Before embarking on a playlist of Queen’s ‘worst’ songs, we need a few provisos. Firstly, a bad Queen song is usually still miles better and more interesting than 98% of lesser bands’ best material. Secondly, we’ve tended not to flag up b-sides or outtakes, focusing on the songs that Queen felt were strong enough for inclusion on an official studio album. Thirdly, of course, we’re not including any material from the one-off Queen + Paul Rodgers LP The Cosmos Rocks, otherwise the list wouldn’t have featured any songs written in Freddie Mercury’s lifetime…
10. My Baby Does Me (The Miracle, 1989)
“I wanted something a little more relaxed,” Freddie explained to Radio 1 about this slinky throwaway from The Miracle, a co-write between him and John Deacon. Usually their collaborations tended towards the lighter, funkier end of Queen’s spectrum, sometimes to the chagrin of their traditional audience (and unreconstructed rockers Brian and Roger). On My Baby Does Me – a dumb title flagging up dumb lyrics – the drummer is absent altogether, the derisory beat programmed by co-producer David Richards.
9. Delilah (Innuendo, 1991)
Only the hardest-hearted shitbag would begrudge Freddie a love song to his cat on the last album before his tragic death. In its own sweet and innocent way Delilah might even be one of Queen’s most moving tunes, right down to the hilarious miaowing. However, even forgiving the childlike lyrics, musically it sounds like a Casio keyboard demo, most closely resembling the work of spoof middle-aged singer/organist John Shuttleworth. “It’s a fun track,” as John would say.
8. Don’t Try Suicide (The Game, 1980)
A guaranteed way to wrongfoot bar-goers in the 1980s was to locate the seven inch of Another One Bites The Dust on the jukebox (it was always there) and select the b-side. Cue four minutes of bewildered irritation as this demented stop-start doo-wop pastiche unfolded its cheeky grin of a bassline over exuberant hand-claps and lyrics that read like an inappropriately lighthearted mental health campaign. Often Freddie’s musical curveballs were a masterly blend of the sublime and the ridiculous; this contents itself with the latter.
7. Machines (Back To Humans) (The Works, 1984)
There’s an intriguing notion of a song involving a conceptual sonic struggle between electronic and organic elements. However, this filler feels tentative and anaemic, especially as it’s a songwriting collaboration between Queen’s hardest rockers, Bri and Rog. Was it a sly parody of the mechanical, synth-heavy style Freddie and John spearheaded on Hot Space? Given that they kept the lyric “It’s bytes and mega-chips for tea,” it must originally have had some comedic intent.
6. Pain Is So Close To Pleasure (A Kind Of Magic, 1986)
Heavy-handed 80s keyboards and wall-to-wall falsetto predominate on this inconsequential puddle of half-cooked Butlins Motown from the pen, once again, of John and Freddie, who just seemed to bring out the cheesiest in each other. It was released as a single in five territories, yet only made the Top 50 in the Netherlands; perhaps because it’s one of the few Queen songs whose undoubted catchiness is largely of the irritating variety.
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5. Body Language (Hot Space, 1982)
When Another One Bites The Dust opened up the US singles market for Queen, the direction on their next album took a controversial turn. This absurdly basic single was the apotheosis of Freddie’s Berlin nightclub period, a repetitive bass line over a lifeless electronic shuffle, with Freddie groaning and screaming about shagging. Brian gets virtually nothing to do, and would later reveal “There are some things on the album which I felt came out too light, like Body Language… we were afraid to turn up the guitars. Afraid to use the guitar as a force.”
4. All God’s People (Innuendo, 1991)
Some have suggested All God’s People was Freddie’s belated attempt to curry favour with the Lord, in anticipation of his own looming judgement day. Perhaps a little fanciful, but the synth-glazed happy-clappy ditty does seem to radiate born-again fervour. Originally written for the Barcelona LP (Freddie’s operatic collaboration with soprano Monserrat Caballé), maybe that’s where it should have stayed - although the bluesy mid-section is nice, and the pronunciation of “prime min-is-i-ters” remains a hoot.
3. My Life Has Been Saved (Made In Heaven, 1995)
Originally a perfectly affable Miracle-era b-side, MLHBS was re-recorded by May, Taylor and Deacon for Made In Heaven, the 1995 album featuring the last vocals Freddie recorded before his death in ’91. Given the song’s title and sentiment, its choice for a posthumous release seems darkly ironic in questionable taste, especially as the later version plays down the guitar to ramp up the piano and synth, and its elevation to album cut rather exposes its bland mediocrity.
2. Rain Must Fall (The Miracle, 1989)
Rain Must Fall is The Miracle’s other egregiously frothy Freddie/John co-write; Roger recorded a load more Latino percussion but it drowned out the rest of the song (which is presumably what he was trying to do). Of course it’s impossible for Brian to play a bad solo, but they were asking for trouble with this ripe pile of 80s cheese that sounds like it’s been left in the sun for too long, on a lilo, in a Hawaiian shirt, having weak piña coladas drizzled over it.
1. Cool Cat (Hot Space, 1982)
Another Mercury/Deacon collaboration pushing the gay funk pop influence to such an extent that neither May nor Taylor had anything to do on the song (that’s John on guitar and drum machine). David Bowie originally sang back-up ad-libs, but shortly before the album’s release he demanded the removal of his vocal track. It’s not hard to see why; all he does is mumble a few half-hearted ’bum-bum-bums’ under Freddie’s camp falsetto. Plus the song’s rubbish.