- Area: Humanities
- Program: Composition
- Type of Writing: Essay (Analytical, Interpretive)
- Course Level: 1000
- Year: 2019
- Paper ID: H.E.E.1.2.1
The Poor Boy Unveiled
Month day, 2019
The Poor Boy Unveiled
Ever since musical genius Freddie Mercury wrote Bohemian Rhapsody for Queen’s album, Night at the Opera in 1975, millions have been wondering what the true meaning is of this masterpiece. With this six-minute song containing different sections and mysterious references to different words, this song was given the appropriate title with the word “Rhapsody” which means classical music with distinct sections that is played as one movement (Songfacts). From listening to the song, one can tell that this song, embodies different musical sections that all contain different messages. As we analyze these sections of the song one can try and understand what brought Freddie Mercury to write out the lyrics.
Being raised in a family who sought refuge in England after government upheaval in Zanzibar, Freddie was very familiar with the Zoroastrian religion which contains Arabic words found in Bohemian Rhapsody. Words like “Scaramouch,” “Bismillah,” and “Beelzebub,” seem somewhat random yet knowing that they have significance to Freddie’s background helps audience understand the journey which he unravels through the Bohemian Rhapsody song.
Starting with the opening section Freddie seems to open the stage with questions about whether his life is real or fiction and then moves on to describe himself as a “loose” character with the lyrics, “easy come, come go. Little High, little low.” It is predicted that during the time this song was written Freddie was struggling with his sexuality and his current relationship with Mary Austin. He even states he’s a “poor boy” who “needs no sympathy,” which strategically aims at the listener’s emotions telling them not to have empathy towards his current struggle. Ethos is one rhetorical method used to capture audience attention and already in the opening minutes of the song Freddie is internally struggling with maybe how others perceive him and how deep inside he’s struggling to show who he really is.
Going on to the next section, Freddie almost writes out a confessional letter to “mama” who many believe is referring to Mary Austin his girlfriend at the time. He then uses parallelism to describe step by step how he, “killed a man, put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he’s dead.” While he didn’t literally kill someone it almost is metaphorically suggesting that he is killing his “old self” who he is going to leave behind but is struggling to tell his loved one since he knows it may hurt her, “Mama didn’t mean to make you cry.” While Freddie wasn’t too keen on talking about his love life openly it was also during this time that he had his first affair with a man, which would hurt his relationship with Mary. Overall this section is very dark and full of melancholy.
To help emphasize his eternal struggle he uses different forms of rhetorical methods to write out a heartbreaking farewell to Mary and to his old self. He uses amplification to say, “carry on, carry on” as if to suggest his death shouldn’t affect someone from moving on, but instead comes out harsh and says, “because nothing really matters.” He also uses epanalepsis when he repeats the word “time” at the beginning of the sentence, “too late, my time has come” then ends the sentence again repeating the word time, “body’s aching all the time.” By describing his physical suffering, he also uses alliteration by saying “sends shivers down my spine” as if you can also feel his agony through his word choice. In conclusion to this section he comes off suicidal with stating. “Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all,” as if his eternal and physical struggle are just too much that what’s the point of living.
Next section known as the operatic section is probably the most controversial part of the whole song since it not only goes back and forth between the narrative and a group of voices but it contains so many uncommon words to the English language yet at the same time refers to some cultural references as well. According to the article, “10 things you didn’t know about Bohemian Rhapsody,” just the operatic section itself took one full week to complete, while the whole song took three weeks total. Starting out with Freddie seeing a silhouette of a man, which once again may refer to his “old self,” then goes almost into a back and forth battle between the main singer and a group of voices. This part where the voices speak back as a chorus is what really captures the audiences’ attention since they use words foreign to the English language but are familiar to those who have a similar religious background as Freddie Mercury.
The first cultural reference is the word, “Scaramouch” which is a “stock character that appears as a boastful coward” (Songfacts) while the word “Fandango” is a lively couple’s dance from Spain that is both sung and danced. These words may seem randomly placed but coming from the group voices they are talking back to the main singer and suggest that the man should dance and sing. The next cultural reference may be credited to another band member, Brian May, who previously studied astrophysics and liked Galileo (Genius), who was an astronomer and whose name is repeated five times from the chorus. Next “Figaro” refers to French Rossini’s opera Barber of Seville, which also shows Freddie’s love for the opera (Genius). Overall this portion where the main singer is going back and forth with the other voices contains a lot of randomly paired references to culture.
This portion also goes back to Freddie being a poor boy which is an example of anaphora since the phrase, “he’s just a poor boy” is repeated twice. The group then sings how he needs to be spared from his monstrosity which indicates he may be taken over by some monster. For this following portion words from the Zoroastrian religion pop up suggesting his struggle within himself and the devil. “Bismillah” is a word from the Qu’ran and literally means, “in the name of Allah (God)” (Genius). As Freddie is singing out “Bismillah” the chorus repeats back, “we will not let you go” suggesting that he is being taken over by someone or something. He then goes on to say “Mama Mia Mama Mia” which references to the Italian expression of exclamation or surprise and refers to the Virgin Mary (Genius). As Freddie uses epizeuxis to repeat the phrase “Mama Mia, Mama Mia” it’s as if he’s shouting for help. “Beelzebub” also is mentioned which is one of the many names of the Devil (Genius). This further goes to illustrate how he is taken over “ Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me.”
Following the operatic portion with the main singer (Freddie) talking back to voices he then makes references to being spit in the eye and leaving him to die. This is a reference to the punishment given to someone in the Buddhist faith. He then goes on to conclude the phrase “Just gotta get out, Just gotta get right out of here.” The repetition of the phrase emphasizes the need for the character to escape.
Like a full circle the songs conclusion goes back to a slower melody and once again the singer triggers the emotions by stating. “nothing really matters, nothing really matters to me.” This method of ethos once again reminds us as the audience that even though we don’t fully understand Freddie Mercury’s thought process or struggle this song was well thought out and was created by a musical genius.
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality
Open your eyes
Look up to the skies and see
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
Because I’m easy come, easy go
A little high, little low
Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me
Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away
Mama, oh oh
Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters
Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body’s aching all the time
Goodbye everybody I’ve got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, oh oh (anyway the wind blows)
I don’t want to die
Sometimes wish I’d never been born at all
I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the Fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, figaro, magnifico
I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go will you let me go
Bismillah, no we will not let you go, let him go
Bismillah, we will not let you go, let him go
Bismillah, we will not let you go, let me go
(Will not let you go) let me go (never, never let you go) let me go (never let me go)
Oh oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no
Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me for me for me
So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh baby can’t do this to me baby
Just gotta get out just gotta get right outta here
Oh oh oh yeah, oh oh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Anyway the wind blows
“Analysis Of Bohemian Rhapsody Music Essay.” UKEssays.com. 11 2018. All Answers Ltd. 03 2019 <https://www.ukessays.com/essays/music/analysis-of-bohemian-rhapsody-music-essay.php?vref=1>.
“Bohemian Rhapsody By Queen.” Songfacts, 2018.
McAlpine, Fraser. “10 Things You May Not Know About Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.” BBC America, www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2015/10/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-queens-bohemian-rhapsody.
“Oh, Baby, Can’t Do This to Me Baby! / Just Gotta Get out, Just Gotta Get Right Outta Here!” Genius, Genuis Media Group Inc., 31 Oct. 1975, genius,com/6731622.