Queen Will, Queen Will, Rock You (and Your Kids, and Their Kids …)
Let’s say you were a twenty-something Londoner in 1985, and lucky enough to score a ticket to Live Aid at Wembley Stadium on July 13. There you witnessed what’s considered one of the greatest-ever rock performances: Queen’s incredible 21-minute set. Today, as you stream the soundtrack from the Golden Globe-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, you’re embracing more than nostalgia—you’re helping to preserve Queen’s legacy. Not that the band needs much help.
On Spotify, Queen is more popular than ever—not only among baby boomers and Gen Xers, but with millennials, too. Since the release of the Bohemian Rhapsody film, streams of Queen songs on Spotify have surged 333 percent, with 70 percent of those listeners under the age of 35. Last month, Queen enjoyed a two-week run as the No. 1 global artist on Spotify—and when they “dropped” in the rankings to No. 3, the group remained in good company behind 6ix9ine and Ariana Grande.
What’s Queen’s secret to cultural relevance, seemingly set on repeat? Two words: “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The first time “Bohemian Rhapsody” nearly topped the charts, in 1992, was when the song reached the No. 2 spot after Mike Myers and Dana Carvey lip-synced the operatic section in Wayne’s World—the ranking was higher than the No. 9 spot the song peaked at during the original release in 1976. Today, Wayne and Garth remain in our collective memory: After the release of the Bohemian Rhapsody film, streams of the Wayne’s World soundtrack were up 361 percent—perhaps thanks to Myers’ cameo in the biopic.
In 2009, the song hit No. 2 on the first-ever karaoke chart. Guardian music critic Tom Service explained at the time that the song’s appeal was the result of a classic composer’s trick that makes “Bohemian Rhapsody” work across several different styles, from ballad to hard rock, to reflective conclusion. “Bohemian Rhapsody is … hugely demanding as a test of anyone’s vocal brilliance, let alone the boozed-up denizens of karaoke-dom all over the country,” Service said. “[I]t’s fun to fail at ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’”
But even when “Bohemian Rhapsody” is on hiatus from the zeitgeist, Queen remains a staple of streaming classic rock among all music lovers, regardless of age. From 2010 to July of 2018 (before the trailer for the film was released), Queen held the spot of top catalog artist on Spotify.
Queen remains popular among listeners under 35 because of their relevance in pop culture; the band has definitively secured its place in the immortal canon of rock. And “Bohemian Rhapsody” in particular is enjoying a pronounced resurgence in 2018 for the same reason it’s always come roaring back into the spotlight: It’s as dynamic as it is fun.
Despite the hundreds of thousands of songs and artists available on Spotify, no track comes close to resembling “Rhapsody”—either as a whole or in parts. It has a little something for everyone, at any point in their lives—even if they were born well after July 13, 1985.
Stream the Bohemian Rhapsody soundtrack below.
Update, Jan 7, 2019: This post now includes mention that Bohemian Rhapsody won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture—Drama.