Queen's 20 greatest songs ever, ranked
28 December 2021, 00:45
Queen are one of the world's greatest bands of all time, and had a ridiculous amount of hits.
Here is our top 20, to make for a perfect Queen playlist:
Queen were hired to produce the soundtrack for the 1980 movie adaptation of the Flash Gordon comics.
The song was the only single from the soundtrack, and features clips from the film including Brian Blessed's iconic line "Gordon's alive?".
This song was Queen’s longest single, even surpassing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by 35 seconds.
If anything, it's even more barmy than 'BoRap', as it features a flamenco guitar section by Yes guitarist Steve Howe and Brian May, an operatic interlude and sections of hard rock, in addition to lyrics inspired by Freddie Mercury’s illness.
While stories about his health were being denied, he was by now seriously ill with AIDS, which would claim his life just 10 months after the single was released. It gave Queen a number one single in 1991.
This is exactly the kind of song that would be considered a novelty song, had it not been for Queen recording it.
It was written by Freddie Mercury and was inspired by watching the 18th stage of the 1978 Tour de France passing Montreux, where the band were recording their album Jazz in the Mountain Studios.
Brian May has said that Freddie did not particularly enjoy cycling, and that despite the lyrics, Mercury was actually a Star Wars fan.
'Heaven for Everyone'
Roger Taylor first wrote this song for his side-project band The Cross in 1988, with Freddie Mercury appearing as a guest vocalist. After Freddie's death, as Queen prepared to complete their posthumous album Made in Heaven, this song was selected to be re-done by the band as a Queen song.
The lead vocal Mercury recorded in 1987 was given a new backing track and new backing vocals, and it reached number two in the UK charts.
This powerful track has been speculated to be inspired by either the band's iconic performance at Live Aid, or by the life of Martin Luther King, with lyrics similar to his famous speeches.
The final line of the song is bizarrely "fried chicken", although the lyrics say "one vision". This came about when trying to come up with the proper wording of the song, and since it wasn't working, Freddie sang words that had nothing to do with the song for fun.
'Who Wants to Live Forever'
Also from Highlander, this power ballad is used for the scenes where Connor MacLeod must see his wife Heather MacLeod growing old and dying while he, as an immortal, stays forever young. Brian May wrote the song in the backseat of his car after seeing a 20-minute cut of the scene.
In the film, Freddie sings all the main vocals, while May sings lead vocals on the first verse on the album version, before Freddie takes over.
'We Will Rock You'
This sports anthem favourite - along with 'We Are the Champions' - was written in response to an event that happened during the A Day at the Races Tour.
Brian May said: "We did an encore and then went off, and instead of just keeping clapping, they sang 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to us, and we were just completely knocked out and taken aback – it was quite an emotional experience really, and I think these chant things are in some way connected with that."
'A Kind of Magic'
Queen wrote this song for the movie Highlander, with their A Kind of Magic album acting as an unofficial soundtrack to the film.
The phrase "a kind of magic" is used in Highlander by Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) to describe his immortality. Roger Taylor liked the phrase so much that he used it as inspiration for the song. There are also references to the film in the lyrics: "one prize, one goal"; "no mortal man"; and "there can be only one".
'These Are the Days of Our Lives'
This song was originally written by Roger Taylor about his children, and how parenthood made him look back on his own life. Inevitably, the song took on new meaning when it was announced that Freddie Mercury had AIDS and knew he didn't have long to live when he recorded it.
The video was Mercury’s last filmed performance, and Brian May later speculated that Freddie was “saying his goodbye” in the video.
'Crazy Little Thing Called Love'
Freddie Mercury wrote this ditty as a tribute to Elvis Presley, while lounging in the bath for about 10 minutes.
"I did that on the guitar, which I can't play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords," he later said. "It's a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn't work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think."
'You're My Best Friend'
John Deacon wrote this song for his wife, Veronica Tetzlaff. In the song, he plays a Wurlitzer electric piano as well as his usual bass guitar.
"Well, Freddie didn't like the electric piano, so I took it home and I started to learn on the electric piano and basically that's the song that came out you know when I was learning to play piano," Deacon said. "It was written on that instrument and it sounds best on that. You know, often on the instrument that you wrote the song on."
'We Are the Champions'
The ultimate sporting success song.
It was built on audience response, with Brian May later saying: "We wanted to get the crowds waving and singing. It's very unifying and positive."
'Another One Bites the Dust'
Written by John Deacon, this song's famous bass line was inspired by Chic's 'Good Times'.
Brian May later said of the song: "A fantastic bit of work from Freddie really. I mean, I remember Deacie having this idea, but Deacie doesn't sing of course, so he was trying to suggest to Freddie how it should be and Fred just went in there and hammered and hammered until his throat bled, making... you know, he really was inspired bit and took it to a new height, I think."
This song marked a departure from the heavier material of Queen’s first two albums, as well as the beginning of a more stylistically diverse approach in songwriting.
The song is about a high class call girl, with Freddie Mercury commenting: “People are used to hard rock, energy music from Queen, yet with this single you almost expect Noel Coward to sing it."
'I Want to Break Free'
Written by bassist John Deacon, the song is from the male perspective of the women’s liberation movement. The video parodied Coronation Street, and famously showed all four members in drag, a move which saw the video banned on MTV in the States.
“They must’ve thought men dressing up in drag wasn’t ‘rock’ enough,” said Roger Taylor. The famous electric guitar solo is not actually a guitar, but rather a synth by Fred Mandel, something Brian May wasn’t on board with at first.
'Radio Ga Ga'
This track was a commentary on TV overtaking radio's popularity and how one would listen to radio in the past. Roger Taylor later said: "That's part of what the song's about, really. The fact that they [music videos] seem to be taking over almost from the aural side, the visual side seems to be almost more important."
Lady Gaga has credited her stage name to this song, saying that she "adored" Queen. "That's why I love the name", she said.
'Under Pressure' (with David Bowie)
Queen had been working on a song called ‘Feel Like’, but were not yet satisfied with the result. David Bowie had originally come to sing backup vocals on another song, but his vocals were removed because he was not satisfied.
The final version of this song, evolved from a jam session that Bowie had with the band. Brian May later said: “It was hard, because you had four very precocious boys and David, who was precocious enough for all of us. Looking back, it’s a great song but it should have been mixed differently.”
'Don't Stop Me Now'
The ultimate happy anthem? This song was written by Freddie Mercury, and sees him singing about generally being high on life.
"I thought it was a lot of fun, but I did have an undercurrent feeling of, 'aren't we talking about danger here,' because we were worried about Freddie at this point," Brian May later said.
"That feeling lingers, but it's become almost the most successful Queen track as regards to what people play in their car or at their weddings. It's become a massive, massive track and an anthem to people who want to be hedonistic. It was kind of a stroke of genius from Freddie."
'Somebody to Love'
Written by Freddie Mercury at the piano, this ballad is a soul-searching song that questions God's role in a life without love. Queen created the sound of a 100-voice choir, with only three voices: Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor.
Mercury's fascination and admiration for Aretha Franklin was a major influence on the song.
This six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda, is often voted the greatest song ever made.
It reached number one twice in the UK: in 1975 and in 1991 after Freddie Mercury’s death. It took three weeks to record and was “all in Freddie’s mind” before they started, according to Brian May. It enjoyed a new lease of life in the US in 1992, after its headbanging use in the movie Wayne’s World.