The legendary Queen: one band, accompanied by one audience, playing as one entity. Whether you were playing Queen’s record in your college dorm room, listening along to their songs on the radio, or front row at the famous Live AID benefit concert, there was no doubt that you were singing along at the top of your lungs and forgetting about all of life’s responsibilities. Queen’s music had a certain enchantment that engulfed any person within listening distance- especially the iconic 1977 album: News Of the World.
News of the World was created and released in the peak of Queens creative period. With the album being their sixth studio album, and the second album produced solely by the band, it marked the time in the band’s journey where they experimented in all styles of rock n’ roll, while it was still considered a Queen “classic”. This transitioning era of the late seventies hippie style and new uprising eighties punk style gave the band the opportunity to make this album have no particular center while encompassing a varied range of styles within their range of rock n’ roll. The Classic Rock Review quoted “These styles ranged from heavy metal to soft jazz, from Spanish influenced to “stadium rock” and many genres in between.” Thus, establishing a new vision.
The production of the News Of the World album is the reason the record became so successful. Each band member had their shot to bring a new style to the table. Another respected opinion by Classic Rock Review explains just how the albums range of styles came about, “News Of the World, is extremely diverse with every one of its eleven tracks credited to a single composer within the band, each of the four band members composing multiple tracks, and a variety of genres explored within the songs themselves.”
The album starts with three quick changes in beat, showcasing right from the start that this record withholds a variety of styles, personality, and moods. The point of departure of the record is front-loaded with the two biggest hits of the album, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions”, which pulls the listeners in immediately. Each song can stand as its own entity but the album as a whole represents an almost colder vibe with a reoccurring theme of hope and perseverance within the lyrics. The songs composed by Brian May, lead guitarist, bring a lighter feeling to the record, which balances it out perfectly (besides Mays composition of “All Dead, All Dead”).
Brian May came up with the idea that a song can be created like a theatrical play since they were indeed more than a band, they were performers. The track “It’s Late” holds three acts, instead of verses, to tell a life story within the song and make it more personal. Brian May then really stepped up and even took lead vocals on the rest of his compositions, “All Dead, All Dead” and “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” where he brings in rhythmic beats and high levels of harmony to tell the story of both. “All Dead, All Dead” has the enchanting sounds of the organ while being lead by the classic piano that brings a neutral, and almost monotone message about death. This tone says, without literally saying, that death is normal and okay. In Mays other composition, “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” hosts a heavy guitar and a catchy beat that makes you feel like you ready to drive down the coastal highway on your motorcycle. This track’s instruments were recorded in one take and later layered underneath Mays singing.
Opposite of Brain Mays lighter songs, Roger Taylor, Drummer, composed some more rock like edgy songs that replicated Queens original sound. The album now shows that they didn’t completely abandon the style that fans so ever adored and the sound that got them famous. Taylor sings lead on his composition of “Fight From the Inside” while also playing every instrument on the track, making the song truly and utterly his. The song encompasses a strut into the bar like a badass kind of vibe. Taylor also wrote the famous “Sheer Heart Attack” which is an upbeat quick song that brings the punk to the album, a nice fast headbanger. “Sheer Heart Attack” is also the name for the band’s third album in 1974, but the song itself had work to be done and did not make it onto that album. Thus, when fans saw the name of the song, it brought quick amounts of listeners.
The bassist, John Deacon, wrote two of the album’s songs: melodic “Spread Your Wings” and catchy “Who Needs You”. John Deacon used a chiller vibe on the piano and more acoustic instruments to create my personal favorite on the album, “Spread Your Wings”. The lyrics are encouraging and hopeful, while the soul behind the vocals makes you want to sing along. Yet, the track is not as popular as the others, it is less appreciated yet, wonderful piece. John Deacon also experimented with culture by adding in the Spanish style song, “Who Needs You”. This song makes you feel as if you are skipping down a colorful stone path in the heart of Spain and makes you wanna grab a partner and move your hips. The culture within this song adds dimension to the album.
