Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen: Decoding the Song
Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat: Fortune favours the Brave. Experimenting with new styles and previously unexplored territories is something that Queen is known for. And what better way to prove that than a 5 minute 55 second song with an Operatic passage, a piano ballad segment, a hard rock section and an ending with a reflective coda.This song is known worldwide as Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the greatest rock anthems of all time.
The song was created as a mock Opera. With a very wide variety of musical ranges from Operatic sections with high pitched Galileos to a hard rock riff accompanied by B♭ run on Piano. The song has B♭ major, E♭ major, A major and F major keys and is almost in a 4/4 meter. It has a a-capella intro which is soon joined in by a grand Piano with Mercury singing along, this part has certain lyrics coming from the left speaker and some from the right making it an acoustic treat for the audience. This is followed by a Ballad with Freddie on the Piano and is led by John Deacon's bass guitar. The harmony has lyrics of a confessional nature that end with themes revolving around loss of Hope and existential crisis. Brian May's guitar solo kicks in here,which he said was a counterpart to the main Melody rather than being the melody itself. After the solo, begins the Crux of the song: The Operatic section. May, Freddie and Roger sang the vocals with Brian handling the lower range, Freddie on the middle and Roger handling the higher notes. They used the 24-track technology available at the time, the opera section took about three weeks to finish. In this portion of the song the lyrics have inclusions from various different languages and includes many cultural references. This is followed by the hard rock segment of the song with a guitar riff written by Mercury. The song ends with a really heartwarming instrumental melody consisting of a double tracked twin guitar, a piano and Freddie's vocals.
The Name 'Bohemian Rhapsody' truly does metaphorical justice to the song. Bohemian refers to an artist or vagabond whose life revolves around elements of music,art,literature or spiritual acts. While Rhapsody means a one-movement musical work comprising of contrasting moods and tones. Which tells us how perhaps the song is the band's and especially Freddie's take on their life and music. In the intro, the lyrics question the authenticity of life and the land slide like nature of reality from which there is no escape. After which begins Mercury's narrative as 'a poor boy who doesn't need any sympathy'.This is followed by the ballad where a man seems to be confessing to his mother about a murder he did and how his life now is a lost cause which he has thrown away
He regrets causing her grief and asks her to live on as if nothing happened. He tells her how he must leave now and face the truth as 'his time has come'. He expresses his fear of death and his regret over being born. The Operatic section tells of his descent into hell and the frightening sights there. He calls out to god saying "Bismillah, will you let me go" where Bismillah means 'in the name of God' . Here we see many lyrical references like Scaramouche, fandango, Figaro and Beelzebub which are Italian, Spanish, French and Christian cultural references used to colour the scenes the lyrics depict. In The hard rock part Freddie sings to an unspecified 'you' accusing them of betrayal and abuse, also denying their right to do this to him and finally saying how he needs to get out of there. The last part of the song explores the concept of nihilism and how nothing matters to him. He says how 'Any way the wind blows' it doesn't really matter to him.
This song was one of Freddie Mercury's most personal creations. The entire band was led by his vision for the song. Brian May once said "Freddie was a very complex person: flippant and funny on the surface, but he concealed insecurities and problems in squaring up his life with his childhood. He never explained the lyrics, but I think he put a lot of himself into that song."