By Robert Ham
We’re betting this is the second sentence you’ll read after first scrolling down to see what we picked for our #1 track. And chances are, you’re not going to be surprised by what you see.
For as much as fans tout “the album experience” when it comes to classic rock bands, the simple fact is Queen will best be remembered for their hit singles. That’s the reason that compilations of their biggest hits regularly sell into the millions. And the reason that the tracks that wound up in the top 20 of this list are in regular rotation on radio stations around the world. Those are the tunes that inspired thousands of soccer game chants, lusty karaoke bar renditions and road trip singalongs.
Things get challenging when we go beyond the top 20. Every one of the 167 songs listed here have something to get excited about, be it a great guitar solo, a soaring Freddie Mercury vocal turn, or some little detail that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The tunes that ranked higher are the ones either packed with those moments or feature enough of these little details to draw you in. That can be anything from listening to the band charmingly botch a tribute to Southern boogie rock (“Sleeping On The Sidewalk”), the push-pull of Brian May’s guitar with the stomp of Roger Taylor’s drums on “Tear It Up,” or Freddie doing his best soul diva over a wash of slinky synthpop (“Pain Is So Close To Pleasure”).
The songs on the bottom of this list generally have at least something going for them. But they are also the ones that drive one-note ideas into the ground, jaunty music-hall tributes, and sound like the band’s heart just wasn’t in it. That the bottom three tracks were all b-sides should give you some indication of where even the band thought they ranked.
No matter what order these tracks are listed, Queen still dominated the commercial and artistic landscape for over 40 years after the release of their debut album. In fact, the titles of the last two Queen compilation albums says everything about where this band sits in the eyes of the world: Icon and Forever.
167. Stealin’ (b-side to “Breakthru” single, 1989)
166. A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling (b-side to “A Kind of Magic” single, 1986)
165. Lost Opportunity (b-side to “I’m Going Slightly Mad” single, 1991)
164. Let Me Live (Made In Heaven, 1995)
163. Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
162. White Man (A Day at the Races, 1976)
161. All God’s People (Innuendo, 1991)
160. Party (The Miracle, 1989)
159. Tenement Funster (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
158. I Can’t Live With You (Innuendo, 1991)
157. Seaside Rendezvous (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
156. Calling All Girls (Hot Space, 1982)
155. You Don’t Fool Me (Made In Heaven, 1995)
154. Headlong (Innuendo, 1991)
153. One Year of Love (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
152. More Of That Jazz (Jazz, 1978)
151. The Hitman (Innuendo, 1991)
150. Chinese Torture (The Miracle, 1989)
149. A Winter’s Tale (Made In Heaven, 1995)
148. Delilah (Innuendo, 1991)
147. Bring Back That Leroy Brown (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
146. Las Palabras De Amor (The Words Of Love) (Hot Space, 1982)
145. Jealousy (Jazz, 1978)
144. Fun It (Jazz, 1978)
143. Some Day One Day (Queen II, 1974)
142. Dreamer’s Ball (Jazz, 1978)
141. Staying Power (Hot Space, 1982)
140. Good Company (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
139. Mustapha (Jazz, 1978
138. Hijack My Heart (b-side to “The Invisible Man” single, 1989)
137. Cool Cat (Hot Space, 1982)
136. Too Much Love Will Kill You (Made In Heaven, 1995)
135. Action This Day (Hot Space, 1982)
134. Jesus (Queen, 1973)
133. Back Chat (Hot Space, 1982)
132. Lily of the Valley (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
131. Ride The Wild Wind (Innuendo, 1991)
130. Khashoggi’s Ship (The Miracle, 1989)
129. Mother Love (Made In Heaven, 1995)
128. The Loser In The End (Queen II, 1974)
127. Who Needs You (News of the World, 1977)
126. Procession (Queen II, 1974)
125. Rain Must Fall (The Miracle, 1989)
124. Heaven For Everyone (Made In Heaven, 1995)
123. Sweet Lady (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
122. Man On The Prowl (The Works, 1984)
121. Let Me In Your Heart Again (Forever, 2014)
120. Mad The Swine (Queen, 1973)
119. The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke (Queen II, 1974)
118. Gimme The Prize (Kurgan’s Theme) (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
117. Seven Seas of Rhye (Queen, 1973)
116. Is This The World We Created…? (The Works, 1984)
115. Soul Brother (b-side to “Under Pressure” single, 1981)
114. Don’t Try Suicide (The Game, 1980)
113. It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise) (Made In Heaven, 1995)
112. Great King Rat (Queen, 1973)
111. The Miracle (The Miracle, 1989)
110. White Queen (As It Began) (Queen II, 1974)
109. In The Lap of the Gods… Revisited (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
108. In The Lap of the Gods (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
107. Don’t Try So Hard (Innuendo, 1991)
106. Hang On In There (The Miracle, 1989)
105. My Fairy King (Queen, 1973)
104. Don’t Lose Your Head (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
103. Misfire (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
102. Innuendo (Innuendo, 1991)
101. Feelings (Take 10, July 1977) (bonus track on News of the World CD, 2011)
(Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images)
100. It’s A Beautiful Day (Made In Heaven, 1995)
A fitting tribute to the late Mercury, built from a clip of him improvising in the studio in 1980, and made picturesque by with the loving hands of his bandmates.
