Apr 012021
 

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20. Brandi Carlile – ’39

Who else but Dr. Brian May, Queen’s guitarist and resident astrophysicist, would write a song about Einsteinian time travel, and disguise the sci-fi as a sort of sea shanty? (He fooled me completely; for several decades I assumed the song was about pilgrims on the Mayflower or something. Only last year did someone hip me to the fact that it’s about space exploration.)

More polished covers of this song exist, but I stand by Brandi Carlile’s version. Carlile and company do a spirited job with it despite her jitters – maybe she felt daunted by the group vocal orchestration that kicks off the song (and comes back with a vengeance in the middle of it). But the song is daunting. May sang the lead on the studio version, but for live dates he left it to Freddie. If Queen’s music seems a little fussy and belabored for your tastes, the lighter approach here, even the sloppiness, might feel refreshing. (The show was for a charitable cause, after all.) The band’s enthused bootstomping makes up for the misfires, and fits with the work-song roots of the song’s form.

Kudos to the cellist in the shadow. We see you and appreciate you, even if the camera operator and lighting technician let you down. You are the champion, my friend. – Tom McDonald

19. Los Lobos – Sleepin’ on the Sidewalk

An excellent Queen track in its own right, the song “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” is likely to be relatively unknown to those that never bothered to turn News Of The World over to the other side after having their ears blown off with repeated listens of the openers “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.” Given that the song is another one of the few Brian May vocals in the canon of the band, and the fact that there is a bit of a Texas roadhouse boogie in its DNA, having Los Lobos cover the song might not seem as first-blush crazy as you might think. Presented on the Killer Queen (A Tribute To Queen) compilation, Richard Hidalgo and the band accentuate the original, turning the song into a ZZ Top-worthy anthem perfect for a top-down convertible drive in the Texas hill country. – Walt Falconer

18. Maria McKee – I’m in Love with My Car

When Roger Taylor first played the demo of “I’m In Love With My Car,” a gloriously overwrought tribute to his piston-pumpin’ clean machine to Brian May, he was met with disbelief. “You’re joking aren’t you???” May said, to which Roger responded “No, Brian, I’m deadly serious.” While Taylor’s scratchy, screamy, straining vocal on the original perfectly suits the song’s manic sentiment, it is cool to hear someone with a real set of pipes grab a hold of it. On her version of “Car,” Maria McKee wails with soul-shredding abandon transforming the song into gospel hymn on the run, the kind of thing that should be rolling over the end credits of a classic early ’70s road movie. – Hope Silverman

17. Troye Sivan – Somebody to Love

Cover songs are performed for a wide variety of reasons, but it’s not often because the band personally asks for a tribute. But that’s what happened to Troye Sivan when the surviving members of Queen asked him to cover the song “Somebody To Love” around the time of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a beautiful, contemplative cover that turns the lyrics on their head, framing them in a calm new light. The first verse is just Sivan’s vocals with a hushed backing, and then only a soft piano fills in for the chorus. The minimalist take retains the spunk of the original tone, while using a tender touch. All the proceeds from the cover went towards the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which supports HIV and AIDS research. – Ally McAlpine

16. RDM ft. Augusto Enriquez – Bohemian Rhapsody

As you’ve probably noticed by now, there are a lot of “Bohemian Rhapsody” covers on this list. This isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. But it is the only one were the singer went to the effort of translating the song into Spanish. “Scaramouche” in Spanish turns out to still be “Scaramouche.” And they don’t just translate the lyrics; they translate the entire sound to a south-of-the-border fiesta. It’s like flamenco means opera, delivered by a singer who can really belt. Freddie would approve. – Ray Padgett

15. Dwight Yoakam – Crazy Little Thing Called Love

“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is the only Queen song I really, really love, in cover or original, and this rendition trumps the pomp of the original. OK, I anyway love the whole Yoakam experience, the voice always only a whisper away from a yodel, and this version, by adding the -abilly to the rock, is masterful, the twangy bass and honkytonk piano genius. Maybe it’s just me, but my memory has him accentuating the “thang” way more than he actually does. The video is similarly tremendous, with the self-deprecating line-dance routine sufficient to have me wonder, actually, whether the tongue was not in cheek at all. Which makes the whole even better. – Seuras Og

14. MNEK – Don’t Stop Me Now

This cover starts out fairly traditionally with R&B crooning. We get the musical theater-like “don’t stop me now” but we get a hint of the changing wind with some deep, but faint xylophone. Then the beat drops on “I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky” and this cover’s novelty reveals itself. Now we’re transported to a club, bouncing along to the groove. These new elements are restrained, yet they are enough to make this not your average “Don’t Stop Me Now” cover. – Sara Stoudt

13. Metallica – Stone Cold Crazy

Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” was thrash metal before thrash metal, with a driving guitar and drums that took the listener on quite the thrill ride. When Metallica covered it for Elektra’s Rubaiyat label tribute, they stepped on the gas juuuuust a little harder, making the pace even more breakneck. James Hetfield’s vocals were less lithe than Freddie Mercury’s, far more brutal. The cover earned Metallica a Grammy for Best Metal Performance, and it still sounds good thirty (!) years later. – Patrick Robbins

12. Karen O & Willie Nelson – Under Pressure

Karen and Willie, an unlikely coupling that works so much better than the idea might. The pair show, yet again, what a consummate duet singer is octogenarian Willie. He outcools granddaughter-aged Karen with aplomb, still yet gracefully enough for her to feel she comes out quite well. Which she does. A glorious acoustic arrangement, the country tinges almost understated, I can listen to this all day and, towards the end of last year, I probably did. Just when it can get no better, the poignancy of the middle eight carries this yet higher and higher. – Seuras Og

11. Weird Al Yankovic – Bohemian Polka

Unusually for Weird Al Yankovic, he plays this cover completely straight, with no changes to the lyrics. The gag, instead, lies in the music itself. Because he covered “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a polka, one of the most upbeat and folksy genres. From the opening lyrics, you can tell something is amiss and about to happen, before a slide whistle and cracking snares launch into the polka itself. For what he loses in the drama of the song, Yankovic gains in sing-a-long-ability. The track is just catchy enough to abuse your knowledge of the lyrics, and you’ll be singing along with him in no time. – Brendan Shanahan

The list continues on Page 5.

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  4 Responses to “The 40 Best Queen Covers Ever”

Comments (4)
  1. Cardi B Blinding lights

  2. Never seen such a clueless collection of covers and writings, try listening to the songs and learning to write without pretentions or clichés, utter drivel!

  3. Disappointed that The Muppet Show rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody is not number 1…

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