Is this the most definitive queer anthem of Queen’s entire catalog?

Is this the most definitive queer anthem of Queen’s entire catalog?

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Few songs deliver a more powerful and joyous energy as Queen’s hit “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

Released in 1979 as a single off of the band’s seventh studio album Jazz, the track embodies the full unapologetic spirit that Freddie Mercury became known for. But what is often overlooked is the song’s queer subtext and subsequent pushback amidst skeptical bandmates, factors that truly set it apart as a definitive queer anthem amongst Queen’s illustrious catalog. 

The song was written by Freddie Mercury during the sessions for Jazz. The band felt they were “getting better at having a good time” and the lyrics reflect this shift.

Musically, the song builds on Mercury’s piano playing, with John Deacon and Roger Taylor providing a bass guitar and drums backing track, and is an example of Queen’s trademark style of multitrack harmony vocals for the chorus lines.

At its core, the song is a celebration of life, encapsulating the essence of living in the moment and embracing one’s true self. Mercury’s electrifying vocals, paired with the band’s signature harmonies, create an atmosphere of euphoria, inviting listeners to join in on an exhilarating ride that mirrored Freddie’s own personal life at the time. 

“I’m a rocket ship on my way to Mars on a collision course / I am a satellite, I’m out of control / I’m a sex machine, ready to reload like an atom bomb / About to oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, explode / I’m burning through the sky, yeah / Two hundred degrees, that’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit / I’m traveling at the speed of light / I wanna make a supersonic man outta you.

Some speculate that “Don’t Stop Me Now” reflects Freddie Mercury’s newfound embracement of his queerness, exploration of the gay club scene and an unabashed revelry in pre-AIDS era freedoms.

Following a split with his long term girlfriend Mary Austin, Freddie would pursue a change in lifestyle, a move to New York and a life full of parties, adventure, and boundless joy.

The video was also symbolic of Mercury’s new image, with his shorter hair, Jean Paul Gaultier leather, Brando biker cap atop the piano, silver chains and a Mineshaft t-shirt (a notable members-only BDSM leather bar New York). 

In a June 2019 print interview with Guitar Player, bandmate Brian May revealed his initial reservations about the track.

“I didn’t really take to it in the beginning,” says May, expressing discomfort with Freddie Mercury’s sexually pervasive lyrics. Despite May’s concerns, Mercury’s infectious energy and passion ultimately convinced the band to include the song on the album and release it as a radio single.

May acknowledges Mercury’s ability to infuse vitality into the music, conceding, “I had to give in. It’s a great song. There’s no way around it.”

The song, its conception and eventual inclusion in Queen’s album Jazz captures Mercury’s defiant attitude towards societal norms, and despite thinly veiled references to sex and drugs, at its core, the song is a celebration of living life to the fullest. 

What sets “Don’t Stop Me Now” apart as a queer anthem is its underlying narrative of empowerment, and in an era when LGBTQ+ visibility was scarce and societal acceptance was far from universal, Mercury fearlessly proclaimed his identity through his music and captured a feeling many queer listeners can relate to when first stepping into our own, serving as a declaration of autonomy and declaration that one’s identity cannot be suppressed or contained.

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