Analysis 3: “Bohemian Rhapsody” ~ Queen

2 09 2007

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is arguably the most famous music video of all time. The song is considered a rock classic by many, so how could I not have a go at analysing it? This one features more editing than the last two I analysed, so let’s see how I manage.

1. The track opens with the a cappella line “Is this the real life?”, accompanied by a black screen which fades to show the band silhouetted against a wall.  The image creates a sense of mystery and expectation, as we wait for the band to appear.

2. As the piano comes in, lights come on, revealing the band standing and singing. They are standing in the darkness, dressed all in black, with smoke swirling around them. As Freddie Mercury sings, his face, transparent, is superimposed over the image.

3. The image fades to footage of the band, now wearing white and performing with instruments. Fades, transparency effects and superimposition are used extensively, showing close ups of Mercury singing, his hands playing the piano, Taylor playing the drums, Deacon playing bass and May playing guitar. After the guitar solo, Mercury gets to his feet again, and there is another fade.

4. As Mercury sings about “a little silhouetto of a man”, we do indeed see his silhouette. This then cuts to the trio of May, Deacon and Taylor singing in response.

5. There is an abrupt cut to a kaleidoscopic image of the four band members singing, synched to the phrase “thunderbolt and lightning”.  This makes it look as though an entire choir of Queen members is singing.

6. Taylor and Mercury sing the word “Galileo” in a call-and-response style, Mercury on the left and Taylor on the right, and then, as Mercury sings the word “Magnifico”, an optical feedback effect is employed to make it look like a row of Freddie Mercurys are singing. There is a series of quick cuts between Mercury singing on his own, the four band members singing together and the kaleidoscopic image, with the optical feedback effect being employed once again on the four band members.

7. There is more call and response as the image fades between the four band members singing together and the kaleidoscopic image of the same, faster and faster until…

8. The heavy metal segment plays, with the band members performing on stage again, this time amid clouds of smoke with Mercury dancing around with the mic stand. The contrast between the brightness and motion of this scene and the still darkness of the earlier scene is striking.  Also note how the lights and the smoke serve the dual purpose of creating an impressive light display and making the performers look mysterious – and almost ethereal.  This technique is often employed on stage.

9. As the band slow down to play the outro, close ups of Mercury playing the piano and May playing the guitar are shown.

10. There is a fade to Mercury singing the last verse, and then another fade to some more piano and guitar playing playing, before the final fade.

11. The final shot is of the four band members standing together in darkness singing the phrase “any way the wind blows”, before bowing their heads. They are transparent and superimposed over a shot of Taylor striking a gong.

View the masterpiece on YouTube here.  It looks a little dated by today’s standards, but a classic is a classic.


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