitar sound after him. David Bowie gained critical fame after being featured in a duo alongside Freddie Mercury. Lady gaga practically got her name from the Queen song, Radio Ga Ga. The list goes on.
Queen didn’t just leave us with a great collection of music to listen to; it empowered future generations of music makers. That in itself is no small feat.
Organ-Like Vocal Harmonies
Polyphony is the cornerstone of Queen’s sound. It’s something that comes across from their excellent vocal harmony. And it’s what separates them from other similar bands at the time.
Queen’s band members used their expertise to craft these rich harmonies. Freddie Mercury had the ability to stare down one melody and break it down into several takes. In each take, he managed to vary his inflection and tone so as to sound distinct from one another.
Brain May and Roger Taylor would also enter in as backup singers to the mix. As a result, you had songs like Bohemian Rhapsody that had nine different vocal takes being multi tracked.
When combined together, these takes sounded off as a dense sound with plenty of separation. It was nothing short of listening to a vocal version of a church organ. Not only did this define their sound, but it also contributed to their immense popularity and appeal.
They Speak with the Audience
Music is a medium of expression, and you can use it as a means to say something. You can either speak for the audience, to the audience, or through the audience. However, it takes a special talent to speak with the audience.
Queen is a band of the people. That much is clear from the get-go. You’re not just the receiving end for the music. You’re part of the process- you help make it.
When Brian May decided he wanted to involve the audience in their songs, he gave us We Will Rock You. The infectious rhythm of the song encouraged you to take part in it, just by clapping your hands and stomping your feet.
Today, that song serves as a catalyst for bringing everyone on to the same frequency. Whether it’s sports fans in an arena or rowdy students in a classroom, they all get connected under the same banner, the banner of Queen.
The Band Lineup Feeds on Diversity and Collaboration
Queen isn’t just a band of musos and misfits. Every single band member is creative in their own right. But coming from different backgrounds, the strength of their diversity really shines through in their music.
In fact, Queen is one of the few bands where the brunt of collaboration was as equal as it can be. Every member is a songwriter, and they worked together to bring something to the sound. Brian May’s hard raging chords supplemented Freddie Mercury’s soft and supple singing.
John Deacon’s laid back bass playing was contrasted by Roger Taylor’s thrashed out drumming.
Even their presence on stage was a collaborative decision. Freddie Mercury’s talent for having a commanding role was easily recognized by the band. Instead of competing with him on equal terms, they happily let his strengths shine through while supporting him in a more backseat role.
Everything was done in the larger interest of their music. They had no qualms about themselves as long as the band itself came out as the winner.
It Transcends Generations
No matter how talented or unique an artist is, they can all eventually fall victim to time. If music is a representation of personal experiences, then those experiences can be dated.
So why has Queen been able to avoid being stamped with an expiration date? Why is it still just as popular as it ever was? It’s because it is timeless.
Queen gave us a peek at what it feels like to live life on your own terms. Members like Mercury built their entire existence on this idea. He may be gone today, but he and the band are still remembered fondly, even by those that never directly experienced them.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a Masterclass of a Song
Bohemian Rhapsody is the most common answer to the question of what someone’s favorite song is. It’s a track that dominated the charts when it came out in 1976, it did it again in 1992, and then again in 2018. No other song has come close to being universally celebrated.
In just a span of six minutes, this track goes from being a ballad to an opera piece to a hard rock song, and everything in between. Every section is played once and then never repeated again for the entire duration of the song.
To say it was innovative back in the mid-’70s is an understatement in itself. But to say that it’s just as new and popular today, nearly half a century later, is as true as it can be.
It’s even more amazing when you consider how such an oddball song could be so readily accepted. Despite being so hard to categorize and define, it stood to gain so much popularity. There’s a reason why this song literally holds the world record for the no. 1 song of all time; there’s just no equal.
Queen is a Mood
One of Queen’s strengths, more than having a great sound or immense popularity, is being able to represent something with their music. Any one of their songs is nothing short of a rallying cry to stir passion and emotion into the hearts of its listeners.
Simply, Queen’s music touches on an aspect of universality that you might be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. This is the band that didn’t place a limit on the influences and inspirations it could have. Anything from a rock band to a stage opera had some effect on the band. And they returned this effect tenfold with their own music.
Their lyrical themes always impart a feeling of belonging. It’s a feeling of the human struggle and one that many can connect with. Here’s an example from Somebody to Love:
“I work hard every day of my life
I work ’til I ache in my bones
At the end
I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I get down on my knees
And I start to pray
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes
Lord, somebody, ooh somebody
can anybody find me somebody to love?”
But alongside representing the struggle, they also impart the experience of rising above. While the lyrics might sound mournful at times, the overarching message pushes you to strive beyond that and keep going. You can see this in songs like Another One Bites the Dust:
“There are plenty of ways that you can hurt a man
And bring him to the ground
You can beat him, you can cheat him
You can treat him bad and leave him when he’s down
But I’m ready, yes, I’m ready for you
I’m standing on my own two feet
Out of the door way the bullets rip
Repeating to the sound of the beat oh yeah”
Plenty of bands can wax philosophical lyrics about the attrition of life and its futility through their music. But it takes a special kind of voice to empower you through that struggle and carry you forward. Luckily, Queen is that voice.
Being a Proud Innovator for a Non-Commercial Sound
When Queen was putting itself out there, it started receiving a lot of pushback from recording executives. The reason was clear; they just didn’t think Queen sounded commercial enough to be successful.
But their courage to be outside the box and produce non-commercial music gave it the place the band currently holds. Queen was innovating on practically every front with their music. They introduced concepts that had never been heard of in that space.
When the six-part Bohemian Rhapsody came out in 1975, it stirred the scene. Not only was it unheard of, but it also left many wondering where they should go from here. And when Queen decided to feature it alongside a video, they practically pushed the concept of a music video into the mainstream.
Queen didn’t play by the rules; it made its own rules. And those rules became the new rules. Their non-commercial approach became the new commercial approach for others to follow suit. So much so that their music is the one that’s being used in commercials and TV spots because of its great marketing potential. All thanks to a little innovation.
Brian May is a Rock and Roll Band Genius
While Freddie Mercury is of course the number one figure in this band, people often forget the great influence that Brian May had over things. The simple reality is that Brian May is regarded as being one of the best and brightest in the song writing industry. As far as writing revolutionary rock songs go, he is considered the number one best writer of all day.
One reason for this is due to his very unique guitar playing style, complete with a guitar that he built all by himself. The very unique sound that he managed to produce is still distinctly recognizable to this very day.
Various hit Queen songs can be attributed to him, which include We Will Rock You, Stone Cold Crazy, Fat Bottomed Girls, Hammer to Fall, and Tie Your Mother Down. Brian May also has the ability to do killer guitar solos on the spot, and is often regarded as being one of the best guitar shredders of all time.
Without the combination of Freddie Mercury and Brian May, although it would have still likely been popular music, Queen would never have gotten to the level they managed to get to.
Musically and emotionally, Queen may have very well been the greatest band ever to walk the earth. It might be hard to quantify just how or why the band touched the hearts of so many. But the reasons above might have given you some indication of why Queen is one of the greatest bands ever to exist.