99. Doing All Right (Queen, 1973)
A rough draft version of the multi-part antics that would crystallize on “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
98. Rock It (Prime Jive) (The Game, 1980)
Not the best song written about rock music, but certainly not the worst either. And features one of Taylor’s best vocal performances.
97. If You Can’t Beat Them (Jazz, 1978)
Another selection for the guitar student’s lesson book–May solos for over two minutes and not one second feels wasted.
96. A Human Body (b-side to “Play The Game” single, 1980)
Ranking this b-side so highly feels slightly awkward, but this sci-fi shanty has enough weird turns to justify its placement here.
95. See What A Fool I’ve Been (b-side to “Seven Seas of Rhye” single, 1973)
A flawed b-side, but the kind of glam blues that would feel comfortable tucked away on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack.
94. Sail Away Sweet Sister (To The Sister I Never Had) (The Game, 1980)
Heartbreak rarely sounds this buoyant and rocking, but that’s what makes May such a cool songwriter.
93. In Only Seven Days (Jazz, 1978)
Feels like the theme song to a glossy ‘80s movie, which may or may not be a compliment.
92. Sleeping On The Sidewalk (News of the World, 1977)
May under the influence of ZZ Top and one of Queen’s sloppiest recordings.
91. My Life Has Been Saved (Made In Heaven, 1995)
An emotive track made more so by its inclusion on the posthumously released Made In Heaven.
90. The Invisible Man (The Miracle, 1989)
Ever wanted to hear Queen try and re-write “Ghostbusters”? Here’s your chance.
89. Friends Will Be Friends (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
In a just world, this would have been the theme song to Friends instead of that Rembrandts tune.
88. She Makes Me (Stormtroopers in Stilettos) (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
May goes all psychedelic and comes out with something multi-colored and strangely beautiful.
87. Thank God It’s Christmas (non-album single, 1984)
Like all good British bands do, Queen recorded a holiday tune and while it wasn’t a huge success, it’s still (rightfully) looked upon fondly.
86. Drowse (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Taylor flexes his psychedelic muscles and manages to not strain something in the process.
85. Keep Passing The Open Windows (The Works, 1984)
Manages to overcome Taylor’s use of electronic drums by dint of Mercury’s heartfelt lyric of strength in the face of adversity.
84. Put Out The Fire (Hot Space, 1982)
Another tribute to Lennon, written powerfully by May, and focusing on the need for better gun control in the U.S.
83. The Night Comes Down (Queen, 1973)
A song May wrote before the forming of Queen, and therefore the least Queen-like song the band ever recorded.
82. It’s A Hard Life (The Works, 1984)
The intentional mirror image of “Play The Game” and one that doesn’t look too kindly on romance.
81. Nevermore (Queen II, 1974)
Short, to the point, heartfelt, and should leave you wondering why you did that ex wrong all those years ago.
80. Let Me Entertain You (Jazz, 1978)
When Mercury tells you he wants to entertain you, by golly, he means it. He sounds like a demented carnival barker on this.
79. Breakthru (The Miracle, 1989)
Skim past the 30 seconds of vocal harmonies and head right for the synth bass heavy rocker laying on the other side.
