|by Natasha Theobald
It is cool to like Queen. Witness the Foo Fighters stumbling over themselves to gush at Rock Honors and playing with the surviving members of Queen with some regularity. Plug the name into your TiVo or Netflix account and marvel at the number of live performances and documentary films available. Glance at their IMDb page and note the number of movies and TV shows that have benefited from a little Queen, whether to pay homage a la Wayne and Garth or for deeply dramatic, nearly operatic, effect. Scour your own memory for the iconic sounds of the anthems that rock stadiums, season in and season out. Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon: it is cool to like Queen.
I have a little personal story to share, so bear with me. It happened when my husband and I were dating, and I truly wondered if it would end the relationship. You see, we were road-tripping through Wisconsin, flashing around the radio stations, as you will. I had paused to glance at a map, and that is when it happened. A song came on the radio, and the love of my life began to sing along – to Hall and Oates. He knew every syllable, and I still can’t shake the way that made me shudder and cringe. He continued to sing once he saw how it hurt me, in full voice. I began to question his taste in everything, including me.
It was in this state of mind that I first learned that Jeremy also liked, and knew well the lyrics of, Queen. I took the news with the caution that the Hall and Oates scare had created in me. I was not fully aware of the iconic significance or the brilliant musicianship of Queen. His knowledge of and affection for the music now gives me more pride and joy than his dead-on impression of Tim Curry saying “Oh Rocky!” Embarrassing though it is, I will admit that Jeremy had to tell me that it was a Queen song that fit the moment so precisely in Moulin Rouge! He had to tell me that was Queen in those Gap commercials. Most recently, even after I have spent some time with the greatest hits, he had to identify “Killer Queen” for me when they played it on Supernatural.
It was a small shock to me, then, when I mentioned my desire to buy and review this soundtrack and he did that little “are you nuts?” double-take that I find so endearing. You see, many real Queen fans, even ones who are into the kitsch appeal of the movie, tend to be somewhat dismissive of the soundtrack to Flash Gordon. They will tell you what to buy instead or how it’s not really a Queen album in the strictest sense. However, as I’ve been doing a bit of delving into 70s, space-inspired glam rock lately, I just feel like it is the right time to give this one a chance.
People make the mistake of thinking that Queen’s sound is distinctive solely because of the voice of Freddie Mercury. While it is true that his voice is like no other, you can still hear that Queen is playing even when Mercury is off-stage. This is important to note as only a couple of the songs in the mix have vocals. While it is the “Flash, ahahhhh” that you may most remember, there is more here. Too, when I mention no vocals, I mean singing. There is tons of drool- (and chuckle-) worthy dialogue that, though you maybe haven’t seen the movie in years, takes you right back to the sights and sounds of Flash. Oh my! That is such an understatement. So, though you may choose to take the theme song and “The Hero” alone, you will be missing out on the full and rich experience that is this soundtrack.
Taken as a whole, this music achieves exactly what you want from a superhero film and its music. It gets your heart pumping and makes you want to stand up and join in the omnipresent cheer for “Flash, ahahhh.” It does the best of what “We Are the Champions” or “We Will Rock You” can do in a room packed with people, no matter how big. It takes the energy of the whole and rushes it into a wave of crashing emotion and good will. You will tingle, you will root for the hero, you will feel changed, and you will be unable to wipe the silly, goofy smile off of your dumbfounded face. No matter who you are, Queen seems able to find the crazy kid and humble human deep inside of your façade.
In score fashion, the soundtrack returns time and again to the same themes which run as a thread throughout the story for the length of the film. Queen, if any group, understands theatrics and story arcs. They experiment liberally with space sounds from the film, while giving their core guitars and drums their own moments in the spotlight. The film is always the focus, and writing was actually done while watching. While some may see Queen as only an ego-driven enterprise, my point of view is much more generous to the men. I say it is driven by art and aided by just enough ego to know that the creation should stand, that no one should change it.
Which brings us to the inclusion of a 1991 remix of the main theme. I respect that someone wanted to revisit the material, but it seems unnecessary. You don’t redo the classics. In my humble opinion, the theme needs no hip hop element to succeed. Were people that desperate to dance to this? Was there an outcry from the clubs? My guess is no.
I’m hesitating to single out favorite tracks, because the effort is so much about the whole thing. Apart from the most familiar songs, the ones we have all heard, I guess I could choose a couple of highlights. It’s interesting to hear Queen’s version of “The Wedding March” – very rock ‘n’ roll. The “Love Theme,” in all of its incarnations, has a lot of passion and building emotion, breathless anticipation yet a softer touch. “Ming’s Theme” is very trippy and space-oriented, with some darkness and underlying zeal. “Arboria” is equally out-there, but in a less obvious way, more undercurrent and air than boldness and brash. I also really dig the kettle drums that announce the “Escape from the Swamp.”
What can I say? Between the awkward line readings and over-the-top anthems, the colors and concepts and out-there ideas, there is nothing not to love about this soundtrack. Before the Sci-Fi Channel gives us a new Flash for the next generation, take the time to re-visit this Flash of the past. I cannot more highly recommend the mind-bending, pulse-racing, laugh-out-loud gloriousness of the experience.
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originally posted: 07/12/07 16:54:10
last updated: 07/12/07 17:04:56