Formed in 1970, Queen was one of the most creative and influential bands of modern rock and roll. Led by frontman Freddie Mercury, whose vocal talents spelled the success of tracks such as We Are The Champions and Somebody To Love, the group was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and more. These 35 songs are some of the most iconic that they ever recorded:
1. Killer Queen
Queen released the track Killer Queen as part of their 1976 album, Bohemian Rhapsody. While it may have been overshadowed by the album’s most famous single, it is a fantastic song in its own right—and its performance on the charts proved it, as it was the band’s first track to chart in the US. Mercury broke his normal routine by writing the lyrics before composing the melody; he said he was inspired to write a song about a high-class escort, whom he compared to Marie Antoinette.
2. Another One Bites The Dust
Queen’s 1980 hit Another One Bites The Dust is one of their most iconic songs, and it isn’t hard to see why. The track was nominated for several awards, including a Grammy Award For Best Rock Vocal Performance.
Like many other Queen songs, it is marked by its complex instrumental backing and intricate vocal harmonies. It was an international hit and has become widely associated with sports matches and other competitions. It was even used in the original cut of Rocky before being replaced with Eye Of The Tiger.
3. Who Wants To Live Forever
Few people could perform a power ballad like Mercury, and 1986’s Who Wants To Live Forever is one of his best. It is widely considered one of the band’s best songs and was performed by Seal at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.
It was composed for use in the film Highlander, which depicts an immortal man watching his mortal wife grow old and die. The track gained a new poignancy after Mercury’s death, and it is now widely used as a funeral song.
4. Need Your Loving Tonight
Need Your Loving Tonight was released in 1980 on Queen’s album, The Game. It was noted not only for its unique musical structure—which forgoes the traditional structure of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus—and for Mercury’s vocal performance. Noted for his strong falsetto vocals, he opted for a lower, more natural voice on this track, which earned him praise from music critics. It was also one of the first Queen songs to use a reverb effect on the lead vocals.
5. The Show Must Go On
Queen’s 1991 hit The Show Must Go On wasn’t just a saying. It was a real commentary on frontman Mercury’s struggles as he neared the end of his life. Guitarist Brian May composed the song but was worried that Mercury, who was dying of AIDS and in increasingly poor condition, would not be able to sing it. Mercury nailed the track in a single take. This song was released only six weeks before his death.
6. It’s Late
It’s Late was featured on Queen’s 1977 album, News Of The World. Structured as a “play” in three acts, the song tells the story of a relationship coming to an end. This was praised for its innovative guitar techniques by May, who also wrote the track. As with many Queen songs, the track alternates quiet verses with a powerful repeating chorus that simply blows the listener away. The chorus is strengthened by Mercury’s characteristic ultra-powerful vocal performance.
7. The Millionaire Waltz
Queen’s 1976 song The Millionaire Waltz isn’t as well-known as some of their most iconic tracks, but it remains an underappreciated masterpiece. As was typical of the band, the song uses complex, layered instrumentals that were unlike almost anything else on the rock scene of the time. It was reportedly written about John Reid, the band’s manager, who was a fascinating and vital character in their success through the 1970s.
Queen released Breakthru in 1989, a track that largely went unnoticed in the US but was popular in the UK. The song was remarkable for its slow, extended intro of layered vocal harmonies, which then drops into a powerful verse. The music video of them performing the track on a moving train became well-known; shooting it was a huge event for Mercury, whose health was deteriorating, though his AIDS diagnosis had not been announced.
9. A Kind Of Magic
Like Who Wants To Live Forever, A Kind Of Magic was composed in 1986 for the film, Highlander. It was written by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, with heavy inspiration drawn from the film script. The track was a huge success around the world, though it only hit number one on the charts in Spain. It is also remembered for its distinctive music video, which features Mercury waking the other members up from a magical spell with his singing.
10. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Queen entered the 1980s with a bang, as their final release of the previous decade, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, was at the top of the US charts. It stayed at number one for four weeks at the beginning of 1980. Mercury composed the song in 1979, reportedly in under 10 minutes. It was also, notably, the first time he played guitar during live performances, which he would continue to do throughout the 1980s.
11. Fat Bottomed Girls
The members of Queen certainly enjoyed songs that were weird and hilarious, and their 1978 hit Fat Bottomed Girls is a testament to that. May composed the track with Mercury in mind. Meanwhile, the mainstream media found it strange that Mercury, a queer icon, could perform a “heterosexual song” so well, but May himself objected to it being labeled that way; he said that it could be interpreted in many different ways and perfectly suited Mercury’s private preferences in partners.
