Monday, December 17, 2018

Is 'Bohemian Rhapsody' the greatest rock song?

While the film about the life of Freddie Mercury and Queen's rise to fame continues to break box office records, the title song, considered by critics and fans alike, had become the most played and streamed song in the 20th century. This is all pretty amazing to me, considering that forty years ago I was plunking away trying to learn to play it, and that decades later it would inspire an entire novel.

First, the film. Bohemian Rhapsody, which is, according to the highest-grossing music biopic of all time, domestically, internationally and worldwide, earning a total of $635 million at the box office, according to Gay Times

The film has received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Rami Malek also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award, the Critics’ Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor.

That Gay Times article mentions the censorship the film suffered in Malaysia. It's hard to imagine how much more deletions were made to accommodate that homophobic country. I've already written about the numerous critiques for its limited depiction of Mercury's life. The film's Wikipedia entry notes the film's many inaccuracies.
Freddie Mercury in the studio

But the fans who ignore or forgive such omissions are what's making this such a huge film. Many shared comments on fan groups online write about repeated viewings.

But what about the song itself? Certainly considered Queen's biggest hit, it's been re-released several times. Doubtless the film's soundtrack will sell millions more.

Universal Music Group (UMG) announced that "Bohemian Rhapsody" has become the most streamed song from the 20th century, racking up a total of 1.6 billion streams. Making the announcement, Sir Lucian Grange, UMG’s chairman and CEO, said: “Bohemian Rhapsody is one the greatest songs by one of the greatest bands in history. My congratulations to Queen and Jim Beach on an incredible achievement that is a testament to the enduring brilliance of Queen.”

The Wikipedia entry about the song's fascinating back story covers its structure and unique history. The single was accompanied by a promotional video, which many scholars consider ground-breaking. Rolling Stone stated that its influence "cannot be overstated, practically inventing the music video seven years before MTV went on the air."