Queen is one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
If you look at the list of hits that have been able to stand the test of time, then you can attest to the power of their song-writing abilities.
Now, I am not a music guy. I love music, but I do not have a keen, discerning ear. I cannot speak to all of the complexities that go into composing a good song. As a result, this list is not the Top 10 Best Queen Songs, but Top 10 Favorite Queen Songs.
I did a post a few years ago about the best Queen songs in movies. This was a bit more objective and it fell into my wheelhouse of film. But ABC television did a lot with Queen music this week, so I thought I would share my favorite songs and why.
A bold ballad that makes you feel like flying (maybe that's because I always associate it with Iron Eagle.
I love this movie so much. I know it is cheesy, but it has a special place in my heart. The sound of the music's bass always gets me excited for adventure. I love the complete commitment that the band has to this song. When they sing Flash's name it is followed by a scream of ecstasy and then a hyperbolic statement like "He'll save everyone of us." Not just some of us. Not just most of us. Every. One. Of. Us! And Queen does not play this with any kind of humor, but with zealous devotion.
I have fond memories of this song as people in school would stomp and chant it. It always felt like a song where it wasn't just the band singing, but we were part of the song too.
With Queen you either get the ecstatic highs or crushing despair. This is a song about being on top of the world, feeling like the whole universe was made just for you. This is a song to sing while speeding down the highway after a victory: "I have no rival! No man can be my equal!"
And then we crash into despair with this song. Filled with melancholy grief and loss, it describes a life that is empty and devoid of any joy. This is a song to play in a dark room with the blinds closed after a break up.
I love the way this song had a second life in the 90's thanks to Wayne's World, which is when I discovered it. There is something incredibly fun about its odd shifts in musical tone throughout. You feel like you are able to live through the entire emotional gamut by the time you are through.
I love how this song starts off slow. It begins with a sense of reflection and relief that builds into the realization of victory. It's a song that acknowledges the long, hard road that we all have to take in order to achieve the things you dream of. I love how it is a communal song: "WE are the champions, my friends." It's a song about making it to victory together.
The more I hear this song, the more it brings me joy. Yes, the lyrics a bit on the bawdy side, where he sings about being a "sex-machine." But there is something about once the song takes off it captures the exhilaration of letting yourself go and being in the moment.
A friend of mine said that this might be one of the greatest songs ever written, and I don't disagree. For me, what makes it work is how it builds to those last lyrics. The music converges as if trying to break through the despair it has created by clinging to hope that love can save. And I adore how the lyrics say that love dares us to change our way of caring. Love always calls us to shake loose our complacency and reach out to those on the edge of the night.
I know this will be an odd choice for many people, as this is not one of Queen's most popular songs. But it is so odd in their collection. It is a completely acoustic ballad that tells a complete story about interstellar travel. But rather than getting bogged down in the sci-fi nature of it, the song is a tragedy: the story of love lost to the ravages of time. That last verse always sticks with me:
"Don't you hear my call, though you're many years away? Don't you hear me calling you? All your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand. For my life still ahead, pity me."
Honorable Mentions: Another One Bites the Dust, It's a Kind of Magic, Gimme the Prize, I Want to Break Free, Keep Yourself Alive, Radio Ga-Ga, and Somebody to Love