12. Radio Ga Ga
Radio Ga Ga was released in 1984 and became one of Queen’s last major hits before Mercury’s death. The song, written by Taylor, was a defense of radio in a world where television—particularly in the music industry—was becoming increasingly popular. The lyrics make references to Orson Welles’ infamous “War Of The Worlds” broadcast and the radio addresses made by Winston Churchill during the Second World War.
13. Brighton Rock
Brighton Rock was one of the band’s early hits, released in 1974. It became famous for its extended guitar solo, which often puts live performances between nine and 13 minutes long. May, who composed the song, said it was inspired simply by a trip he and Taylor took to Brighton when they were young. The track follows two lovers, Jimmy and Jenny, as they spend a vacation on the beach together, though she worries about what she’ll tell her mother when she gets home.
14. Don’t Stop Me Now
Queen released Don’t Stop Me Now in 1978, and it remains one of their best-known and most widely-covered songs. The track has been extensively used in television and film, most notably in the 2004 film, Shaun of The Dead. The song’s fast beat and high energy were indicative of Mercury’s increasing self-confidence in the band, which made them feel free to have fun with their music. The track also gained attention for its all-but-open lyrics about gay sex and drug use.
15. I Want To Break Free
The members of Queen caused outrage in the US when they released their music video for I Want To Break Free in 1984. The music video famously featured the band dressed in drag, parodying the British soap opera, Coronation Street. However, American fans weren’t familiar with the reference, and when the video circulated on MTV, it caused a stir. Though the music video is almost more infamous than the song, this remains one of their most iconic and best-known hits.
Queen released the song ‘39 on their 1975 album, A Night At The Opera. The song tells the story of a group of space explorers who go on a voyage intended to last a year. When they return, they find that a century has passed, and the world as they know it is no more. The track was composed by May, who had studied astrophysics before becoming a musician; it is one of the rare Queen songs where he takes the lead vocals.
17. Dragon Attack
Dragon Attack marked a deliberate departure from the band’s past sound, with May and Mercury using new recording techniques. Reportedly, the song was composed during casual jam sessions, often while the members had been drinking, which might account for the increasingly experimental sound. Though it is not one of their better-known tracks, it was a consistent part of their live shows for many years and has been cited by Taylor as one of his favorites.
18. Death On Two Legs
Queen’s 1975 song Death On Two Legs might be one of the band’s most vitriolic and emotional tracks. Often described as a “hate letter,” it was composed after they fired their original manager, Norman Sheffield. The split resulted in a lawsuit, which led to bitter feelings on the part of Mercury and the other members. The song is noted for its aggressive, coarse lyrics, which were a somewhat shocking departure from their past music.
19. One Vision
Queen recorded One Vision in 1985. The song, which was first conceived by Taylor, was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., particularly his famous “I have a dream” speech. The track is known for its strange musical elements, including heavy distortion and vocalizations.
It is also famous for the final line: “Just gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme fried chicken! Vision, vision, vision, vision.” Though the line has baffled listeners for decades, it is simply the result of Mercury improvising lyrics as a “placeholder” during recording.
20. You’re My Best Friend
Queen’s 1975 single You’re My Best Friend might be the sweetest song they ever released. It was a rare single written by the band’s bass player, John Deacon. He composed the track in honor of his wife.
It was a concert standard for them throughout the rest of the decade. The song was well-received, charting high in both the UK and the US. It has been used extensively in film and television since its release, being featured in The Secret Life Of Pets, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Good Omens, and many more.
21. Tie Your Mother Down
Tie Your Mother Down began as a joke lyric from May, but it ended up turning into one of their most iconic songs. Released in 1976, it climbed to number 31 in the UK. It was routinely played at live performances for the rest of Queen’s time together; it was also resurrected for the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. May initially wanted to change the lyrics, but Mercury insisted they keep them, in a display of his unusual sense of humor.
22. Now I’m Here
May composed Now I’m Here as a way to remember the early days of touring with Queen. It became a regular part of the band’s live performances and was an audience favorite, particularly because of an elaborate illusion routine that Mercury incorporated. May and Mercury performed the track as a duet, but the guitarist continued to perform it after the singer passed away in 1991. It remains one of their lesser-known but classic songs from their early days.
23. Keep Yourself Alive
Keep Yourself Alive was one of Queen’s earliest hits; it was the first track on the band’s debut album. Though it was largely ignored on its release and did not place on the charts, it was later praised for its instrumental elements as well as Mercury’s vocal performance. It was also recognized for its distinctive guitar solo, which established May as one of the most talented guitarists of modern rock music.
