Is Queen Going to Live in Our Hearts Forever?
The chills sweep through my body like a breeze, as if my brain forgot that I had watched this scene unfold twice before. The camera cruises over the Live Aid crowd towards the Wembley Stadium stage as the audience raise their hands and clap in unison, just as mesmerized by the live performance as those sitting in movie theatre chairs more than three decades later. Rami Malek embodies Freddie Mercury in a way that seems humanly impossible, and his revival of Freddie’s spirit is causing movie-goers to have Queen playing on repeat.
I am one of those hooked movie audience members, but this genre is nothing new to me. The background music of my childhood was nothing but classic rock, thanks to my dad, but I consider myself to be an anomaly. Many of my peers grew up only knowing classic rock songs because they are anthems or have a theme, but would hardly recognize the band names or have knowledge of its history. Queen’s “We Are the Champions” is a popular victory anthem for winning sports, and Queen songs have appeared in movies over 50 times. The music has always been there, but so few millennials understood the lure of Queen before Bohemian Rhapsody’s release.
Following the film’s November 2018 premier, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has become the number one streamed song from the 20th century at 1.6 billion streams worldwide. This resulted in Queen hitting the Billboard Top 100 charts with “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the third time, each time in the Top 40 and in a different decade. It peaked at No. 6 in 1976, at No. 2 in 1992, and at No. 33 in 2018. With Prince’s “1999”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, and various Christmas songs being the only other records to reach this achievement, it makes one wonder how the song has survived throughout the years.
The song’s revival in 1992 can be credited to a movie, albeit not a biopic of the band. Wayne’s World depicts an iconic opening scene in which Mike Myers and his character’s friends sing along and head bang to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in their car. As a nod to this success, Mike Myers plays the record label executive in the film who refuses to release the song as a single. In this comical scene, he ironically claims the alternative single “I’m In Love With My Car” is, “the kind of song teenagers can crank up the volume in their car and bang their heads to. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ will never be that song.”
Bohemian Rhapsody has become the highest-grossing music biopic in history, and after watching it’s not hard to see why. The visuals carry the audience into the story and the songs create seamless transitions throughout Queen’s journey. It peers behind the curtains of a rock and roll band’s image by showing their struggles and heartache with the perfect dose of humor. This enticement is without a doubt the reason yet another generation has become enamored with Queen.
Only 19% of Spotify users are over 55, which is the age group that would have been teenagers and young adults in 1975 when “Bohemian Rhapsody” was first released. In comparison, 55% of Spotify users are aged 18–34. The original recording of “Bohemian Rhapsody” currently has 691.1 million streams; surely the lesser group of users are not the only ones contributing that growing number.
I can still recall my first time hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” One of my best friends in my hometown grew up on classics just as I did, and he would introduce me to new songs almost every time we were in a car together. One day he played “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and he knew all the words. I still remember thinking he was crazy and asking him what on earth we were listening to, but by the end of the song I was jamming right along with him. Looking back on that moment, I experienced the same confusion in 2015 as the general public when it was originally released forty years prior, followed by an understanding and appreciation for the epic song.
Pop music of today tends to have much less substance than music of the past. It has become increasingly uncommon for artists to write their own songs, and without a personal connection to the lyrics, the songs and performances can lose passion. Bohemian Rhapsody could not have been more perfectly timed. It shows the passion, brains, and hard work that went into producing Queen’s iconic songs, which is arguably a lost art. Subconsciously or not, my generation is yearning for authenticity. I believe that is where the outpouring of fandom is emerging from, besides, of course, the fact that Queen is one of the greatest bands of all time.
If you haven’t seen Bohemian Rhapsody yet, do yourself a favor. Go online, buy yourself a copy, and prepare to be captivated. You’ll be wanting to download Queen music to your phone before the credits roll, I promise.