Lastly, Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury wrote the soft jazzy “My Melancholy Blues” and the sexual “Get Down, Make Love “. Bringing the sexual appeal to “Get Down, Make Love “ to the album was inevitable, as the band members and many fans were young, wild, and frankly, just horny. This track gave the teens and crazy youth a song that was truly their own, something they really related to. The album closer, “My Melancholy Blues” is piano filled, slow, and soothing. The jazz style and relaxing vocals put a cap on the album by closing the theatric show properly.
In the Def Jam Records documentary, Dawn of Def Jam: Rick Rubin Returns to his NYU Dorm Room, Def Jam founder Rick Rubin went back to where it all started, his college dorm room. Here, he had a makeshift “recording studio” and labels where he recorded and sold and shipped out records of upcoming artists in the making that he felt were unique and talented. He advertised artists that came from nothing, but who had a different sound. This is what Queen did with this album. Queen was a small band that was playing in cafes for twenty people. They got big, they had their “classic” rock n’ roll style- but they needed to recapture their audience. So, they added to their sound with new unique genres as if they were starting from ground zero and regaining their fans.
The many genres of the album come with many different cultures, which puts Queen’s talents and musical ability on a pedestal. Not only did previous fans adore the album and continue their loyalty, but new-comers inticed by songs of their cultures hoped on the Queen train, growing their audience and range.
The album hit the worldwide charts, even going multi-platinum. Bringing in money for each band member. Yet, some made more than others depending on how many songs they composed and which member was credited to it. In the in-class documentary, Money For Nothing: Behind the Business of Pop Music, making money as an artist is challenging as the studio time, music videos, tour, production, etc. completely comes out of the artists pocket, not the record label they are signed to. Yet, Queen’s income by the time of the News Of the World album was great enough to, well make the album great enough. In later albums, Queen decided to stop crediting and paying each band member separate amounts just for composing a track, everything was by Queen, for Queen, and split evenly in four payments.
Queen was under the label of EMI Records when famous Roy Featherstone, who also produced Jimi Hendrix until Roy Featherstone wanted Queen to stick to their original sound and keep producing similar songs that already hit on the charts. Yet, the band wanted to progress their vision, talents, and musical ability and walked out. He famously became the man who lost Queen. Having a manager or producer that believes in your talent and sound is what makes each artist continue to achieve fame and success. In the Chance the Rapper documentary, Blue Print, Chance himself asked a young and inexperienced friend to be his manager, as he wanted someone who believed in him, not just wanted hits and money from him. After leaving Roy Featherstone, Queens was able to create their News Of the World album with their new sound, and achieve great success.
At first, die-hard fans were skeptical and taken back by the bands new sound, but soon came to love the album once they realized the band was not ditching their rock n’ roll sound and were just showcasing another side of their musical capability. An article by Rolling Stone shows the everlasting effect from the creation of the album, “Late sons of the Empire though they may be, Queen has nothing to fear or to do. In their moneyed superiority, they are indeed champions. Such are the salient fictions of which today’s Top Ten albums are made”.
So, what really makes this album more special than the rest? Yes, the range of styles under one genre within a single record is indeed impressive, but that’s hardly the end of it. This album incorporates the utter brilliance that Queen withholds, the thing Freddie Mercury is most known for… the way he interacts with the crowd. The crowd at each show may as well be another instrument, and Queen realized that. They gave the audience a song that they can play. “We Will Rock You” is a loud, stadium-filling anthem that gave the fans a sense of inclusion with the band that they adore. After an adrenaline rushing, let your anger out kind of chant, Queen follows with the cheery topper of “We Are the Champions” where the crowd turns to one another, puts their arms around the person next to them, their lighters up, and sway to the flowing melody. Queen didn’t create the genre of rock n’ roll, but Queen definitely created the culture. The culture of the free, the wild, and the loud.
A statement from All Music: “And that’s the reason News of the World was a monster hit despite its coldness — when it works, it’s massive, earth-shaking rock & roll, the sound of a band beginning to revel in its superstardom.”
Article By: Tianna Groelley