78. Body Language (Hot Space, 1982)
Dave Grohl rightfully pointed out that this tune sounds like the soundtrack to a gay porn film.
77. Machines (Or “Back To Humans”) (The Works, 1984)
Komische synth pop sounds pretty good coming from Queen! LCD Soundsystem, eat your heart out.
76. Made In Heaven (Made In Heaven, 1995)
Another song rescued from Mercury’s solo album and turned into something close to a quintessential Queen anthem.
75. All Dead, All Dead (News of the World, 1977)
If you thought this song was heartbreaking before, wait until you learn that it was about the death of Brian May’s cat.
74. Leaving Home Ain’t Easy (Jazz, 1978)
A Brian May folk ballad perfect for all occasions: divorces, moving away from awful parents, quitting a terrible job, etc.
73. The March of the Black Queen (Queen II, 1974)
The ‘n-word’ drop in this one is a forgivable offense when it surrounded by this proggy pomposity.
72. Dancer (Hot Space, 1982)
An attempt to replicate the success of “Another One Bites The Dust,” maybe? Gotta love that loopy synth bass line.
71. Scandal (The Miracle, 1989)
The boys stick their tongues out at the notoriously invasive UK press, undercutting the cause with an overabundance of ‘80s synth palaver.
(Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images)
70. It’s Late (News of the World, 1977)
May goes all in on this one with a bit of finger tapping guitar work and a three-part story of love gone wrong.
69. The Prophet’s Song (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
The longest song in the Queen canon, and the one where they go the most over-the-top in ways both brilliant and ridiculous.
68. My Melancholy Blues (News of the World, 1977)
A jazzy ballad that makes you want to wrap Mercury up in a blanket and hand him a nice cup of tea.
67. My Baby Does Me (The Miracle, 1989)
Mercury predates Jay-Z by a full 15 years asking the engineer to turn the volume up before tearing into this sexed-up funk.
66. Fight From The Inside (News of the World, 1977)
Roger Taylor steps out from behind the drums and churns out this sleazy little groover.
65. Son and Daughter (Queen, 1973)
Brian May and Tommy Iommi were drinking from the same skull-shaped chalice if this song is any indication.
64. Get Down, Make Love (News of the World, 1977)
A filthy, dirty, and utterly brilliant song. In spite of the title, there’s no love making going on here.
63. Dear Friends (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
Nothing quite like a Mercury piano ballad. And the inspiration behind the first track on cult ‘90s band Jellyfish’s second album Spilt Milk.
62. Bijou (Innuendo, 1991)
Any guitar students reading this would do well to study May’s intricate work on this late period ballad.
61. Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together) (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Mercury doing his best to pay tribute to the band’s many Japanese fans. What could be cloying feels loving and sincere.
60. Coming Soon (The Game, 1980)
Roger Taylor trying to keep up with the likes of the Bay City Rollers and Sweet and damn near surpassing them.
59. Now I’m Here (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
A stomping elegy to what must have been a momentous tour with Mott The Hoople capped off by one of May’s heaviest riffs.
58. Dead On Time (Jazz, 1978)
With this song, all you can do is grab a hold and try not to flung off as it rushes towards its thunderclap conclusion.
57. You Take My Breath Away (A Day at the Races, 1976)
No, Freddie…with that delicate piano playing and those swooping and soaring vocal harmonies, you take our breath away.
56. Life Is Real (Song For Lennon) (Hot Space, 1982)
An impassioned ode to the former Beatle who was slain a year before Queen went into the studio to record Hot Space. ‘Nuff said.
55. Was It All Worth It (The Miracle, 1989)
If it means getting to hear Deacon’s throbbing bass work and a “Dragon Attack”-like attack, then, yeah, it was worth it.
54. I Was Born To Love You (Made In Heaven, 1995)
May, Deacon, and Taylor turning a slight synthpop tune from Mercury’s solo album into a foundation-shaking rocker.
53. Tear It Up (The Works, 1984)
Queen attempts to take “The Stroke” to heights that Billy Squier never conceived of.
52. Father To Son (Queen II, 1974)
A song that really bursts free when played live, where May’s guitar can do maximum damage to your eardrums.
51. I Want It All (The Miracle, 1989)
Queen achieves total heaviosity in spite of a syncopated synth breakdown and a silly double time bridge.
(Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty Images)
50. Princes Of The Universe (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
As much as this was meant to mirror the epic scale of the film it was featured in (Highlander), it also feels like the band showing the glam metal kids a thing or two. That they actually come close to bettering the sound of Def Leppard et. al. says everything about Queen’s power even in 1986.
49. Need Your Loving Tonight (The Game, 1980)
John Deacon proves his versatility by including this power pop grinder on The Game alongside his “Another One Bites The Dust.” Released as a single here in the States, it proved surprisingly potent to audiences, cracking the Top 50 and popping up occasionally on classic rock radio for years after its release.
48. Brighton Rock (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
The song was written around the time of Queen II but the band held off on recording it until Sheer Heart Attack. For all its call-and-response silliness going on in the lyrics, all anyone remembers is May’s extended guitar solo that takes up much of the song’s last few minutes.
47. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Another deliriously glammy cut from the band’s 1977 album A Day At The Races, and one of the many songs that let Mercury showcase his love of piano-driven music hall anthem inspired by folks like Noël Coward. And as in your face about Mercury’s sexual preferences as anything in the band’s catalog.
46. Save Me (The Game, 1980)
Brian May’s reaction to a married couple he was friendly with breaking up. For such a sorrowful tune, it sure has a lot of meat on its bones with Roger Taylor ratcheting up the intensity and May following suit was some slashing guitar work.
45. You And I (A Day at the Races, 1976)
John Deacon’s sole songwriting contribution to A Day At The Races was this frivolously romantic number that lets Freddie Mercury’s piano playing take the lead while also providing plenty of room for some swirling harmonies on the moonlit, starry-eyed chorus.
44. Pain Is So Close To Pleasure (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
Queen did their best to keep up with the sound of the times and occasionally hit on a small vein of gold like this shuffling number co-written by Freddie Mercury and John Deacon. The rest of the band barely figures, but they weren’t needed really. It’s all about the chirpy keyboards and Mercury’s falsetto.
43. Keep Yourself Alive (Queen, 1973)
What an opening salvo. The first cut on Queen’s debut album, this is an energetic rocker that pulls no punches, bringing the heat with some giddy vocal harmonies and a perfectly unnecessary yet perfectly rendered drum solo from Roger Taylor.
42. The Millionaire Waltz (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Contrast “Death On Two Legs” with this ode for Queen’s then-manager John Reid who, at the time, was involved with a professional and personal relationship with Elton John. The pining mood cuts undercut by a brief rock out, but otherwise this is a barroom waltz full of drunken admissions of regret.
41. Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To…) (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
Don’t cross Freddie Mercury or else you’ll find yourself the subject of a vicious little kiss-off like this. The fury that the Queen singer feels towards former manager Norman Sheffield—the dedicatee for this Night At The Opera opener—is palpable with every venomous line he spits out.
40. Dragon Attack (The Game, 1980)
The funkiest anti-drug song this side of “White Lines,” this Brian May tune is a bit of a deep cut, although it has prime position on The Game between “Play The Game” and “Another One Bites The Dust.” As such it splits the difference between the former’s dramatics and the latter’s dancefloor pulse.
39. Flick of the Wrist (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
Freddie Mercury takes some time out of Sheer Heart Attack to take (I would assume) a former business partner to task for his misdeeds and shady dealings. You want to feel bad for the famed singer, but when it results in a brilliantly nasty tune like this, maybe the bullshit was worth it.
38. Hammer To Fall (The Works, 1984)
Found on the band’s highly underrated album The Works, Brian May’s driving rock tune is one of his fiercest statements, exhibiting his fury at nuclear proliferation and the vagaries of geopolitics. That would be enough to celebrate this song, but May adds to it a mean, meaty riff that leaves you reeling.
37. Modern Times Rock ‘n Roll (Queen, 1973)
Written and sung by Roger Taylor, this was the band throwing down the gauntlet and urging the rest of the world to get on board with a new sound that promised to “hit ya, grab you hard/make you feel ten feet tall.” Mission accomplished, fellas.
(Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty Images)
36. I’m Going Slightly Mad (Innuendo, 1991)
A rare but perfectly understated vocal turn from Freddie Mercury highlights this gentle little pop song, as does one of Brian May’s coolest solos: a bit of slide guitar that unfurls and spirals off in about six different directions at once.
