Bohemian Rhapsody



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Hello English learners and music lovers, welcome to Explained in English. My name is Ki and today I'm going to explain the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. Bohemian Rhapsody is Queen's 1975 masterpiece. It's a rock opera mix. Queen is well known as a rock band, but this song comes from the album A Night at the Opera . So there's kind of an opera theme going on in this album, but we also see some references to opera in the way that the music is sung and in some of the lyrics.

This particular song, Bohemian Rhapsody, is about 6 minutes long, which is longer than most songs that have had that level of commercial success. In those six minutes you hear a lot of different movements in the song, a lot of different parts or flavors to the song which really changed the mood and the feel. So, the song is a real treat for the ears, but there's also a lot of really good lyrics. We're going to get into those now and then later I'll share with you a few possible interpretations. The intro of the song begins:


Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I'm easy come, easy go, little high, little low
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me

[Verse 1]
Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooh, didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters

[Verse 2]
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time
Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooh (Any way the wind blows)
I don't wanna die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

Hello English learners and music lovers. Welcome to Explained in English. My name is Ki and today I'm explaining the second part of the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

We left off the first portion of Bohemian Rhapsody just as we arrived to the opera part, and I'd like to speak a little bit more about that. Opera has its roots in Italian theater. This song makes particular reference to an old type of Italian theater from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. In this theater it was very common to have stock characters. These are characters that show up or that you can see in many different plays, in many different operas. They usually wear masks or dress in a certain way. So, the audience knows what this character is about or what are the qualities or the personality of this character.

One of these stock characters is the Scaramouche . The Scaramouche is known as a kind of arrogant character. He tries to look like someone important or influential, but everyone knows that he's truly a coward. He's kind of a faker. And in that sense, he's treated like a clown. The audience is usually very happy when he gets beaten off the stage by another character. Literally, another character called the Harlequin would come on stage and beat this person.

A very successful trilogy of operas centered around the character of Figaro , who was a certain type of hero, but also one that had a very mysterious and bizarre background. I won't get into too much detail about these three plays. There's no time for that. But, I will say that Figaro was often seen as a type of Harlequin or one that would come out and eventually kill the Scaramouche . And because this comes from the Italian tradition, we’ll also see other references to Italian history and language, such as Galileo, as well as words like magnifico and mamma mia, instead of mother. Of course, you can also hear the opera in the way that they sing this section of the song. Alright, so let's get into the lyrics. It begins:

[Verse 3]
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me
(Galileo) Galileo, (Galileo) Galileo, Galileo Figaro magnifico
But I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
(Let him go) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let him go) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let me go) Will not let you go
(Let me go) Will not let you go
(Never, never, never, never let me go) Ah
No, no, no, no, no, no, no
(Oh, mamma mia, mamma mia) Mamma mia, let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

[Verse 4]
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby!
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

(Ooh, yeah, ooh, yeah)
Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows

To me, this song is like a cyclical journey. It's like he starts in one place and then he goes all the way on this trip, this voyage, and then he ends up in the same place that he started but with different convictions, a different way of seeing his situation. It could relate to anyone who's going through a situation where they feel like they're not accepted by the rest of society, and all of the problems that come along with that.

The title of the song is Bohemian Rhapsody . So, a rhapsody is a type of song that has an irregular form, with lots of improvisation,a sort of free structure, and it's often very emotional in character. So, this is a bohemian rhapsody. Bohemian is a word which describes a person who’s sort of unconventional, who lives a lifestyle that's a bit abnormal, almost in an artistic way. You can think of bohemian as someone who's a free spirit or a kind of wanderer. So, in some ways to me the title says a lot. It’s a very improvised and emotional song which is about someone who lives an unconventional lifestyle.

Relating this more specifically to Freddie Mercury, the writer. We know now that he came out as a bisexual, meaning that he was attracted to both the male and the female sexes. In 1975, when this song was released, he had not come out as a bisexual and doing so was highly criticized by society. I interpret this song as representing the internal struggle that Freddie Mercury had in coming out, in telling the world that he was a bisexual. I think it was probably very difficult for him. It didn't seem like reality. It seemed like fantasy. This situation was like being caught in a landslide, but he realized that there is no escape from this reality. On the outside he wants to show people that he doesn't need any pity, he doesn't need anyone to feel sorry for him. He's fine. He's easy come, easy go, little high, little low, and anyway the wind blows, he's fine. It doesn't matter to him. That's the outside.

On the inside, there's this whole struggle going on. Struggles of identity. Who am I? Am I really okay with living life however the wind blows? Is there anything in my life that really does matter to me? And in terms of coming out and telling people that he's bisexual, I think there was a true desire that he could just be free from this, that he didn't have to come out. I think he knew he would be criticized and I think he probably had a lot of family issues with this as well, which is why we see so many references to his mother. When he says “Mama, I've killed a man”, he doesn't mean that he literally his killed someone, but he's killed the part of him, the old identity, that was straight, that was heterosexual. He knows this is going to hurt his mother. He knows it's going to hurt probably close family and friends, but he doesn't want his decision to affect them. He says, just carry on carry on.

Nevertheless, he was terrified of taking that step in life. It sent shivers down his spine and his body was aching all the time, but in the end he does say goodbye, but not without a struggle. There's this old part of him that doesn't want to die. And in fact, he feels very sad to the point where he says, sometimes he wishes he was never even born at all.

As he's building up the courage to make this decision to come out, we see the inner conflict taking place. We have the cowardly Scaramouche, the one who is blackened, darkened and hiding; pretending to be someone else, often for the entertainment of others. There's that frightening storm going on, and then the reference to Galileo and Figaro. Galileo, being the one who can see what other people cannot see who was brave enough to go against what other people thought and Figaro the Harlequin, who can kill the Scaramouche and save the day.

Despite him feeling bad, feeling pity for himself, and being in this terrible situation, and despite his cries for being free from it, he realizes that there is no escape; that he can't be let go. For one reason or another, he's in this situation and neither his family nor the devil himself will let him go. When he finally does come out, he’s stoned and he’s spit at. People disagree with his decision, and he's angry about that. He doesn't think it's right. It seems like the people who used to love him are now just leaving him to die. And in this anger, he just wants to run, just wants to get right out of there.

But later, this anger settles down and he comes to the realization that nothing does matter. He remembers that there’s still a part of him inside that is always going to be there. Straight or bisexual, he says, you know what? Nothing really matters to me. Anyway the wind blows, wherever I'm taken, however I end up, I accept it.

Okay, that brings us to the end of this explanation. My interpretation, of course, is not the only one that's out there. There are probably many, many ways to view this song. But I find this one to be the most convincing given Freddie Mercury's life. It seems to fit just about right and then is mixed, I think, with just a little bit of fun, operatic elements as well, which do necessarily have a particular meaning. Freddie Mercury was very much the show man. If you watch some of the live videos of Queen playing concerts.

So, now is the time to go and listen to the real song, hopefully appreciating it in a much deeper way than you did before. Happy listening and I will see you next time. Bye bye.



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