The Complex Sounds of Queen
No one can cover Queen's songs. Not even Panic! At The Disco, with their cover version of Bohemian Rhapsody for an overrated Hollywood movie, Suicide Squad. Panic! At The Disco have FAILED in reflecting the dark and despair of Bohemian Rhapsody.
A distinctive characteristic of Queen's music are three-part vocal harmonies, which are usually composed of the voices of Brian May, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor. Besides vocal harmonies, Queen were also known for multi-tracking voices to imitate the sound of a large choir through overdubs.
Freddie Mercury the lead singer of Queen, delivered most songs in the tenor range. His vocal range extended from bass low F (F2) to soprano high F (F6). He could belt up to tenor high F (F5).
Brian May the guitarist of Queen, focuses on multi-part harmonies, often more contrapuntal than parallel – a relative rarity for rock guitar. Examples are found in Queen's albums. May explored a wide variety of styles in guitar, including sweep picking, tremolo, tapping, slide guitar, Hendrix sounding licks, tape-delay, and melodic sequences. Some of his solos and orchestral parts were composed by Mercury.
In 1963, the teenage May and his father custom-built his signature guitar, Red Special. Aided by the uniqueness of Red Special, May was often able to create strange, unusual sound effects, and imitate an orchestra. He used his guitar to mimic a trombone, a piccolo, and several other instruments. Queen used a "No synthesizers were used on this album" sleeve note on their early albums to make this clear to the listeners.
Queen's music was combination of acoustic/electric guitar extremes and fantasy-inspired multi-part song epics. Queen composed music that drew inspiration from many different genres of music, often with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. The genres they have been associated with include progressive rock, symphonic rock, art rock, glam rock, hard rock, heavy metal, pop rock, and psychedelic rock.
Queen also wrote songs that were inspired by diverse musical styles which are not typically associated with rock groups, such as opera, music hall, folk music, gospel, ragtime, and dance/disco.
Brian May referred to the Beatles as being "our bible in the way they used the studio and they painted pictures and this wonderful instinctive use of harmonies." Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Bohemian Rhapsody was written by Freddie Mercury. The song is highly unusual for a popular single in featuring no chorus, combining disparate musical styles and containing lyrics which eschew conventional love-based narratives for allusions to murder and nihilism.
Bohemian Rhapsody consists of sections, beginning with an introduction, then a piano ballad, before a guitar solo leads to an operatic interlude. A hard rock part follows this and it concludes with a coda. Brian May used his guitar to create the chime effect in Bohemian Rhapsody.
This musical format of writing a song as a suite with changes in style, tone and tempo throughout was uncommon in most mainstream pop and rock music but common in progressive rock.
The music of progressive rock was characterised by dramatic contrasts, frequent shifts in tempo and in rhythmic character from one section of a composition to the next. Bands from the genre had blended rock with classical music, its structural features and compositional practices, as well as using classical music instrumentation. Bicycle Race (1978)
Bicycle Race was written by Freddie Mercury. It starts with a chorus unaccompanied by instruments. The song has an unusual chord progression with numerous modulations, a change of meter (from 4/4 to 6/8) in the bridge, and multitracked vocal and guitar harmonies.
The lyrics are topical for the time and contain social, political and pop-culture references, such as religion, Vietnam War, Watergate, drugs, fictional characters, and the films Jaws and Star Wars. Don't Stop Me Now (1979)
Don't Stop Me Now was written by Freddie Mercury. The song provides an example of Queen's trademark style of multitrack harmony vocals for the chorus lines. According to a study done by cognitive neuroscientist, Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' is The Most Feel-Good Song Of All Time.
Musically the song builds on Mercury's piano playing, with John Deacon and Roger Taylor providing a bass guitar and drums backing track. The song also provides an example of Queen's trademark style of multitrack harmony vocals for the chorus lines. Under Pressure (1981)
Under Pressure was written and recorded in collaboration with David Bowie. Under Pressure evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with the band at Queen's studio in Montreux, Switzerland. It was credited as being co-written by the five musicians. The scat singing that dominates much of the song is evidence of the jam-beginnings as improvisation.