Literal Bohemian Rhapsody

Idea on Dec. 7. Write up on Dec. 7 and Jan. 8. Queued since then.

It’s another joint litchin@ / mellifluosly@ post! Please give it a watch before reading the rest.

Unlike other literal music videos where they simply narrate the actions happening on the screen (ex. Tobuscus and this version of Take On Me (h/t Montfort)) , this literal music video instead decides to reinvent the plot so that “Bohemian Rhapsody” fits the dialogue of an action movie. It’s a really clever take on it and I’m a huge fan.

The thing that I most like about it is how they completely change the meter / rhythm of the original song in a way that feels oddly Shakespearean to me. Specifically, it feels very similar to the style of the 2011 remake of Coriolanus  set in the modern terrorism age. I couldn’t get past the first 15 minutes of the movie because I was unfamiliar with the original play and the language was really hard to decipher, but for a pop culture icon like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it really really works. This Shakespeare feel is also helped by the fact that the main character is basically going on a giant soliloquy for the first part of the song.

It suddenly turns all West Side Story when we get to the “Let Him Go!” part. I was not expecting the mother to be the defense but it works out in some way. It’s a pity that they didn’t have the main guy win the gun fight so that we could get the really triumphant “SO YOU THINK YOU CAN STONE ME AND SPIT IN MY EYE”. I think that it would show an interesting further descent into depravity, but sure tragic hero works too and keeps going along with the Shakespeare theme.

I also appreciate that they didn’t do the obvious “drug tripping” interpretation for the Galileo-Figaro scenes. I was very surprised by their choice to make it cop codenames, but it winds up being just as mysterious and inscrutable as in the original song. I love it.

The final thing that I felt very striking was how poignantly the whole video fails the Bechdel test by having non-verbal mother-son communication (“Mama” “ooooooh”). It very straight up ignores the mother, despite the fact that she’s the emotional center of the whole song. She speaks as the defense for her son, but as the sole female figure (whose lines are outnumbered by the chorus of police officers), it says something possibly about the whole machismo vibe (which IIRC was what Mercury was trying to go for in the first place especially re: sexuality)

I’m really excited to see if more videos take on this approach to “literal music videos”. The existing ones already strike this really amusing position – to the point where someone in CMS.InteractiveNarrative who hadn’t heard “Take on Me” before thought that the song was innovative not for its narrative-level-breaking-plot but its “lyrics which describe exactly what’s happening on screen”. I’m excited to see further artists reinterpret and revise existing music into different narratives!

Stay musically literate, my friends


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