A Kind of Magic

A Kind of Magic

Queen’s shift to playing all-stadium tours in the mid-1980s wasn’t just a business decision. It was an artistic one. Rock ’n’ roll had once been a weird, rebellious youth culture; now, it was the sound of pro sports, political rallies, ad campaigns, and general communal uplift—a transition no band navigated more seamlessly, or profitably, as Queen. Like an infrastructure architect, or a product designer for a new-and-improved dishwasher, Queen was working on a scale of millions now, and making the music to match. At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, there remains something astonishing about a performance as huge but as stripped-down as the group’s Live Aid set from 1985, with paper Pepsi cups littering the top of Freddie Mercury’s piano, and no special effects or prerecorded assistance to be found. As far as pure rock spectacle goes, it’s pretty much the beginning of the end. Released in 1986, A Kind of Magic also marks an end point of sorts for Queen—one of its final albums before the band retired from the road. Whether intentional or not, A Kind of Magic feels fittingly introspective at times—and hopeful. While News of the World gave us “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions,” A Kind of Magic offers even broader visions, whether Mercury is arguing for “One dream, one soul/One prize, one goal” (“A Kind of Magic”) or “One flesh, one bone, one true religion” (“One Vision”). Elsewhere on the album, there are anthems about legacy (“Who Wants to Live Forever”), loyalty (“Friends Will Be Friends”), and unity (“Princes of the Universe”)—all of them heavy enough to inspire, while pop enough for anyone in the world to understand. Compared to the rap and metal working its way through the cultural bloodstream of the mid-1980s, A Kind of Magic sounded like a relic. Yet commercially, Queen had never been bigger, as evidenced by a gargantuan tour the band undertook following the album’s release. The sound was always there—they were just waiting for the seating capacity to catch up.

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