Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody added another big award to its trophy case at tonight’s SAG awards. Three weeks after the Freddie Mercury biopic won two Golden Globes, star Rami Malek picked up the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role at the ceremony tonight from the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall in Los Angeles.
“I thank Queen and Freddie Mercury,” Malek said while accepting his award. “I get some power from him that is about stepping up and living your best life and being exactly who you want to be and accomplishing everything you so desire. I feel that, and he allows us all to feel that. So this is again for him.”
The film itself was nominated in the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture category, but that award instead went to Black Panther.
Earlier this week, Bohemian Rhapsody picked up five Academy Award nominations, including nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. The Oscars, the film world’s most prestigious awards, will be presented on Feb. 24 from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. It will be broadcast on ABC beginning at 8PM ET. If Malek wins, he will become the fourth actor in five years to win the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the Oscars, following Eddie Redmayne (2015), Leonardo DiCaprio (2016) and Gary Oldman (2018).
Released in November, Bohemian Rhapsody overcame numerous obstacles, including difficulty in finding a leading actor (plans to work with Sacha Baron Cohen famously fell through), the firing of director Bryan Singer, questions about whether the film was “hetwashing” Mercury’s sexuality, mediocre reviews and a script that took liberties with known moments the group’s history to become the highest-grossing music biopic of all-time.
The Best Song From Every Queen Album
‘Queen’ (1973): “Great King Rat”
Demoed during a scrappy era where Queen basically worked as test subjects at London’s then-new De Lane Lea recording studio, trying out the equipment in exchange for session time, “Great King Rat” showcases the first album’s focus on more progressive and hard rock sounds. Queen declined an offer from Charisma Records before shifting to the well-respected Trident, where they recorded when the studios were free. (Trident had already played host to sessions for Lou Reed‘s Transformer and David Bowie‘s Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.) Elektra heard something they liked, and Queen were on their way. “It took a while before their stage act dazzled — they grew into that,” label founder Jac Holzman said in Becoming Elektra, “but the records were powerful and inventive from the first.”
‘Queen II’ (1974): “Seven Seas of Rhye”
This song took a circuitous route to becoming Queen’s first U.K. chart entry, beginning as a forgettable instrumental sketch to close out their self-titled debut. The band then filled in more details in advance of an appearance on Top of the Pops. (“Seven Seas of Rhye,” like others found on Queen and 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack, took place in a Tolkien-esque fantasy world envisioned by Freddie Mercury.) They were so encouraged by the response that a single was rushed out just two days later. When it soared to No. 10 in their homeland, Queen were suddenly emboldened toward their platinum-selling peak. A soon-to-be-famous meticulousness was beginning to take hold, as well. When Mercury learned that a rejected mix had been used on the single’s initial pressings for radio, he ordered them retrieved and destroyed. “Freddie had this vision,” band friend Richard Thompson said in Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Queen. “It had to be right.”
‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (1974): “Killer Queen”
Queen’s first international smash holds nearly every piece of the group’s DNA. This is where most people first recognized the band’s knack for stratospheric four-part harmonies, for deliciously brazen salaciousness and for incredible studio wizardry. They were quickly moving away from the edgier sound of the first two Queen LPs, mainly because that brutish, straightforward style simply couldn’t contain their dizzying inventiveness. (What do you even call this? Cabaret power pop, maybe?) Brian May’s multi-tracked solo alone remains a wonder of nervy guile. “‘Killer Queen’ was the turning point. It was the song that best summed up our kind of music, and a big hit, and we desperately needed it as a mark of something successful happening for us,” May later mused. “What can I say? It’s vintage Queen.”
‘A Night at the Opera’ (1975): “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Queen’s definitive song, “Bohemian Rhapsody” marries both of their principal musical impulses – oh, with a little opera to glue the hard and soft spots together. Mercury’s creative triumph was put together in an analog era when layering ideas like this turned into excruciating tests of will. Often, his bandmates admitted that they had no idea where this was even headed. Thankfully, the others bowed to Mercury’s then-unknowable, perhaps autobiographical vision, affectionately dubbing this “Fred’s Thing.” He drew in characters from literature, history and his boundless imagination, then surrounded them with enough musical details for your average album-length concept. As such, it’s impossible to pigeonhole this song by genre, or even by subject matter. “People should just listen to it, think about it, and then decide what it means,” Mercury said in Is This the Real Life? Whatever it was, it worked: “Bohemian Rhapsody” topped the U.K. charts for a then-unheard-of nine weeks.
‘A Day at the Races’ (1976): “Somebody to Love”
No other band had the gumption to try something like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” or the gumption to follow it up with this. Queen took their multi-tracked vocal approach to a new zenith on a soul-searching, Aretha Franklin-style gospel number, piling the voices of Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Roger Taylor to heaven-touching levels. “You can imagine how long it took to do it – over and over and over again,” Mercury said in Somebody to Love: The Life, Death and Legacy of Freddie Mercury. “We spent a week on that, but it was worth it. … People probably think, ‘Oh, God, they’re in the studio again for four and a half months,’ but we think it’s necessary because it just has to be right, that’s all.” May goosed it all along with another flinty turn, as Queen found still another unlikely path to multi-platinum success.
‘News of the World’ (1977): “We Are the Champions”
When Mercury initially tried out this power ballad, May admitted that its over-the-top braggadocio “had us on the floor laughing.” Then his bandmates realized Mercury was serious. After years of struggle, he was ready for a victory lap, comparing “We Are the Champions” to Frank Sinatra’s signature boast in “My Way.” “We have made it, and it certainly wasn’t easy,” Mercury said in Somebody to Love. “No bed of roses, as the song says.” In a 1999 talk with Mojo, an incredulous May remembered saying, “You can’t do this, Fred. You’ll get killed.” Mercury’s reply? “Yes, we can.” He was right: “We Are the Champions,” coupled with the stadium rocker “We Will Rock You,” became a Top 5 hit in both the U.S. and the U.K.
