News of the World

News of the World

In the months leading up to the 1977 release of News of the World, Brian May remembers having a disagreement—a brief, polite disagreement—with Freddie Mercury. The topic was “We Are the Champions.” The members of Queen had gone big before, but May worried that a statement of egomania as towering and unchecked as “Champions” might rupture the silent contract between band and fans that had made Queen so beloved in the first place. Mercury disagreed—and he was right, of course. “We Are the Champions”—and the inextricably linked “We Will Rock You”—would become one of the band’s most definitive songs, a tune that captures Queen’s weird mix of musical theater and goon-ready soccer chants. Months later, May couldn’t believe it: The song he’d once laughed at had become an international anthem. News of the World marked the band’s sixth album of the 1970s—another hit entry in a remarkably potent run. Yet the group was still finding ways to build upon its trademark pomp-rock sound. Mercury’s dominance as a lead singer could make it easy to forget that each of the band’s four members wrote songs, and what you hear on News of the World is everyone feeling themselves—and their particular tastes—a little more than usual. There’s the layered guitars of May’s “We Will Rock You” and “All Dead, All Dead”; the warmth of bassist John Deacon’s “Spread Your Wings”; the quick-and-dirty attack of drummer Roger Taylor’s “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Fight From the Inside”; and the sexed-up, almost funk minimalism of Mercury’s “Get Down, Make Love.” But it was the album’s two rah-rah anthems that would make News of the World one of the most impactful albums of Queen’s career. Not long after its release, Mercury wore a New York Yankees bomber jacket onstage as the band played “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” at Madison Square Garden (the team had recently won the World Series). It was a once-unthinkable moment: The great, heteronormative American tradition of baseball being soundtracked to a pair of anthems written by a gay, Parsi-Indian refugee. Take a second to appreciate that—you know Mercury did.

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