Now, to those of us who adored Queen, this announcement of 'new' material is somewhat of a sacrilegious statement here: Queen's front man, the fabulously entertaining tenor Freddie Mercury, died in 1991. In some fans' eyes, the band as we knew and loved died with him. With the exception of bassist John Deacon, the other surviving members (drummer Roger Taylor and lead guitarist Brian May) have soldiered on with the Queen name. They've been releasing songs since Freddie's death (and done quite a few projects to honour and remember their late friend), but here in the States these newer items have never got the attention. Instead, radio airwaves here are filled with the songs from Queen's glory days (all links go to videos posted on YouTube): "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Fat Bottom Girls", "Another One Bites the Dust", and on and on. I have to feel for the surviving band members as they clearly were, and still are, very talented: if they continue on, as they mostly have, they're criticized for 'ruining' that glorious legacy; if they don't continue on, they're wasting their abundant talents. Queen was far more than just a powerful and iconic vocalist, but that's very easy to forget sometimes, especially as Freddie was the absolute best entertainer in rock.
I admit I have been on the sidelines, watching them from afar, on this new journey for the last couple of years. They've brought on the talents of Paul Rodgers, best known as the lead singer of Bad Company, to help with vocals...but they've also been very succinct in not just throwing him in with the Queen name: it's always Queen + Paul Rodgers. For a couple of fellow Queen fans I know, that's made a difference as to whether they see the new shows or buy the new albums. Separate yet equal, or something close to that, anyway. And also to Paul Rodgers' benefit, he's went out of his way it appears to not attempt to sing like Freddie would have (which would have been an outright disaster, as Mr Rodgers has no where near the vocal range of the operatically capable Mr Mercury). The songwriting is still strong and over-the-top dramatic, the guitar riffs still soaring and full of bravado, the drums still bombastic and vengeful. But I couldn't make myself buy tickets when they rolled through here, I guess, last year: damn it, I still miss Freddie and I felt I would be cheating on that adoration.
So this new song from Queen + Paul Rodgers, "Say It's Not True", (which was written by Roger Taylor as a present for Nelson Mandela), isn't even very 'new', as it was first premiered in 2003. However, for whatever the reason now, it may get some air play over here at long last. Personally, I'd like to think it would get some traction for being released for the recently passed World Aids Day, but, there again, when that happens the song ceases to be a celebration of the new and more of a remembrance of the old: Freddie, after all, privately suffered for years and eventually died from AIDS. This is the hurdle that looms great for this band, no matter the membership: moving on to the new when the fan base to connect with can't, or won't, cut loose with their ties to the past. For good and for bad, Freddie left his stamp everywhere.
Still, I have to admit, it's a great song and another one in the Queen catalog that's poignant, thoughtful, and makes you want to learn the lyrics straightaway. I openly was singing along by the last verse as I bolted down the interstate. And, unfortunately, I also admit I was comparing the vocals of Mr Taylor and Mr Rodgers on this song to how Freddie would have delivered it. Oh, now this is a song that Mr Mercury would have shaken the rafters with back in his prime...a la "Somebody to Love". I love this 'new' song because of the message and because it's a damn good song and because I still support what is left of this magical band. But I also hate this song because all I can 'hear' is the what might have been if Freddie was still here to saunter up to the mic...and I also hate that I can't somehow 'give' Paul Rodgers a fair chance as the vocalist with them.
And, damn it, I think I'm always going to miss Freddie.
Video from YouTube, as per my usual.