Nov 212011

The King is dead, long live the Queen. This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, Queen frontman and rock mega-idol. It would be ridiculous to even try to quantify Mercury’s impact on pop culture. The whimsical force behind Queen’s unique style and aesthetic, many point to him as one of the best performers in the history of popular music. And don’t forget, his sometimes enigmatic voice brought alternative sexuality into the public conversation.

But behind all the flash and fizz, Mecury was also a gifted songwriter, penning solid and successful tunes that cut across a vast swath of genres, from the simple rockabilly swing of “This Thing Called Love” to the complicated, unconventional composition and operatic explosion of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Cover-seeking fans won’t have any difficulty finding any number of tributes to the man with the moustache. But, whether out of respect for Queen’s iconic originals or just pure joy of imitating the moves of an ensemble so enduringly cool, many attempts at homage lie just a few strums away from the originals.

So in honour of the man’s evolving legacy 20 years after his passing, here are a few of the more creative covers feting the life and musical impact of the inimitable Mr. Mercury. And check back tomorrow, when we look back at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

Little Boots – Love Kills (Freddie Mercury cover)

Mercury’s first solo release since 1973’s I Can Hear Music, “Love Kills” featured prominently in a new soundtrack to the 1927 silent movie, Metropolis. While it performed well on the UK charts, it also performed well at the Razzie Awards, earning a nomination in ‘85 for “Worst Original Song.” Fortunately, sparkly British electropop songstress Little Boots has picked up and polished off  the tune in fine style.

El General – Nosotros Te Conmoveremos (Queen cover)

This Spanish-language adaptation of “We Will Rock You” sees the Panamanian father of Reggaeton, El General, pay tribute to the global appeal Mercury achieved with Queen– they were the first international touring rock band to play stadium shows in South America. This version’s heavy old school beats and spicy Latin feel make for an interesting approach to a tune at risk of being fatally cliché’d by eight hundred too many sports arena smackdowns. Honorable mention also goes to the super chill cover by Snoop Dogg.

Jon Brion – Play The Game (Queen cover)

A playful, yearning, acoustic-ish, glockenspiel-adorned take on the Mercury composition by Jon Brion, known as producer to acts including Spoon, Rufus Wainwright, and Kanye West, as well as a solid performer in his own right.

The Muppets – Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)

Harmonizing chickens, pontificating prawns, Gonzo at his most musically regal and Animal experiencing an amazing heart-rending emotional journey, through a stirring two-word solo. Yes. Runners up included the Flaming Lips and Finnish street band, Porkka Boys. And of course, after listening to all these, you will want to go back to the Wayne’s World scene, which was not included as it already exists within its own realm of awesome.

Freddie Mercury – The Great Pretender (The Platters cover)

Itself a cover of a tune from The Platters, this video became perhaps the best-known of Mercury’s career. As he wildly performs amidst memories of his various “looks” from his past, the newly non-moustached Mercury (it had been with him for seven years at that point, shorn just before this video) croons with ironic oily camp as he delivers the tune that he admitted in one interview to be a fitting musical portrait of his career. And so, with this, here’s to The Great Pretender.

Click here for Part 2 of our Freddie Mercury retrospective.

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