24. Tenement Funster
Tenement Funster was one of Taylor’s earliest contributions to Queen’s discography. Released in 1974, the track also featured him as the lead vocalist and was presented as a three-song medley alongside Flick Of The Wrist and Lily Of The Valley. The track is an ode to being young and rebellious; though it is not widely remembered, it is considered one of the band’s most creative and artistic songs. It also features their characteristic musical intricacy, with many instrumental backing tracks.
25. Under Pressure
Queen rarely collaborated with other artists, but their most famous collaboration was undoubtedly 1981’s Under Pressure. The track, recorded with British singer David Bowie, was one of the biggest songs of their career, topping charts all over the world. It was a result of jam sessions after they ran into Bowie at the recording studio. It was instantly hailed as a masterpiece and is known as one of the most iconic tracks of both Queen and Bowie.
26. Save Me
May composed Save Me in 1979 while watching Mercury go through a breakup with Joe Fanelli. At the time, he was cryptic about the meaning of the song, saying that it was about watching a friend go through a terrible experience. The track was released as a single six months before its album, The Game. It was a huge success in the UK, topping the charts for six weeks.
Mercury composed Liar in 1970, the year that the band formed. It was released three years later on their debut album. Throughout their early touring years, it was a staple at their live performances; it was also one of their longest songs at the time, often climbing to 10 minutes during concerts. Recorded versions of the track cut it down to six minutes—and later versions even further to three minutes.
28. Seven Seas Of Rhye
Seven Seas Of Rhye isn’t widely remembered as part of Queen’s legacy, but the 1973 single was the band’s first major hit. It climbed to the Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart, and its success convinced Mercury to make Queen his full-time focus. The track was praised for its complex and unique instrumentalization; he said that it was inspired by a fantasy world that he and his sister played in when they were children.
29. White Queen
Queen was noted for their complex harmonies and instrumental layering, but their lyrics were also famously intricate. Many of their songs tell stories, such as the 1974 track White Queen. The song never became a chart hit and may not be known by the wider public. However, it was a standard at their live shows and was highly popular with audiences. The track tells the story of a man searching for his lost lover, the White Queen, in what almost feels like a fairy tale.
30. Stone Cold Crazy
Stone Cold Crazy was released in 1974 and is remembered as being one of the earliest blueprints for the genres of speed metal and thrash metal, which would become popular in later decades. This is largely due to the track’s use of noise, distortion, and extreme tempos, which were entirely unique for the time. Taylor’s drumming performance was praised for its speed and intricacy in the song.
31. We Are The Champions
We Are The Champions is one of Queen’s most enduring songs, often played at sporting events and other competitions. It was released in 1977 and was an international success, topping charts around the world. The track was written with the intention of getting audiences to sing along, with Mercury saying that the “we” in the title refers to everyone participating. May said that the song is intended to be “unifying.”
32. I Want It All
Queen recorded I Want It All in 1989; though it became an international hit, Mercury never got the chance to perform it live. The track’s first live performance came several years later at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, five months after his death. This has become iconic because of its message of fighting for one’s rights and goals. Subsequently, it has become a widely-used protest song, particularly in anti-apartheid, gay rights, and anti-racism movements.
33. Somebody To Love
Somebody To Love was released in 1976 and was an immediate success thanks to its powerful vocal performance, intricate harmonies, and gospel-infused instrumentals. Mercury was inspired in part by Aretha Franklin’s soulful music in composing the song. The track tackles questions of faith and the role that God plays in finding one’s soulmate. It has also been heralded as a queer anthem due to lines such as “I’ve just gotta get out of this prison cell, Someday I’m gonna be free.”
34. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy was released in 1976 on the album A Day At The Races. The track did well on the UK charts, in part because it was inspired by traditional British music hall songs. It is about a man looking forward to going out for the night and finding someone new. It also features an impressive guitar solo from May. Though the track isn’t as well-known as some of their other material, it is one of their top singles of the 1970s.
35. Bohemian Rhapsody
Bohemian Rhapsody is undoubtedly Queen’s most famous track—and one of the most influential songs of modern rock. The title was also used for the 2018 biopic about Mercury. It was released in 1975 and revolutionized modern rock; he saw it as a “mock opera,” which featured many different genres and “acts.” The six-minute track is known for its unique musical structure and intricate lyrics, which make many references to historical and mythological figures.
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