“Bohemian Rhapsody! You should go watch it!”
“What is it about?”
The biopic movie Bohemian Rhapsody is about the British rock band Queen which was formed even before my parents were born. Yet, basically the whole world still knows and loves their hit tracks “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.” You’ve been practically living under a rock if you haven’t heard of these legendary anthems.
I had heard a lot of positive reviews about the movie but I still wasn’t quite sure if it was worth more than 2 hours of my precious time. Maybe snuggling up in my warm blanket would be a better option. However, the movie stayed in theaters longer than it was scheduled to in Korea, and completely surpassed rival movies in the box offices, so I decided to go.— Not expecting it to be particularly enthralling, I walked into the movie theater without much thought.
The movie focuses on Queen’s music and their journey as a band, while specifically showcasing their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury, and his life journey, along with the unseen struggles of his personal life. Queen defied stereotypes and broke every boundary imaginable; in fact, by being socially unconventional they embodied what it means to be bohemian. Exceeding imaginations, they experimented and explored new musical sounds and elements that were unprecedented.
For instance, the band wanted to release “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single on their album, The Night at the Opera. But EMI, the record label that the band was affiliated with, disagreed, simply because it deviated from the standard three minute time frame, and they believed that nobody would play it on the radio. Not only is the track distinct because, as a music executive says in the movie, it’s “bloody six minutes long,” but there’s never a dull moment in the song as it amalgamates such diverse elements all in one song, traversing across completely different genres.
When I first heard the song, I thought it was four different tracks all connected to each other. It starts off with a balladic piano melody line, transitions into harmonious operatic passages, shifts into a hard rock section with intense guitar riffs, and returns to a reflective coda as it unfolds its never-ending layers one after the other.
Furthermore, to top it off, the incomprehensible, gibberish-sounding words “Scaramouche, Bismillah, Beelzebub, and Galileo Figaro Magnifico” adds another fun layer to the song as it keeps listeners on their toes, never knowing what to expect next. But what do all these words mean? Freddie intentionally leaves the meaning of the song opaque, and says in the movie, “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research, although it was tongue-in-cheek and it was a mock opera. Why not?” He leaves the interpretation up to the listeners saying, “I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them.”
Freddie Mercury, despite all the fame and stardom he had, never had it easy. Growing up in a strict Catholic family, Freddie Mercury’s parents didn’t approve of his singing career with the band, nor his unclear sexuality. Although it seemed like Mercury had everything anyone could want—fame, wealth, popularity—he was lonely and didn’t have any true friends with the exception of his band members. The movie exhibits his slumps, including getting sidetracked by those things mentioned above and his health problems.
Perhaps the reason why the movie drew so much acclaim is that it’s very nostalgic for the people who grew up with the band’s music. A lot of the songs featured in the movie were familiar to many, but a lot of the people in the audience weren’t exactly sure if all of the songs were Queen’s prior to watching the movie.
After watching Bohemian Rhapsody, many looked up the original clip of Queen performing at the Live Aid concert back in 1985. While comparing the actual clip to the movie, people realized that the scenes from the movie were perfectly synchronized to the actual event, which made the audience feel more emotionally attached to the movie as they re-lived good memories.
The songs of Queen are enjoyed by many to this day, yet distinct to the songs that are popular today and trending on the charts. Nowadays, a lot of songs in the pop and rap genre, like those by Drake, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, DJ Khaled, Cardi B, Camila Cabello, and Ed Sheeran, are dominant. When the chorus of a song is catchy, the more popular it becomes and the easier it is to involve the audience. “Hook songs,” like “Gangnam Style” by PSY, are worldwide hits even when lyrics are in Korean. Likewise, the reason why everybody is able to copy and sing along to Queen’s songs may be because the lyrics, melodies, and the rhythms of the choruses are all very simple: “We will, we will rock you!” or “We are the champions, my friends.”
Watching Bohemian Rhapsody was a highlight of my winter break and turned me into a Queen fan, which is quite surprising, I must say, because I never used to listen to rock music on my own. The movie also recently won big at the Golden Globe Awards, taking home “Best Drama Motion Picture” and “Best Actor in a Drama Motion Picture.” Although Freddie Mercury has passed away and Queen has disbanded, the band will forever live on in my heart.
“Freddie, you’re a legend.”
“We’re all legends.”
I now proudly call Queen my kind of queen.
(Copyright 2019 Jenna Park)