10 Best Queen Songs

In the 21st century, Queen have emerged as the most-loved band from the classic rock era. They enjoyed little critical respect and struggled to sell records in the US for much of their career, but they now outperform more acclaimed acts like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones on streaming services.

As you’d expect, most streams are of a few big hits – ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’, ‘I Want To Break Free’, and ‘We Will Rock You’ are all among their most popular songs. Here’s my list of my favourite Queen songs. More than most bands, 10 songs are woefully inadequate to cover the breadth of Queen’s work. They released 13 studio records over three different decades – it’s notable that the top three songs on my list are all from different decades. All four songwriters wrote top ten hits individually – singer/pianist Freddie Mercury and guitarist Brian May dominated their early albums, but the rhythm section of Roger Taylor and John Deacon also emerged as songwriters as the band’s career progressed.

I had to leave out lots of great songs – there was no room for ‘The Prophet’s Song’, ”39′, ‘It’s Late’, ‘The Miracle’, ‘Dragon Attack’, ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’, ‘Now I’m Here’, ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’, or ‘Death on Two Legs’. Also, I failed to squeeze in the much-loved ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – consider it #11.

10 Best Queen Songs

#10 – Another One Bites The Dust

written by John Deacon, from The Game, 1980
‘Another One Bites The Dust’ is one of Queen’s most atypical hit. Its taut funk broadened their appeal; it was released as a single on Michael Jackson’s recommendation and its popularity among black communities helped it to top the US charts. It was largely performed by John Deacon, who played rhythm guitar, bass, piano, and handclaps. He had to fight for the sound he envisaged, convincing Taylor to play with a dry-sounding drum kit to achieve a funk sound. The b-side, May’s ‘Dragon Attack’, is another successful dabble by Queen into funk. Later the same year, Weird Al Yankovic released a parody version entitled ‘Another One Rides The Bus’.


Queen News of the World

#9 – Fight From The Inside

written by Roger Taylor, from News of the World, 1977
1977’s News of the World is one of my favourite Queen records. Skip past the overexposed opening pair of ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’, and you get a strong collection of relatively unknown Queen songs. It was largely recorded by Taylor – he sang lead vocals, and played drums, bass and rhythm guitars. This deep cut is largely overlooked, although it’s reportedly one of Slash’s favourite guitar riffs. It’s hard to categorise – it’s kind of bluesy and kind of funky.


#8 – Fat Bottomed Girls

written by Brian May, from Jazz, 1978
‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ is certainly one of Queen’s crasser hits, but it’s never lost its appeal for me. There’s a great contrast between the dirty blues and Freddie Mercury’s sleazy vocals of the verses and the huge, harmonised chorus with Brian May’s smoother voice in the spotlight. ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ shared a double a-side single with ‘Bicycle Race’ – Mercury shouts “Get on your bikes and ride!” to link the two tracks.


Queen II

#7 – The March of the Black Queen

written by Freddie Mercury, from Queen II, 1974
Clearly ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is Queen’s best-known multi-part epic, but recorded a couple of years earlier, ‘The March of the Black Queen’ shares many of the same elements. The was an urban legend that the recording of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was so overdubbed that the tapes became almost transparent, but that story was actually about ‘The March of the Black Queen’. The song contains polymeter – there are different time signatures simultaneously, 8/8 and 12/8. Mercury had an almost four-octave vocal range, and he hits some very high notes in the operatic section in the middle. Along with another Queen II track, the song inspired a popular Nintendo game, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen.


#6 – White Queen (As It Began)

written by Brian May, from Queen II, 1974
‘White Queen (As It Began)’ comes from the White Side of Queen II, written by May, May started writing the song back in 1968, based on a girl in his biology class whom he regarded as an ideal. He later “I [was] dared to ask out this girl, and she became a lifelong friend, it’s very strange.” There’s lot of pretty guitar work from May – the sparkling acoustic and electric textures recall contemporary records from Genesis.


#5 – Somebody To Love

written by Freddie Mercury, from A Day at the Races, 1976
With three strong singers in the group, Queen were always superb at harmonies. Along with ‘Let Me Live’ from Made In Heaven, ‘Somebody to Love’ was almost their only foray into gospel music. Mercury was an admirer of Aretha Franklin – in Queen: The Greatest, Brian May said “He loved Aretha, and this was his gospel epic.” There’s a great piano line from Mercury, and one of my favourite Brian May solos.


#4 – The Show Must Go On

written by Queen, from Innuendo, 1991
Queen credited their songs from later albums to the band as a whole – it may seem autobiographical to Mercury’s failing health, but ‘The Show Must Go On’ was largely written by May. With Mercury’s health failing, the band were worried whether he’d be able to hit the high notes the song required. According to Wikipedia “Mercury consumed a measure of vodka and said “I’ll fucking do it, darling!” then proceeded to perform the vocal line.” It’s the emotional punch of the bridge that’s the song’s key moment; Mercury’s voice soaring and vulnerable as he sings:

My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday, grow but never die
I can fly, my friends


#3 – Under Pressure

written by Queen and David Bowie, from Greatest Hits (1981) and Hot Space (1982)
Queen’s second #1 hit in the UK was a collaboration with David Bowie. Bowie and Queen were both recording in Montreux, and a jam together led to ‘Under Pressure’. It has a loose and exploratory feel, like it’s finding its shape as it goes along. It’s built around a John Deacon bassline, later retooled into the Vanilla Ice hit ‘Ice Ice Baby’. The appeal is hearing two legendary rock singers, Bowie and Mercury, trading scat singing and verses before they team up for the coda – “this is our last chance/this is ourselves”.


