A New Bohemian Rhapsody

3 Jul

This is American Idol alumnus Adam Lambert performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Brian May and Roger Taylor in Kiev, Ukraine a few days ago. Lambert is playing the impossible part of lead-singer Freddie Mercury during a mini-tour with Queen. If anyone is fit to play the part of Mercury, though, it is Adam Lambert. He has been compared with the late theatrical crooner since he auditioned for Season Eight of American Idol with the famous Queen song that he is seen performing above. So, I guess the question is, how does he compare with the original? The answer is simple. He doesn’t. It is impossible to echo Mercury unless you are Mercury. Since that is now impossible, we must rely on videos, like the one behind Queen as they before in Kiev and the one of Mercury I saw during the performance of the play “We Will Rock You” in London this past June. We can ask, though, how he does in his own right? Overall, I’d give him an eight out of 10.

Freddie Mercury’s voice was unparalleled in his particular genre. He was able to sing with a rock grunt and manipulate his voice in such a way that the song came out smooth, effervescent, and effortless. He also had a naturally high voice and demonstrated such extraordinary range that he was able to  successfully hit notes that fell all over the spectrum. In my opinion, his voice may just be the best (if not one of the best) rock voices ever to be recorded. “Bohemian Rhapsody,”  written by Mercury for the 1975 album A Night at the Opera is his chef d’oeuvre. The song is delightfully theatrical and Mercury’s voice shines, ranging from pugnacious to tearful. It is one of the most masterful examples of singing I have ever heard in a rock song. Hence, it is difficult to reproduce on any level.

Adam Lambert certainly has the “type” of voice to sing the song. It actually does have a similar quality to Mercury’s. It is theatrical. That is a good start. But, in a remarkably similar fashion, it is tremendously controlled. Lambert certainly considers his voice an instrument of power. That actually is some of the problem with this rendition. It is a little too grunty. I find that when a singer cannot reach a particular note (whether the note is too high or just too difficult) they grunt and quickly end the note as to not highlight the inability. This most certainly could have been because it was live. Mercury, himself, sang the opening of the song in short bursts similar to Lambert. I am not saying Lambert’s voice is incapable. He has one of the better rock voices out there today (despite the fact that he continues to release mainstream music – he is in the wrong genre!) He is simply not Freddie Mercury. Listen to the famous scaramouche commedia dell’arte operatic part where Lambert drops out in favor of a light show (like in old Queen Rhapsody performances with Mercury) and Mercury is heard on a recording. Yes, it is a mastered recording so that must be taken into account. If you do listen to Mercury perform the song live, though, you can just hear the buttery smoothness of his voice. It is perfection and while Lambert may be one of the only singers out there that can do this song justice anymore, he cannot hit Mercury’s vocal precision.

However, Lambert absolutely destroys the rock breakdown. He flat-out breaks the song open. He also puts on such an incredible show with Brian May on stage. The interactions are fresh and exciting. Lambert hits a high note, owns it, and then continues rising into this classic rock screech that sends shivers down your spine. Then the song quiets down and, in a similar fashion to the London show “We Will Rock You,”  Freddie Mercury’s hologram ends it. That was the best part of the song and Lambert showed he belongs.

I give Lambert an eight because I feel that he held back a little bit – perhaps because he still wants to settle into the role – and I can’t wait to hear him belt it.

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One Response to “A New Bohemian Rhapsody”

  1. John Phillips July 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    He is the natural successor There is no doubt.

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