I saw this “Run The World vs Bohemian Rhapsody” picture (left) on Facebook this morning and it really irritated me. Typical of internet memes, this one is now making the rounds with comments attached like “sad” and “accountants created cookie cutter pop songs and marketed eye candi [sic], where are the real stars today?”. I’m sure the picture was intended to be funny in some way, but people are stupid…or worse, lazy. They don’t want to research the whole story about something randomly posted online to see if it even holds water, yet they will happily repost it and send it on to the next lazy ignoramus.
So let me do the work for you here…
First of all, we have to assume that this photo is saying “Beyonce’s song took 6 writers and 4 producers to come up with utter crap, and Queen’s epic, amazing piece of art only required 2 geniuses.” Now let’s explore why this argument is so flawed.
The amount of writers and producers credited on both these songs is listed correctly. Notice I said credited. But you should also know that on “Run The World”, (credited writer) Beyonce and (credited writer) Dave Taylor are also part of the producer number. By that logic, all of Queen should’ve been credited as producers on “Bohemian Rhapsody”, skyrocketing that number from 1 to 5. But they weren’t. Why? Also, three of the “Run The World” writers are the creators of the music sampled in the song, which means they probably had little (if any) to do with the end product.
This is why the silly internet photo above riled my dander in the first place. The whole comparison is ridiculous. These two songs are from completely different eras. Technology and the music business have changed so dramatically in the last 40 years, you can’t compare. According to the argument of this photo, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a piece of shit compared to Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”. (Obviously, depending on who you ask, many would agree with this statement, too.)
How art is credited has changed dramatically throughout the history of popular music, thus to fault “Run The World” for crediting 6 people is not fair. It is true that Freddie Mercury is given full writer’s credit for “Bohemian Rhapsody” but he “wrote” it (in pieces) over a 15 year span. (And since we’re making ridiculous musical comparisons, Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville was written in a week and is still one of the most performed operas today, while Wagner – who labored for years with snippets of music – doesn’t get nearly the same amount of stage time these days. However his epic and plentiful works overall are considered the best of the opera genre. Is Rossini the Beyonce or Mercury here? I don’t know who to judge anymore!)
As usual, I digress. Back to “Bohemian Rhapsody”… It has been noted in interviews and past documentaries that much of this finished piece was “written” while they were recording it. Brian May’s guitar solo (which is an intricate part of the composition as a whole and without it would not have had the musical dichotomy that makes it epic) was all his. Not Mercury’s. Why was May not credited as a writer? Why wasn’t Roy Thomas Baker (the solo producer listed on “Bohemian Rhapsody”) credited for co-creating the harmonies? Well, you’d have to talk to every band ever about that one. They all have their understandings. Paul McCartney and John Lennon gave writers’ credit to both for all Beatles songs. Garth Brooks insisted on being credited on most of his songs, even if he had to change one word to “deserve” it. Credits are the bane of art.
Technology: Let me go back to my Elvis Presley comparison. The songs of that era were recorded on two tracks, which was the technology at the time. Voice and live instruments…just an amazing song performed in its purest state, some would say. “Bohemian Rhapsody”, on the other hand, had the newer (better?) technology of a 24 track. Baker earned* his measly one credit by stacking the vocals and then bouncing them down to one track and bouncing and bouncing…eventually technically creating 180 (one hundred and eighty!!) tracks of vocals for a correctional-facility-worthy wall of sound. (Sorry, Mr. Spector.) You could argue that Bohemian’s songwriting needed all that technology to make it great and that, perhaps with just the four voices on one track, it would have sounded limp and disjointed.
Now jump to 2011. The technology used today in music is far more superior than 1975 and, whether you like it or not, listeners expect more (and they don’t even want to pay 99¢ for it. But that’s a rant for another blog). The film and television industry is the same way. Is the production of The Avengers (2012) any better or worse than The Magnificent Seven (1960)?
Your answer to all of these questions most likely depends on which of these came out during your rite of passage years. Music, movies, books, etc will always seem best if they’re attached to memories of you making out with your first love in the back of a car.
Comments: As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I saw a comment stating the entertainers of today are just “eye candy”. (Well, that dumdum spelled it “candi”.) I hate to break it to said dumdum, but Freddie Mercury was TOTAL eye candy. Maybe not for this female commenter, but there was a reason Mr. Mercury wore tight pants and tank tops! Sex, baby! Elvis’ shirt was unbuttoned to his belly because women wanted to see the goods (and bads). People that are willing to get up in front of mass crowds and shake what their momma’s gave ‘em are “real stars” to someone. It hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.
Let me also make it clear that I am not defending “Run The World” or Beyonce or even new music. I have actually never heard “Run The World” all the way through, and I love “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But it doesn’t matter what I personally like or dislike. It doesn’t matter what you like or dislike. It’s ART, jackwipe! Everyone likes their own thang, so stop judging it like YOUR opinion matters.
I could go on and on about these types of internet postings and why they are perpetuating everything that is wrong with the universe, but I know you guys want to get back to watching “Dance Moms”. So let me just leave you with this: Take responsibility for the information you spread. In fact, if I’m wrong on any of what I said here, leave a comment! Correct me, but only if you have the references. I have tried to do my fact checking, but this is just a website. There are no rules out here. Just our own ethics. MEME RESPONSIBLY.
*As I ranted about this at home all today, my husband (Mark Volman) also added that Roy Thomas Baker’s vocal layering concept came to life when he was working with Flo & Eddie (um…my husband and his vocal partner for 40 years Howard Kaylan) on T Rex’s album. Thus, I think Mark was saying HE came up with this idea and HE wants credit for “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I think. Freddie probably won’t mind now.)
**This picture was apparently originally posted (created?) by the following people: http://www.facebook.com/lolwall.fp
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