My friends and I did a “fantasy rock band” draft about a year ago. We set up a “roster” of frontman, guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, songwriter, and “wildcard” for a mythical band. Then, like a fantasy football draft, we took turns choosing musicians to fill up that roster. The rule was you get that musician at their three-year peak, so there was no penalty for choosing a musician who died young.
(I do drafts like this all the time with friends. The downside, of course, is that there’s no real way to pit the teams against each other except let other people vote and comment on your picks. Still fun.)
My friend who landed with the first pick announced: “You guys may think I’m crazy, but I’m going to take Freddie Mercury as my frontman with the first overall pick.”
Well, we didn’t think he was crazy. In fact, every one of us had Freddie #1 overall on our lists. He’s really that outstanding and essential. Queen had (and has) other members, but the real defining fact of the band was Freddie’s virtuosic, adaptable, expressive vocals.
Unlike several other artists on this list, I’ve never really immersed myself deep into Queen’s albums or expansive career, with a couple exceptions. It’s always been about the transcendent tracks and greatest hits for me for me. Here are my picks for the ten best-ever Queen songs:
10. Another One Bites the Dust
Iconic bass line (you can tell this was a song written by their bassist), badass lyrics, and a catchy melody. There’s a reason it has remained one of their three or four most popular songs.
9. Seaside Rendezvous
The only non-single on this list, “Seaside Rendezvous” is a great example of Queen perfecting a style outside of their normal metal-pop wheelhouse. Such a fun track. The bridge about a minute in is probably the high point: the band imitates wood instruments with their voice.
8/7. We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions
They’re appear consecutively to open News of the World, and are often grouped together on oldies’ radio stations, so I’ll group them together here. “We Will Rock You” has one of the most iconic rhythms in rock. But I’ve been especially partial to the power-ballad “We Are the Champions” and its immensely shoutable chorus.
6. Under Pressure
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone more flamboyant and electric than Freddie Mercury, but David Bowie would be one of the few. He elevates this catchy track — featuring yet another iconic bass-line, maybe Queen’s best. The song also rose a few notches in my mind after its inclusion in the excellent scene from It’s Kind of a Funny Story.
5. You’re My Best Friend
Queen is known for their ambitious, high-voltage songs, but damn if they can’t write and perform a cute little ballad. “You’re My Best Friend” — off my favorite album of theirs, A Night at the Opera — captures the sweet innocence and enthusiasm of love.
4. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Queen’s ambition was kaleidoscopic, and they touched on a huge spectrum of genres. This is their entry into “rockabilly,” and it’s a doozy. A deserving #1 hit, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is catchy, warm, and a definite classic. Great song to play for someone who has never heard Queen.
3. Somebody To Love
A track that definitely earns the moniker “epic.” “Somebody To Love” layers the band’s vocals over what sounds like dozens of tracks and pairs it with an emotive and heartbreaking skyscraper of a song. The harmonies are complex and gospel-influenced. “Somebody to Love” is also a moving song about struggling to find meaningful connections.
2. Don’t Stop Me Now
The all-time best driving song, and one of the great upbeat rock songs, period. The band’s trademark dense vocals give the track an immense feeling, and the kinetic piano line propels the song to “traveling at the speed of light.” Mercury turns it into a sexy song, too: he sings “I’m about to oh-woah-woah explode” as a super-intense climax.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody
Obviously. What can be said about this song that hasn’t been 1000 times before (I’ve heard this called “the Internet’s favorite song”)? The lyrics are evocative and sad, and the music is a draw-dropping exhibition of diversity and virtuosity. The lyrics have entered the “Don’t Stop Believing” realm of iconic status where you can get a whole group singing with just one line. “Rhapsody” builds and builds and builds, then bursts into the iconic opera section (“scaramouche”) followed by a great guitar solo. Then, just as gracefully as it crescendoed, the song disappears into the distance. “Any way the wind blows…” End scene. A perfect song, one of the best ever.