Hot Space (Deluxe Edition)
At first you might feel thrown by the drum machines and dance grooves on Queen’s Hot Space—not to mention the relative lack of guitar. Fair enough: The album marks a cosmetic shift from A Night at the Opera, or even from the underestimated Jazz. But settle in and you’ll find that the essential elements that make Queen so, well, Queen-like are all over Hot Space. It’s big, it’s triumphant, it’s flamboyant, and it’s coming to getcha through a haze of sequins on a strong white horse. Released in 1982, Hot Space captures the stylish decadence of the early 1980s, with its dry ice and neon tights (a vibe conjured up by “Staying Power”). And Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and embrace of gay club culture had never sounded more confident than it did on tracks like “Back Chat” and “Body Language.” In a way, you could say that the album’s relative minimalism had more to do with rock ’n’ roll than the mini-operas Queen had slaved over so ambitiously in the years before. Of course, the highlight of Hot Space is the David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure,” a light, funky, weirdly patched-together song that captured the naive optimism of its cultural moment better than anything found on the FM dial (that is, until “We Are the World” came along a few years later). Here are four minutes that could make a wall cry: As outsized and corny as the lyrics got—"Why can’t we give love one more chance?!”—the song’s real driver was John Deacon’s bassline, which in two notes captured both the clocklike rigidity of the Information Age (Personal computers! Globalization! The deregulated bustle of Wall Street!), as well as the human perseverance that made it bearable. (As for that bassline’s origins: Roger Taylor said Deacon had forgotten the part when the band went to get a pizza; Taylor, in his telling, remembered it.) Like it or not, Hot Space did what fame and money couldn’t accomplish: It got Queen out of a rut.