‘Jazz’ (1978): “Don’t Stop Me Now”
No, not jazz, thankfully. Instead, it was curious album that found Queen traveling deeper into stadium rock, while also dipping a toe into disco. That made “Don’t Stop Me Now” feel like a comfy trip down memory lane. Queen’s past was far more interesting than most, so this Top 10 U.K. is again stuffed with cloud-bursting harmonies, Mercury’s delicately involving piano work and an intriguing musical feint: Brian May’s only guitar contribution is the solo. Otherwise, he lays out as the remaining trio constructs a lean frame on which to hang the latest winkingly Bacchanalian tale from Mercury.
‘The Game’ (1980): “Another One Bites the Dust”
Once again, Queen found themselves in an unexpected place, this time courtesy of a sparse, funk-influenced contribution from bassist John Deacon. “Roger and I would probably never have gone in that musical direction had we not been coerced by John and Freddie,” May admitted in Is This the Real Life? “Another One Bites the Dust” went on to become Elektra’s first-ever 3 million-selling single, and the second chart-topping song off The Game, following “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Queen even earned airplay on some R&B stations. “I never thought it would be a hit,” Taylor added. “How wrong was I?”
‘Hot Space’ (1982): “Under Pressure”
Apparently inspired by that cross-genre success, Queen turned more fully toward dance-oriented sounds on their follow-up studio effort, with very mixed results. In fact, Hot Space was basically saved by tacking on “Under Pressure” to close things out. The song had already become a U.K. No. 1 smash by the time Queen’s new album arrived, emerging from a separate impromptu jam session with David Bowie in a Montreux studio. Mercury and Bowie worked out the lyrics while they sang, building off an unreleased demo called “Feel Like.”
‘The Works’ (1984): “I Want to Break Free”
“I Want to Break Free” will always be associated with the controversial decision to dress in drag for the accompanying video. MTV ended up banning the clip, which was conceived as a parody of the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street, and Queen quickly lost commercial momentum in the U.S. It’s shame, since this sturdy John Deacon composition serves as a stirring cry against oppression. As his star continued to rise, Deacon began implement more of his own creative choices. On “I Want to Break Free,” that meant employing guest keyboardist Fred Mandel, a veteran of Alice Cooper‘s band. “This was controversial, as no one did solos apart from Brian,” Mandell said in Is This the Real Life? “But the band were out to dinner, so I did it.” And it stayed.
‘A Kind of Magic’ (1986): “One Vision”
Queen roared back with a career-resuscitating performance at Live Aid, and “One Vision” served as a centerpiece moment. Mercury completely inhabited this song’s devastating indictment of discrimination, but still made time for some of his signature humor as it evolved from an original idea by Roger Taylor. “One Vision” became the first single written jointly by Queen and, for a time, the opening tune for their concerts. That’s a tribute to Mercury’s boisterous vocal, a scalding solo by Brian May and, most particularly, its big ideas about overcoming adversity. “Look what they’ve done to my dream!” Mercury cried, galvanizing the Live Aid crowd – and then the record-buying public after “One Vision” was released as a single. Well, the overseas record-buying public, anyway. This went to No. 7 in the band’s native England, and was a Top 40 hit in much of Europe, but somehow reached only No. 61 in the U.S.
‘The Miracle’ (1989): “The Miracle”
Breakup rumors swirled when Queen took an extended break following a celebrated post-Live Aid tour. Turns out, May was dealing with marital issues while Mercury came to grips with the diagnosis of still-undisclosed health issues that would eventually take his life. The resulting album recalled Queen’s essential duality, moving from pop to rock with ease. Nowhere was The Miracle more inspiring, or complex, than on its deeply emotional title track. A touching call for peace, the song describes the awe surrounding “God’s creations, great and small” while lamenting the fact that there is still one miracle “we’re all waiting for”: “peace on Earth and an end to war.”
‘Innuendo’ (1991): “These Are the Days of Our Lives”
The highlight of the last Queen album completed in Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, Roger Taylor’s “These Are the Days of Our Lives” worked as a devastatingly beautiful farewell. Prior to The Miracle, Mercury had announced that he was leaving the road – ostensibly to break the tour-album-tour cycle that had long consumed the band. Only later did we learn the real reason, as rumors of his AIDS diagnosis seemed to be confirmed by his shockingly frail appearance in the accompanying video, his last. Mercury remained a force, even in that weakened state, somehow buoying himself to a final willful act of passion, and joy, and triumph over expectations. As “These Are the Days of Our Lives” faded away, Mercury whispered, “I still love you,” and he was gone. Not as a pop star, of course, but as a legend.
Made in Heaven (1995): “Mother Love”
Mercury worked incessantly in the months after the release of 1991’s Innuendo to make sure there was enough material for Queen to continue without him. Even knowing Mercury’s wishes about a follow-up recording, they took nearly two years off to mourn. And yet Made in Heaven was largely free of that understandable portent. This is actually one of Queen’s most determinedly optimistic works and – despite the scattershot, posthumous nature of its release – a stronger album that its predecessor. Only on “Mother Love” did Made in Heaven betray some sense of what lay ahead. There were clues in the narrative sense. “I’m a man of the world and they say that I’m strong,” Mercury sang at one point, “but my heart is heavy and my hope is gone.” There was also a far more visceral reminder: May ended up singing the last verse because, by then, Mercury had already died.