35. Flash (Flash Gordon soundtrack, 1980)
All together now: “Flash! Ah-aaaah! Savior of the universe! Flash! Ah-aaaah! He’ll save everyone of us!” It may get taken over by dialogue from the movie and a piano interlude but they’re forgivable offenses when the rest of the song is so damn good.
34. Long Away (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Another Brian May-led tune marked by melancholic lyrics and an atmosphere more akin to the work of the Laurel Canyon folk scene. The band makes it their own with their signature harmonies and the colossal drive of Roger Taylor’s drums throughout.
33. Funny How Love Is (Queen II, 1974)
Queen goes all Phil Spector on this hidden gem from their 1974 second album with a sparkling acoustic guitar line carrying the weight of the song and Freddie Mercury sounding as sweet and unearthly in a manner that he would never attempt again.
32. These Are the Days of Our Lives (Innuendo, 1991)
This Roger Taylor tune from Innuendo was the perfect fit for the ruminative, nostalgic tone that carried through much of that 1991 album. It also proved to be Queen’s last big single in the U.S. due to the death of Freddie Mercury two months after its release.
31. Seven Seas of Rhye (Queen II, 1974)
A snippet of the song was added to the band’s debut album, but they managed to turn into a much sturdier and nasty beast on the follow-up LP. As I’m sure they intended it to, this feels like the soundtrack to a battle between powerful wizards.
30. ‘39 (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
Brian May takes the lead on this little folk tune that tells of a bunch of folks taking off for a space adventure, only to come home and find that 100 years have passed since their departure. It borders on preposterous but he and the band manage to give it a beating heart.
29. Ogre Battle (Queen II, 1974)
Try as he might, Freddie Mercury could never quite keep up with Yes and Led Zeppelin in trying to write epic, fantastical lyrical content. He came closest on this song from Queen II, but really the only reason to listen to this song is for the guitar god histrionics courtesy of Brian May.
28. Liar (Queen, 1973)
Queen’s progressive rock beginnings were most evident on their first two albums, and this track from their 1974 self-titled debut combines heavy rock with jazz filigrees oh so well. The nearly six minute long tune features everything from Santana-like percussion breakdowns and a rare fuzzed up bass solo from John Deacon.
27. Bicycle Race (Jazz, 1978)
If we’re being honest with ourselves, the song is pretty darn silly. But it’s also a daringly complex one with shifting time signatures, a breakdown featuring a chorus of bike bells, and some strange political commentary wended into Freddie Mercury’s knotty lyrics.
26. Love of My Life (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
One of the most affecting ballads in the Queen discography. The studio version, with its harp glissandos and stark piano is moving enough, but if you want to fight back tears, check out the version recorded in Argentina where the crowd matches Freddie Mercury for every swoop and tremor.
25. Play The Game (The Game, 1980)
Who wouldn’t feel hopeful about their romantic prospects after hearing this fantastic ballad that kicks off Queen’s 1980 LP The Game. The song also offers up plenty of chances to marvel at Freddie Mercury’s vocal abilities. Don’t believe me? You try singing it and see how well it goes.
24. A Kind of Magic (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
The title track from the band’s 1986 album, and the unofficial soundtrack to Highlander, this shimmery number was written by drummer Roger Taylor after hearing the title phrase it in the film. It also serves as a showcase for Roger Deacon, as his ‘60s-style walking bass line drives this otherwise very ‘80s tune.
23. Radio Ga Ga (The Works, 1984)
Synthpop took a further hold on Queen by the time of their 11th album The Works, and it never sounded better on the band than this Kraftwerk-inspired ode to the days of yore listening to music, drama, and news through the wireless.
22. I Go Crazy (b-side to “Radio Ga Ga” single, 1984)
First released as a b-side, this Brian May track puts its accompanying tune to shame, by exhibiting a keen sense of humor with lyrics telling the tale of losing one’s girl to good for nothing rock star.
21. Sheer Heart Attack (News of the World, 1977)
Initially intended for the album of the same name, Queen held on to it for follow-up News of The World, where it brushes aside the glam of “We Are The Champions” in favor of driving power chords and a rhythm section work – including a phased-out snare roll – that could level a building.
