Right, cards on the table; my problem with News of the World is that it’s a flurry of different styles that sound a little unfocused; let’s leave that comment there for now.
Like EVERY Queen album, you come to this one and remember that the band consisted of four members. Cries ring out that Freddie Mercury was such an awe inspiring musician and the fans duly follow: “Roger Taylor, Brian May and John Deacon are amazing too!” This is true of course but the dialogue always amuses.
The album opens with two seminal hits, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. The first has the mastery of getting everyone involved with its signature “stamp stamp clap…” Everyone knows it and it’s entered popular culture in such a way that we all know its definitive, I don’t need to go too much into it, though of course, it’s brilliant. Champions is also a public favourite; is it the fact that the melody is basically the same one children call to eachother in the playground? Maybe. One thing is certain, this track is certainly a great rock number, strong guitars, solid rhythms and iconic vocals; it’ll be in popular culture for a long time!
This album is really one for Roger Taylor too, with Sheer Heart Attack and Fight From the Inside. Taylors style is much more inspired by the punk rock style of the 70s, with the vocals in more of a shouting style, the solid percussion and strong power chords from the guitars.
In complete contrast, one of Brian May’s tracks, Sleeping on the Sidewalk, has a completely traditional blues sound with May providing the much deeper scratchier vocals than we’re used to from Queen. It’s a straightforward piece that’s catchy enough and a solid pin in the album. Another Brian May track is All Dead, All Dead and this a simple, beautiful, sad song that’s so good. Just absorb yourself in the completely poignant and yet straight talking lyrics wrapped in a perfect song. This is where we’ve pointed to the Queen song that is less well known but so worth a listen, like so many Queen fans do.
News of the World was also the album that brought us the classic, Spread Your Wings. This track, written by Deacon, is a song about following dreams even in the lower places of life. The chorus has that real inspirational uplifting feel and for me one of my favourite Queen songs. Simple lyrics:
Spread your wings and fly away,
Pull yourself together ’cause you know you should do better
That’s because you’re a free man.
A really solid favourite.
Who Needs You is another favourite with the spanish guitar style dueting with Freddie’s vocals, the duet is so equal that guitar is played through the left channel and Freddie through the right, it’s a great effect and a brilliant song with Queen’s signature semichoral backing vocals. Another Solid listen.
I’d be remiss not mention Get Down, Make Love, one of Queen’s most sexually charged songs that is similar in style to We Will Rock You. The instruments are there just to support Freddies belting of the “Get Down, Make Love” phrase and, shall we say, the associated lyrics. It’s a high energy, emotionally charged blast.
Let’s tackle my first comment. News of the World is Queen exploring so many different styles that don’t necessarily gel but the album is a work of song writing. It exhibits the absolutely consistent and unwavering talents of all four members and while it’s not my favourite album is still an icon of Queen’s history.
Is this album for you?
The diehard Queen fans will cite this as a lynch pin but for those who have either never heard Queen’s music, or only a smattering, this is a great album to explore the range of styles and talent that Queen have to offer. Even if you’re not a Queen fan but still a fan of rock, there might be a few surprises on here for you.
- Writing: 9/10
- Performance: 9/10
- Style: 8/10