One of the things that make Queen so accessible is that, along with their incredible talents as musicians and songwriters, they made music for everyone. Their range isn’t only displayed in their songs but in their diverse worldwide audience. When “Bohemian Rhapsody” is played publicly; at a bar, in a car, or at a Kanye West concert; it becomes an event in itself, a giant karaoke choir forms out of thin air, an immediate beautiful moment of communal collectivism.
That’s why it’s so easy to find Queen covers; people, and musicians, have an unwavering connection to Queen songs. They transcend time and genre, and they’re also just so undeniably good. Aside from being Queen songs, these covers have very little else in common, except for one thing that we’ll let you figure out.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” —The Braids (1996)
Not Calgary’s indie-pop darlings, Braids, The Braids, a mid-90s R&B duo from San Francisco. Their version of the ultimate Queen sing-a-long featured production from Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins before “Semi-Charmed Life” made him a star and found enough traction in the UK to hit #1 on the R&B chart. With its rich vocals, sparse boom-bap beat, and cool rap guy ad-libs, there are a few structural similarities to the successful Fugees’ Roberta Flack cover “Killing Me Softly” that sees the track often miscredited to Lauryn Hill and her group, which, although unfortunate for a group with one hit, is actually kind of a compliment.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” — Dwight Yoakam (1999)
Queen’s Elvis-influenced original already had a strong twangy vibe but Dwight Yoakam subtly morphed it into a full on country hoedown for Gap’s iconic khakis campaign in 1999. The song went all the way #1 on the Canadian Country chart.
“We Are The Champions (Ding A Dang Dong)” — Crazy Frog (2006)
Speaking of crazy little things, Crazy Frog had a bit of success with a Queen cover. Released in the summer of 2006, to coincide with the FIFA World Cup which saw the song hit #1 in France even though the current champions were the runners-up that year. The techno-boosted version is a prime example of how kid-friendly and fun Queen’s music can be. It’s also a prime example of how weird the whole Crazy Frog thing was.
“We Will Rock You” — Five & Queen (2000)
Turn-of-the-century boyband Five was one of Simon Cowell’s biggest successes. When they decided to take on everyone’s favourite stadium rock anthem, Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor played on the track, boldly endorsing a group that the average classic rocker would most likely dismiss. The song ended up being Five’s second #1 song in the UK. May and Taylor also made a quick cameo in the big budget 2004 Super Bowl commercial featuring the Britney Spears-Beyonce-P!nk version of “We Will Rock You”.
“Stone Cold Crazy” by Metallica (1990)
This update of “Stone Cold Crazy” cranks up the ferocity on one of the most intense Queen tracks and it’s glorious. The edgy cover won a Grammy in 1991 for Best Metal Performance and was the B-side to “Enter Sandman” which hit #1 in Finland.
“Ice Ice Baby” — Vanilla Ice (1989)
This one is a bit tricky. First off, it’s not really a cover, it’s a sample. And while it made history as the first rap song to go to #1 on the Hot 100 and sort of still slaps, Vanilla Ice snatched this sample from Queen’s collaboration with David Bowie “Under Pressure” without their permission and when he got called on it, he initially denied it. They’ve since worked everything out and Queen has since been, more respectfully, sampled in numerous rap songs, including major bangers by rap stars like Wyclef Jean, Wiz Khalifa, Pusha T, and Kanye West.
“The Show Must Go On” — Celine Dion (2016)
2016 was a rough year for, a queen in her own right, Celine Dion. She lost her longtime partner and her brother then returned with an apt cover of Queen’s strength-in-the-face-of-adversity anthem after a brief hiatus. Celine paralleling her legendary voice with Freddie Mercury’s was an honour to the band and appropriate for a time when people needed comfort. The studio version hit #1 in her home province of Quebec
“Somebody To Love” — George Michael & Queen (1993)
This release was recorded with the remaining members of Queen at their Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert. It’s a spirited rendition by an incredible singer who embodied much of Mercury’s style. This cover-collab foreshadowed a key way Queen would keep their music alive over the next quarter century, connecting with high profile vocalists like Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert to continue delivering their powerful music live to their loyal and constantly growing fanbase. And, by the way, the song went to #1 in Ireland.
Bohemian Rhapsody hits theatres on November 2nd.