20. Stone Cold Crazy (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
Imagine for a minute you have some naysaying friend that dares to say that Queen wasn’t a real rock band. Knock them on their heels with this taut, fiery two-minute jam from Sheer Heart Attack that launched a thousand NWOBH ships.
19. Spread Your Wings (News of the World, 1977)
The template for the ‘80s power ballad, John Deacon’s tune from News Of The World is a muscular one, and the kind of tune custom made to urge that special someone in your life to try and reach their full potential.
18. Who Wants To Live Forever? (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
Written for the supernatural adventure film Highlander, this is Queen at their most skyscraping, their most dramatic, and their most stirring. The song swells and crashes over in the most delicious way possible. All in service of a Christopher Lambert vehicle, no less.
17. I Want To Break Free (The Works, 1984)
The influence of Prince on songwriter John Deacon was never more evident than on this slice of electropop that features no chorus to speak of. All the tension just builds and builds with no release outside of a wonky synth/guitar solo at the midway point.
16. The Hero (Flash Gordon soundtrack, 1980)
One of Queen’s most heated rockers wound up running over the end credits to the cult classic 1980 film Flash Gordon. The movie may be a goof, but sticking it out to hear this scorcher in surround sound is worth every minute of cornball sci-fi action.
15. Fat Bottomed Girls (Jazz, 1978)
You can keep Meghan Trainor’s ode to curvy ladies. We’ll stick with this bluesy, joyous rocker. It may be a little direct in its appreciation of a particular body part but songwriter Brian May was never one to hedge around a subject. He likes big butts and he cannot lie.
14. I’m In Love With My Car (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
What could have been a throwaway little ditty, jokingly dedicated to Queen’s roadie Johnathan Harris, the song (one of Roger Taylor’s solo writing credits and lead vocal turns) became one of the band’s most searing and most beloved rockers.
13. We Are The Champions (News of the World, 1977)
Usually heard accompanying fellow News of The World track “We Will Rock You” on classic rock radio stations around the world, this song works just as well on its own to stir us to bold, decisive action or to celebrate the winning touchdown in the big game.
12. Don’t Stop Me Now (Jazz, 1978)
Brian May takes an almost complete back seat on this song. And can you blame him? When Freddie Mercury is leading the charge with a rollicking piano melody and those eye-opening lyrics, you’d do well to fall into his skilled hands and let him make a supersonic man (or woman) out of you.
11. One Vision (A Kind of Magic, 1986)
Looking for a way to kick your morning run off or to at least help you get your day started with a bang instead of a whimper? I can think of nothing better than this inspiring and anthemic little number from Queen’s 1986 album A Kind of Magic.
10. We Will Rock You (News of the World, 1977)
Rock at its most minimalist and the song that launched a million crowd pump up moments in sports arenas. This is the kind of song that is baked into the DNA of every person on the planet likely able to conjure up the “stomp stomp clap” beat at will. The ubiquity of “We Will Rock You” doesn’t diminish its greatness, of course. Its perfection is due to its simplicity: the three count rhythm, the chanted lyrics that you will remember until your dying day, and Brian May streaking through the mix with a guitar solo for the ages. Don’t fight it, friends; just stomp your feet, clap your hands, and shout that chorus like your life depends on it.
9. The Show Must Go On (Innuendo, 1991)
The most defiant and heartbreaking song that the band wrote for the last album they completed together before Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991. The track, written primarily by Brian May, was a fist-pumping tribute to Mercury’s efforts to stay creatively active even as complications from his AIDS infection were destroying his body. As the Queen guitarist told Rolling Stone, the singer could barely walk when he got into the studio to record it, but was able to put his all into this triumphal anthem. You hear this song and you expect to see fireworks and pyrotechnics blasting through the sky.
8. Somebody To Love (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Almost a companion piece to “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this 1976 single is all about the dense gospel harmonies of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor. That gorgeous bit of give-and-take between the choir and Mercury’s urgent pleas for romance in return for all of his hard work and good deeds is the song’s sturdy anchor. Buoyed by that, May aims for the stratosphere with his ringing solos and Taylor nimbly dances around the beat. The song has had a long afterlife, popping up in film soundtracks, TV shows like Glee, and being covered by everyone from Italian diva Mia Martini to punk rocker Frank Turner.
