Queen’s run in the mid- to late-1970s was so triumphant—with hit albums like A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races and News of the World arriving at a near-frantic pace—that it’s easy to forget about 1978’s Jazz. Some fans still regard the album as minor, and they’re not entirely wrong. But when you’re talking about a band as self-consciously huge as Queen, a little minor music is a relief, especially when it’s full of the winking humour found in Jazz’s early singles: “Fat Bottomed Girls” is a satire of the misogynistic groupie-virgin-nymphette fantasies of 1970s rock (or, at least, a more body-positive version of it). “Bicycle Race”, meanwhile, is simply about how good it feels to ride bikes. And “Don’t Stop Me Now” is a tribute to the moments in life when you feel so happy and stupid that the rest of the world ceases to exist. (It’s also Mercury at his campiest and most inspiringly gay: He’s burning through the sky at 200 degrees—call him Mister Fahrenheit!) Most notably, Jazz captures the moment in the late 1970s in which bands like 10cc and Sparks were using humour and artificiality to bridge the technical reach of prog-rock to what eventually became New Wave. It’s an album that proves that pop could be slick, funny, weird and accomplished all at the same time. That’s Jazz. And if the title throws you, remember that it isn’t just a style of music, but a fun, sparkly word for stuff—as in, all that jazz.

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