Sometimes Brian can give you the immense gothic, tragic glory you actually need. And here we have a perfect ending, that tries everything it can to not be.
A legitimately desperate cry for help, haunted by huge unsettling synths, there’s a scale here that just rips right into you. It pulls out all the stops and begs you to be as overdramatic as possible. It beckons you into a comforting fear, and asks you to cling on for dear life. It’s outrageous fun to sing and strut to, if just for the perfectly sustained emotional melodrama.
If the theory goes that Queen are the ultimate dramatic band. The band most able to fill a stage with immense performative storytelling, then this is the most important final statement. This is the key moment. The show is everything, and it will always be there, echoing into eternity.
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside the dark I’m aching to be free
It’s so desperate. So melancholy. So lonely.
If this is the last goodbye, it’s the way to do it. Insisting that the show will continue, that Freddie will still be there. Knowing it’s a lie, but also true.
Every ounce of the song tells you that the song will not go on. Every desperate scream to the contrary reminds you that it’s ending, it’s over, it’s lost.
But it hangs on for eternity.
Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on.
And then it twists the knife. Maybe the show is not the point, maybe we’re tearing at our idols to keep the show intact. Ripping someone to pieces to keep the show together.
Its clearly the intention, lyrically. To pitch the struggle between humanity and the shredding of souls of the entertainment industry.
But situated here, at the end of the final ‘proper’ Queen record, within months of Freddie’s death, it feels like a different kind of desperation takes over. Freddie clawing to keep on performing, keep whole and sane and working. Being torn to shreds by those haunting, brutalist synths.
It’s so easy to project. It’s the dark side of feeling so close to these legendary figures. We want to tidy up the story, make it about something. Make it feel like it’s about us.
It’s not fair. And I’m aware I’ve been complicit throughout this record, and throughout this project. I don’t know the truth of the band, the reality of their world, I’m just piecing together stories around the stories they sing. I promised subjectivity, and I delivered.
Queen promised drama. A show, an entertainment. And they never appeared to stop.
I can’t tell you what it cost them. I can’t tell you where the obvious pain in this song comes from. All I can do is hear the same noises you hear, process them, and make wild and bold claims.
To me this song is about desperation. Trying to continue, as everything falls apart. As such, it is so much about living. It’s the most alive song in the canon. Not treating life as a lark, but a struggle, one that is, for some unknowable reason, desperately important.
The show must go on.
It’s never explained why. It’s never for a second pondered why it has to go on. But the must is as clear as day.
Life is so damn hard, a struggle with madness, illness, expectation, and loneliness. But, without reason, and maybe for lack of an alternative, we each decide, every day, that the show must go on.
I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
The song appeals to the performer inside so hard. It makes you strut with the melodrama of a silent film star. It begs you to yell it, through tears and shakes.
And it begs you take the world that seriously. To put up the fight, and carry on, no matter how hard it feels.
It’s overwhelmingly powerful.
It’s one hell of a pop song.
And one hell of a goodbye.
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.