7. Killer Queen (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
Queen never got more glam than this. Written by Freddie Mercury as an expression of his apparent lust for the band’s radio promotions man at the time, it found the band stepping firmly outside the multi-tiered prog of their first two albums with a jaunty piano line, a perfectly placed bit of phase effects on the line “Dynamite with a laser beam,” and one of Brian May’s best solos. It proved just what the doctor ordered for the band’s commercial prospects as well. The 1974 single was a sizable international hit, landing in the top 20 here in the U.S. and just missing out on being Queen’s first No. 1 in their native UK.
(Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
6. Tie Your Mother Down (A Day at the Races, 1976)
What better way to kick off an album (in this case, 1976’s A Day At The Races) than a vicious rocker with a guitar riff that explodes the blues tradition with one jagged blow? The song itself is a simple one, expressing every teenage boy’s desire to get the folks out of the way so he and his lady can fool around. But in the hands of Brian May (who wrote the tune), in becomes particularly urgent and heated, all the better to match the “boiling up inside” that the protagonist is feeling. The song wasn’t a huge chart success, but it has long been a fan favorite thanks to Queen including it in the set list of almost every show they played from 1976 until Freddie Mercury’s passing in 1991.
5. Another One Bites The Dust (The Game, 1980)
Though he was the least-flamboyant member of Queen, John Deacon was actually the most versatile and funkiest songwriter in the group. If you need proof, look no further than this raw and ready anthem. Apparently inspired by some time that Deacon spent with disco titans Chic, the rubbery bass groove, psychedelic tape effects, and in your face lyrics proved infectious for audiences around the world. It had a particular pull here in the States where the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts while also finding crossover success on soul radio stations and in dance clubs. Like a lot of Queen’s best work, the song has been remixed and covered and recycled in a myriad of ways since its 1980 release, but try as they might, no one has topped the original article.
4. You’re My Best Friend (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
On their fourth album A Night At The Opera, Queen proved capable of handling most any style of popular music, including, as this song bears out, the three-minute pop song. This could be the sweetest song in the band’s canon, written as it was by bassist John Deacon for his wife and featuring some of the most baldly romantic lyrics Freddie Mercury has ever sung. The key to the song, though, is that wonderfully incessant electric piano line that starts it off. It’s a strangely delicate touch that forces the rest of the band to play with a much lighter touch than ever before.
3. Under Pressure (Hot Space, 1982)
One of the greatest rock duets ever recorded, this is a quintessential moment from the latter part of Queen’s career where they were able to mesh their dramatics with a tight, danceable groove. Like many great songs, the initial demos tell an interesting story with the band kicking around a stately formless blues chug. But when David Bowie visited the band in their Swiss studio, the five men took this blueprint, locked horns, and turned out this little masterpiece in the span of an evening. There are so many hooks packed in to “Under Pressure,” but none better than that simple, infectious three-note bass line created by John Deacon that kicks things off. If hearing it doesn’t send an electric charge up your spine, you might be dead inside.
2. Crazy Little Thing Called Love (The Game, 1980)
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. As legend would have it, Freddie Mercury wrote this tribute to Elvis Presley in about 10 minutes during the off-hours of the band’s long recording sessions for their eighth album The Game. And a few hours after presenting it to the rest of the band, they knocked together the version that brought Queen their first U.S. No. 1 single and one of the greatest songs to ever to clock in at less than three minutes. It may seem a slight song compared with the rest of the band’s catalog, but next time you’re at a bar, dial this up on the jukebox and watch the temperature of the room change when those first guitar strums take off.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody (A Night at the Opera, 1975)
Could it be any other song? No other track best encapsulates the volatile mixture of glam and prog that made Queen so absolutely amazing. Every last second of this nearly six-minute long epic feels absolutely essential. The tightly wound, multi-tracked harmonies by Freddie Mercury, Brian May, and Roger Taylor dominating the operatic middle section and making the nonsensical barrage of fandangos and Bismillahs sound downright badass. Mercury’s stirring lead vocals that jump from withered pleas to bombastic yelps and back again. May’s guitar solos piercing through the mist like a lightsaber. Take away one element and the song would be the lesser for it. If every other Queen song were wiped out of existence and this one remained, we would still be talking about the greatness of these four lads.