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Taken from Meaww (June 18, 2018)

'Bohemian Rhapsody' was Freddie Mercury's coming out song and it was all about breaking free

by Barnana Sarkar



'Bohemian Rhapsody' trailer promises to decode the mysterious life of the Queen frontman Freddie Mercury


Freddie Mercury was central to the sound of 'Queen'. The trailer of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', directed by Brian Singer, sees the 'Mr Robot' actor Rami Malek give face to the voice which has enthralled rock 'n roll lovers for decades.


The movie is set to traverse 'Queen's' journey from their rise in the 1970s to their triumphant set at 1985's Live Aid. The background score of the trailer is a captivating mash-up of some of Queen's biggest hits - 'Killer Queen', 'We Will Rock You', and the legendary namesake of the movie 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.


Rolling Stone quotes the wide-eyed Malek saying, "This is when the operatic section comes," as he helms the studio board during a recording session for "Bohemian Rhapsody."


Later, when the band is told that the song is too long ("It goes on forever; six bloody minutes"), Mercury quips, "I pity your wife if you think six minutes is forever."


'Queen' has remained controversial during their active years, and beyond. Their frontman Freddie Mercury has been much talked about for his sexuality. Drummer Roger Taylor has mentioned that, while the band was a very closely knitted group, there were still a lot of things that the members didn't know about their lead singer. He mentioned the fact long after Mercury's death by AIDS in 1991.


However, the band members still remain assured of one thing, that the singer could not be defined in a superficial, binary way, but that it was a more complex life that he led.


Freddie Mercury is considered to be one of the greatest singers of all generations, with a vocal range compassing from a low F2 to soprano F6. What was even more captivating about Mercury's voice was his use of that range to put colors to emotions.



Rami Malek plays Freddie Mercury in the biopic 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (YouTube)


The Spanish opera singer, Montserrat Caballe - the operatic soprano who had worked with Mercury in a collaborative album 'Barcelona' in 1987 - has said of the singer, "He was able to glide effortlessly from a register to another."


Mercury was best at being performative with his vocals. His voice was as versatile as the sound of his band, which ranged from hard rock and musical theatre to gospel and disco. Each of these styles has different vocal traits of their own, and Mercury was nothing less than an expert in inhabiting all of those in his songs. His voice could proficiently carry out the sometimes subtle, delicate and sweet, and other times slamming and hard-hitting energy of his songs. He would provide the perfect hue and expressive nuance for every song that he sang.


Researcher Christian Herbst has said in his study 'The Science of Freddy Mercury's Voice' that, in spite of his natural voice being a baritone, Mercury essentially sang in a tenor register. He would imply subharmonics that would require the use of both vocal folds and ventricular folds, which is an aspect of Turan-throat singing.


His vibrato - which is a musical effect that consists of a regular, pulsating change of pitch, while adding expression to vocal and instrumental music - was as high as 7.04 Hertz, whereas the normal frequency of a vibrato ranges between 5.4 Hertz and 6.9 Hertz.


The singer, however, remains best known for his hidden sexuality which often found its voice in some of the best-known songs of 'Queen'.


The band's magnum opus, 'Bohemian Rhapsody', is considered to be the coming-out song for Freddie Mercury. Although Mercury has always stuck to the point that the song is essentially just about relationships with "a bit of nonsense in the middle" it cannot be denied that it was a character-defining song for the singer.



'Bohemian Rhapsody' was the coming out song for Mercury (YouTube)


On the surface, 'Bohemian Rhapsody' might simply sound like the guilt-ridden farewell of a poverty-stricken boy who is now pleading for a murder he has committed. However, it is a lot more than that.


It is about Mercury shedding away the past life of the man who had relationships with girls, and embracing his true self where love to him has no boundaries. Mercury grew up in a culture where homosexuality was not only a sin, but it was unrecognized.


Being raised in an intensely religious Parsee community, which still maintains a strong bond with the monotheistic religion of Zoroastrianism dating back to the 6th century BCE Persia, Mercury was not within what could be considered a liberal society. Him coming out as a bisexual would cause serious offense to his family and religion. This had probably compelled him to spend seven years of his life devoted to his previous girlfriend, Mary Austin, who actually called him gay denying his bisexuality.


The harmonic intro lines of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - "Is this a real life,/ Is this just fantasy" - states the muddled up head of a person who has been pushed into a condition of bewilderment with all the concealing of his inner self.


The line "anywhere the wind blows/ doesn't really matter to me" at once gives away Mercury's bisexuality in which he expresses himself to be a flexible human with varied interests.


The lines where he sings about being a boy confessing to his mother about murdering a man and asking his mother to carry on with her life if he does not return the next day reflects the fact that Mercury has finally decided to be what he truly his, and not confine himself to custody of society's sexual limitations.


The song emphasizes Mercury's sexuality through an array of classical allusions. In the lines of the chorus, "Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango" is a direct reference to the stock-clown character in the Italian theatrical form known as the commedia dell'arte.


It refers to an unscrupulous, rather unreliable servant whose affinity for intrigue often lands him into trouble. Mercury was considered notorious for his boundless relationships with both men and women.


There are probabilities that Scaramouche was basically Mercury himself. The characters were also related to the band members such as Galileo the astronomer was the band's own astrophysicist and mathematician Brian May. Beelzebub who is identified in the New Testament as the Prince of Demons and in Arabic as 'the Lord of the Flies' might have been Roger Taylor who is known to have been the band's wildest party animal. The consistent repetition of the line, "Bismillah, no we will not let him go (Let him go)" is almost a plea to the all merciful Allah to help set Mercury's soul free in the name of the most merciful God.



Mercury's sexuality has been the center of many controversies (YouTube)


While Mercury's sexuality still remains a matter of controversy, the video of their song 'I Want To Break Free' is probably the bluntest confession of Mercury being a man fluid about his sexuality. Rolling Stone says of the song, "Written by bassist John Deacon, it's a mid-tempo declaration with no chorus, just Freddie Mercury's love-lost verses building up drama until a goofy synth solo leads to a subdued instrumental bridge, another verse, and Mercury wailing the title repeatedly on the outro."


Mercury was among the many individuals who have faced harsh discrimination for their choice of loving another human being, without considering gender. However, today, all states in America recognize same-sex marriage as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. Yet, there are no federal laws that would outlaw discrimination nationwide.


This means that, even today, after same-sex marriages being legalized, the LGBTQ community still faces discrimination in employment and housing. In the month of Pride, which pays tribute to the Stonewall riots and unhinging bravery of the community, Mercury will always be one of the figureheads who utilized art to express his angst against the inequitable society.



 
 

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