Bohemian Rhapsody: a musical paradigm shift


By Md Taqi Yasir

song reviewThe outburst of the British Rock band Queen and its forerunner Freddie Mercury happened through the release of the song with its fatalistic lyrics in the year of 1975. The song was released for the band’s groundbreaking album ‘A Night at the Opera’, originally written by Freddie himself and produced by the famous producer of the band, Roy Thomas Baker.

The song has a long journey, a journey of the chorus, ballad, operatic passages, guitar solo and hard rock which drag to aim a reflective coda. The complex pattern of the lyric was basically a psychedelic reaction that reflected an underage’s mindset. A bizarre incident left a dangling mark on Freddie’s mind which inspired him to write the lyric.

An underage murderer, somewhere in Europe wasn’t executed in the court trial by a Muslim adjudication panel and did ‘let him go’, freeing him from all the punishments he was supposed to face for his crime. The crime and his subsequent alienation from the society dehumanised him and reduced him to nothing. The whole stanza of the lyrics where it said ‘Bismillah! No, we will not let you go – let him go/ Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go’ originated from the aforementioned concept of the ‘poor boy’ whom ‘nobody loves’, for being an assassin. The rest stanzas are most probably the inflicted psychedelic emancipation by Freddie himself- euphoria of rhapsody- ‘The Bohemian Rhapsody’. It is still considered as the most expensive single ever made during its time of release, although its exact cost parameter is yet to be determined. British daily The Guardian ranked the music video for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ number 31 on their list of the 50 key events in rock music history, adding it ensured ‘videos would henceforth be a mandatory tool in the marketing of music’.

The song runs for six minutes and it can be subdivided into ‘songlets’ as per stated by David Bowie in an interview at ‘The David Letterman Show’. Kicking off with 49 seconds five-part cappella accompanied by a Grand Piano in 20 seconds, the song proceeds to the ballad. The ballad shifts from the intro through John Deacon’s bass guitar onset. This continues for over two and half minutes. This ballad stanza has a solo mercury extension with the other vocals. Next comes the guitar solo. Finally one of the most famous opera segments in the history of Rock and Roll comes at play. A rapid mixture of rhythm and harmonic overtones left a benchmark at this pseudo-operatic midsection. It includes different classical allusions to Spanish dances, fictional characters, musical figures, Islamic codes, mythologies, a tribute to the scientist Galileo and other classical opera performers. Later it ends with repetitive rock section intertwined with a coda section – a mere reflective one.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a paradigm shift in the history of music, the breaker of records, and the competency of the 70s. This is a genre of legend, an ecclesiastical lamentation of musical offspring where the ‘Show Must Go On’ and on.

Md Taqi Yasir is a student of Jahangirnagar University.

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