Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was named the most-streamed song of the 20th century, and also the most popular classic rock track online, by the band’s label, Universal Music Group.
With 1.6 billion streams across all services including Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube, the 1975 release moved ahead of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” to secure the top spot.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” returned to the spotlight as a result of the movie of the same name, which has become the biggest grossing music biopic of all time since its release on Nov. 2. It even helped the six-minute song return to the singles chart for a third time, a rare feat only usually achieved by holiday tracks.
“So the River of Rock Music has metamorphosed into streams!” Queen guitarist Brian May said in a statement. “Very happy that our music is still flowing to the max!” “‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is one the greatest songs by one of the greatest bands in history,” label boss Lucian Grainge added. “We are so proud to represent Queen and are thrilled to see the song still inspiring new fans around the world more than four decades after its release.”
Last week, U.K. radio station Classic FM analyzed whether the composition was a genuine rhapsody in musical terms. “A rhapsody as a musical form is a single-movement work that is episodic (i.e. has distinct groups of musical ideas), free-flowing in structure and features a range of highly contrasting moods,” it said. “Expect something that has an air of improvisation and virtuosity – something that’s going to take you on a journey, just like a dramatically recited epic poem.”
The station noted the song “begins with an introduction, a four-part homophonic chorale: ‘Is this the real life?’ The introduction develops with piano accompaniment and and a solo voice emerging in the texture. The next episode features a piano ballad with solo voice over an arpeggiated accompaniment. … The material of the ballad then moves into a extended guitar solo with the feeling of a free-flowing improvisation something you’ll hear in many 19th-century pieces of music.”
The study then moved on to the “famous pseudo-operatic midsection … with all those ‘Galileos’. This section is rich in chromaticism, with rapid rhythmic and harmonic changes. Special shout-out to Roger Taylor‘s high falsetto B flat on ‘for me’, which forms the structural climax of the rhapsody. That high B flat leads into the head-banging hard rock episode. … An Outro Ballad concludes the song, releasing the tension of the operatic and hard rock episodes and reprising the material of the opening piano ballad.”
The station’s study concluded, “There you have it: episodic, freely flowing, high in contrasts, and with the narrative of an epic journey. In conclusion: 100 percent rhapsody.”