There’s no Jazz on Queen’s new record, in case fans of either were worried about the defilement of an icon. Queen hasn’t the imagination to play jazz — Queen hasn’t the imagination, for that matter, to play rock & roll. Jazz is just more of the same dull pastiche that’s dominated all of this British supergroup’s work: tight guitar/bass/drums heavy-metal clichés, light-classical pianistics, four-part harmonies that make the Four Freshmen sound funky and Freddie Mercury’s throat-scratching lead vocals.
Anyway, it shouldn’t be surprising that Queen calls its album “jazz.” The guiding principle of these arrogant brats seems to be that anything Freddie & Company want, Freddie & Company get. What’s most disconcerting about their arrogance is that it’s so unfounded: Led Zeppelin may be as ruthless as medieval aristocrats, but at least Jimmy Page has an original electronic approach that earns his band some of its elitist notions. The only thing Queen does better than anyone else is express contempt.
Take the LP’s opening song, “Mustapha.” It begins with a parody of a muezzin’s shriek and dissolves into an approximation of Arabic music. This is part of Queen’s grand design. Freddie Mercury is worldly and sophisticated, a man who knows what the muezzin sounds like. More to the point, you don’t. What trips the group up, as usual, is the music. “Mustapha” is merely a clumsy and pretentious rewrite of “Hernando’s Hideaway,” which has about as much to do with Middle Eastern culture as street-corner souvlaki.
But it’s easy to ascribe too much ambition to Queen. “Fat Bottomed Girls” isn’t sexist — it regards women not as sex objects but as objects, period (the way the band regards people in general). When Mercury chants, in “Let Me Entertain You,” about selling his body and his willingness to use any device to thrill an audience, he isn’t talking about a sacrifice for his art. He’s just confessing his shamelessness, mostly because he’s too much of a boor to feel stupid about it.
Whatever its claims, Queen isn’t here just to entertain. This group has come to make it clear exactly who is superior and who is inferior. Its anthem, “We Will Rock You,” is a marching order: you will not rock us, we will rock you. Indeed, Queen may be the first truly fascist rock band. The whole thing makes me wonder why anyone would indulge these creeps and their polluting ideas.
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