The song I know by heart

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[Written by Pauliina Ketonen]

[Image Credit: Flickr/kentarotakizawa]

It all started in 2006. The album? Crazy Frog Presents More Crazy Hits.

Crazy Frog is a CGI-animated blue frog, that spawned from the insanity that was early 2000s marketing. Crazy Frog Presents More Crazy Hits is one of several cover albums starring the frog and includes hits such as Cotton Eyed Joe and Everytime We Touch but most importantly for little 9-year-old me, We Are the Champions. Feeling like a champion, I told my mom how much I loved the song. She patiently listened to my rambling, and then made me listen to the original. And that’s how I discovered Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bohemian Rhapsody starts off hopeful: “open your eyes, look up to the skies and see”. Small and heartfelt, it foreshadows new beginnings and growth. The ballad of killing off an old identity (“Mama, I killed a man…”) is followed by an emotive battle for freedom in the opera part: “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me… Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?” After a surreal fight with his inner demons, Mercury rises from the ashes to stand his ground – “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?”. Through this fantastical whirlwind, you come out the other side feeling slightly overwhelmed, emotional, and certain that you’ve stumbled upon something phenomenal.

One of the reasons this song resonates so deeply with me is the fact that it taught me about how multifaceted musical expression could be. As a 9-year-old who listened to Crazy Frog and other, thankfully, forgotten gems like it, it hadn’t even crossed my mind that music like this could be made. It seemed impossible to think that something so beautiful and complex could have come out of someone’s brain. Bohemian Rhapsody shook me to my core and made me appreciate, feel and experience music differently.

Life went on and I, bizarrely, forgot about Queen for a few years. Other artists and bands came along, and with each successive musical infatuation, I forgot the previous ones. At a critical time, when I felt like I would never fit in, when I felt there was nothing in myself I could love unconditionally, when everything felt bleak, I started listening to Queen again. It was like coming home.

I saw myself in Mercury. In the juxtaposition of his stage persona and his “real-life” self, in his passion and drive. Here was a man who wanted to hide his teeth because he hated them, someone who was shy and wanted to withdraw into his shell. But here was also a man, whose voice was unparalleled, who could wear a low-cut glitzy leotard on stage and not think twice about it. The more contradictions I discovered, the more understood I felt.

Bohemian Rhapsody gave me the strength to be myself and accept myself, and to not limit myself because I didn’t look the part or fit a role. Hearing it for the first time was a major turning point in my life. It became the soundtrack to my coming of age and has in part made me the woman I am today. This song is my lifeblood – which is why I know the lyrics by heart.

[Image Description: members of the band ‘Queen’ posing against a red background.]


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