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The 11 best Queen songs

Why have a top 10 when you can have one more? We pick our 11 favourite songs by the beloved British rockers

There aren’t many bands who have seeped quite as wholly into the fabric of British popular culture as Queen. Kids who have never heard of Freddy Mercury use his lyrics as football chants. There’s not a Brit alive who can’t perform the whole of ‘Bohemian Rapsody’ on command. The disadvantage of this, of course, is that we now consider much of Queen’s discography less as songs and more as British colloquialisms.

Listen again, and you might rediscover some of the best pop and rock anthems of the last several decades. Queen’s discography is theatrical, varied, imaginative and sometimes completely unhinged, and many of these songs took root in the first place because they are so easy to love. With We Will Rock You, Queen and Ben Elton’s smash-hit jukebox musical, heading back to the West End this summer, we set about the mammoth task of scouring the band’s 15 albums for the very best of the best. Here are our favourite 11 songs by Queen.

11. Radio Ga Ga

Passionate cry in defence of art or sneery “kids these days” rant? Wherever you land on ‘Radio Ga Ga’, it’s quite the track. The silliness of its chorus may have been off-putting to some listeners when it was first released, but there’s some incredibly sharp lyricism in its verses, and that hilariously empty refrain serves a larger storytelling purpose.

10. You’re My Best Friend

Also on the sunshiny side of Queen’s discography is this cheerful ode from John Deacon to his wife. The concept and execution are simple enough, but the track has so much heart that it’s hard not to smile at.

9. I Want To Break Free

Sure, it’s pretty surfacy stuff, but that doesn’t make it less deserving of recognition. Catchy, foot-tapping and sustained as always by a fantastic vocal performance, ‘I Want To Break Free’ is a strong pop offering from the band – and that synthesizer solo is pure dopamine.

8. We Are The Champions

Some Queen songs have entered the fabric of pop culture so wholly that they’ve almost become parodies of themselves. Such is the fate of ‘We Are The Champions’, which now has deep associations with football stadiums and drunken crowds. Listen to the track again, however, and it may surprise you. Melodic, restrained verses temper that arena-filling chorus, and Freddy Mercury’s impassioned vocal performance isn’t one to skip.

7. You Take My Breath Away

This deep cut from the band’s eclectic 1976 record A Day At The Races is a strangely haunting offering. Mercury’s breathy vocals lead a gentle piano part, both of them backed by rich, dissonant harmonies. The song sees Mercury desperately pleading with his lover not to leave him, in a monologue that becomes a little threatening towards the track’s close. It’s completely absorbing.

6. Somebody To Love

One of Mercury’s most memorable vocal performances, flanked by a gospel choir that functions much like a Greek chorus. They back up his narration with tongue-in-cheek interjections as Mercury acts his heart out. It’s no wonder that ‘Somebody To Love’ has become pantomime and movie musical fodder, but none spin quite as convincing a fairytale as the original.

5. No One But You (Only The Good Die Young)

Queen’s final single and the band’s goodbye to Freddy is immensely touching. Six years after Mercury’s death, May sings of Mercury’s ability to connect people from all walks of life. It’s strange to listen to a Queen song and not hear Mercury, but May’s emotional performance delivers an incredibly cathartic listen.

4. Killer Queen

Outrageously good fun. ‘Killer Queen’ contains some of the band’s most witty and creative writing, with an instrumentation that more than holds up its end of the bargain. If it was this song alone that convinced Ben Elton the band were destined for West End success, we wouldn’t be surprised.

3. Breakthru

Really two songs rolled into one, ‘Breakthru’ combines the opening ethereal harmonies of scrapped track ‘A New Life Is Born’ with Roger Taylor’s fast-paced rock song. Many of Queen’s best songs have an irresistible energy, and ‘Breakthru’ is the best example of them all, so infectious and joyful that it can’t help but inspire good feelings.

2. Bohemian Rapsody

Truly the most infamous of British singles, and yet decades of drunken pub choirs and rowdy school bus trips can’t take away from the imagination that went into ‘Bohemian Rapsody’. Few songs manage as much in six minutes as Queen’s “mock opera”, lyrically, thematically or musically. With thoughtful production, creative instrumentation and a multitude of insanely infectious hooks, it’s no wonder that ‘Bohemian Rapsody’ latched onto British pop culture and never let go.

1. Who Wants To Live Forever

‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ has been covered, remixed and reimagined time and time again – because it can be. So well-crafted and effectively put that it doesn’t rely on Mercury’s vocals or the band’s instrumentation to succeed, ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ can be stripped back to its very basics and remain just as affecting. There’s no denying, however, that hearing Mercury wail on the track is a particularly magical – and moving – experience.

We Will Rock You comes to the London Coliseum this summer. Find tickets here.