As world leaders gathered in London for the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, so too did the ladies and gentlemen of the international press. One such writer was Brian Lilley, political columnist for the Toronto Sun, who filmed Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau singing Queen's classic Bohemian Rhapsody at the Corinthia hotel on Whitehall, where the Canadian delegation was staying.
Lilley uploaded the 14-second clip Twitter, where it was greeted with the kind of rabid division that's currently de rigueur when political figures do anything out of the ordinary. And by that we mean the ordinary things that normal people do.
Lilley himself was quick to downplay the incident, tweeting (opens in new tab), "I don’t understand the outrage over Trudeau singing at the hotel bar or the people furious at the photos showing all the former PMs smiling. Are they all supposed to sit with sullen faces in sackcloth and ashes?"
He later added (opens in new tab), "One of the reasons I’m not outraged at Trudeau singing is there are other, bigger issues to be furious with him over."
Meanwhile, his Toronto Sun colleague Lorrie Goldstein rounded up the adverse reaction in a piece headlined "PM slammed for ‘tone deaf’ musical performance (opens in new tab)", which included details of the kind of partisan backlash only social media can generate.
It all got so noisy that a spokesman for the Prime Minister's office was obliged to issue a statement.
"After dinner on Saturday, Prime Minister joined a small gathering with members of the Canadian delegation, who have come together to pay tribute to the life and service of Her Majesty," it read. "Gregory Charles, a renowned musician from Quebec and Order of Canada recipient, played piano in the hotel lobby which resulted in some members of the delegation including the prime minister joining."
In a separate statement, Charles told The Toronto Star (opens in new tab), "Have not seen a video but I did, with a small group of Canadians, get to spend a few splendid minutes with the PM late on Saturday. And there was a piano in the lobby and I did play a few UK tunes as a spontaneous homage."
In 2017, Trudeau published a Spotify playlist (opens in new tab) featuring 39 songs, none of which were by Queen. Although it did feature tracks by Robert Plant, Dire Straits, The Tragically Hip, Peter Gabriel and R.E.M..
I actually love a good piano bar. Haven’t gone to one since before COVID, this reminds me I should check one out near me. PM at the Savoy in London last night singing a little Queen….for the Queen… pic.twitter.com/yyCxIRAbJlSeptember 19, 2022