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Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody


by Queen


It can feel nonsensical at times, but "Bohemian Rhapsody" actually does have a narrative arc—at least, we think it does.

Here's our best attempt at a breakdown of the story the song tells. Keep in mind, this story could be a grand metaphor for something else entirely—but nobody knows what. We encourage you to think through the song's meaning yourself rather than take our word for it.

Part I ("Is this the real life?" to "Sometimes I wish I'd never been born at all"): Ballad confessional

In this section the narrator confesses, first to himself and then to his beloved mother, that he has killed someone. He feels regret, but it's too late. "Nothing really matters…"

Part II ("I see a little silhouetto" to "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me"): The trial

We got the trial idea from BBC news (of course the Brits understand this opera stuff). The "poor boy" narrator presents his case (albeit a bit weakly) in front of a chorus of judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys (those are the people who sing "let him go!"). The attendees at this particular trial have a strange propensity for repeating the word "Galileo!" at random times. Meanwhile, the defendant becomes increasingly vocal, begging to be set free.

Part III ("So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye" to "Just gotta get right outta here"): Prison scene

After being convicted and locked up, the narrator becomes angry and sings out his sufferings in a rage. He demands to be freed rather than executed.

Part IV ("Nothing really matters" to "Anyway the wind blows"): Dénouement

The narrator has accepted his fate, probably a fate of execution. He returns to his original state of remorse and sings out his troubles quietly.

How's that for narrative arc?

Here's a quote from an English professor who was as impressed as we are by Freddie Mercury's storytelling: "The architecture of Bohemian Rhapsody ¬– and it is an architecture – is self-consciously, ostentatiously baroque. It is rich in ornate, curious details, occasionally Moorish in provenance. Also in soaring, sometimes dizzy-making, shifts of register and in a lachrymose emotiveness that is almost impossible to resist."

Lachrymose? That's a fancy word for "weepy," but a totally accurate one in this case. Way to go, Queen, for making a rock song into a baroque architecture.

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