#2 – Killer Queen

written by Freddie Mercury, from Sheer Heart Attack, 1974
Queen’s commercial instincts began to come to the fore on their third album – ‘Killer Queen’ was the band’s first international hit. It has the same ingredients as their earlier album tracks – it’s camp and free-flowing. But it’s more streamlined than before, with a fun chorus and a stinging solo from May. May missed the original recording of the song, laid up with hepatitis, but the band left space for him to add his solo later.The movie Bohemian Rhapsody paints the band as struggling before their 1975 mega-hit, but 1974’s ‘Killer Queen’ was a #2 hit and put the band on the map.


#1 – Innuendo

written by Queen, from Innuendo, 1991
The title track of Queen’s 12th album is an odd case – it entered the UK charts at #1, the band’s first number one hit since ‘Under Pressure’. But it’s half-forgotten today – it’s not among the band’s 20 most-streamed songs on Spotify. ‘Innuendo’ is a surprising #1 hit – it’s a sweeping epic with an eastern feel, not unlike Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’. It was largely composed by Mercury and Taylor – it originated out of a group jam, while Mercury cowrote the orchestration in the middle section with producer David Richards. Unusually for Queen, the song features a guest musician – Yes guitarist Steve Howe plays on the flamenco section.

And they saved “Innuendo” itself until last. They played it and I was fucking blown away. They all chimed in: ‘We want some crazy Spanish guitar flying around over the top. Improvise!’

Steve Howe, Prog Magazine

Read More

If you want a more exhaustive breakdown from a more obsessive fan, my friend Kezzamachine has been running a round-robin of all 210 Queen songs. These are his final results:

What’s your favourite Queen song?

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Aphoristical

Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande.

Aphoristic Album Reviews features many Reviews and Blog Posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.

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79 Comments

  1. A pretty good list. The only song I’d add is “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, as I’ve always had a soft spot for that one. And I’m happy you didn’t include the tiresome “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions”.

    • Crazy Little Thing Called Love is a pretty fun excursion from the band – they could pull off some remarkably disparate styles. Mercury’s Elvis impersonation is impressive.

      It’s pretty easy to burn out on We Will Rock You as there’s not much to it. Cool guitar solo though.

  2. When I think of Queen I think of “somebody to love”, “Bohemian rhapsody” and of course “under pressure”.

    I agree 100 percent with King Clover’s comment about we are the champions. That fact that it gets played a lot doesn’t make it good.

    I think of it the same way I do G and R’s “Welcome to the Jungle”. An inferior song (in relation to the bands’ overall work) that mostly gets played at sporting events.

    I can do without “another one rides the bus” also and might have subbed in “your my best friend” for the more poppy angle of Queen.

    Good list, thanks!

  3. Of the songs I’ve heard, I kind of like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Killer Queen,” but I’m not much of a fan. Too operatic/bombastic in the early days, too commercial later on. However, I like how Brian May forged a singular guitar sound. Will you be doing a Roxy Music list soon? 😊

    • I’ll do a Roxy Music top 10 sometime. I figure out my top ten while I’m reviewing the other albums, so I already have a list, just haven’t made it into an article:

      Mother of Pearl
      The Thrill Of It All
      Remake/Remodel
      In Every Dream Home a Heartache
      More Than This
      Sentimental Fool
      Virginia Plain
      If There Is Something
      Street Life
      Casanova

      There’s probably some Queen stuff out there you might enjoy, like the deep cuts on News of the World.

  4. I don’t know all of these so I’ll have to give them a listen and reserve judgment for now. Other than to say that as sick to death as I am of hearing it, there’s no way “Bohemian Rhapsody” would not be in my Top Ten. I would happily push “Under Pressure” out. It’s ok but to me, no big deal, Bowie notwithstanding. I’d probably add in “Keep Yourself Alive” as that was the first song I heard by them and it’s still great. And “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” would definitely be in there. More later.

      • Yes. It was my (and everybody’s) first introduction to them. A great era back then. Great songs all over the radio. Sigh. But I never bought the album. Just dug everything they did. Stuff like “Rhapsody” came out of nowhere. I have never seen these guys live and I hope I can one day, even with Lambert. BTW, I thought the “Rhapsody” movie was wildly overrated.

        • I mainly hated the narrative that Bohemian Rhapsody needed to fly to keep them afloat – they were doing pretty well already.

  5. The only ones that I really love are Keep Yourself Alive, Killer Queen and Tie Your Mother Down. Almost everything else just sounds to me like slightly better-than-average novelty songs. But even some of those are okay, like Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls. And I always liked Radio Ga Ga for some reason.

      • Actually, I do like that one. Really tuneful. Did you ever hear Freddie Mercury’s version of Goin Back? Except he used a different name. It was something really weird, but I can’t remember the name

        • Yup, I’ve heard that, although not for years. My friend (in the video at the bottom of the post) is an obsessed fan and has all their stuff. He lent me a bootleg of early stuff with Smile (the pre-Queen project of May and Taylor) and some Mercury stuff.

          • Your friend’s video is wild. What a fun thing to do. Ranking every one of their songs. I’m surprised I never tried that. The most I’ve ever done was make like top 50 songs lists of really big name people that I like. Beatles, Stones, Bowie, Elvis. That’s about it. It would be cool to do it with someone’s entire catalog. B-sides and everything. Your friend’s list was surprising cuz he didn’t have many of the big ones up near the top like I expected.

          • There are a few articles around that rank artists’ complete songs – I’ve seen one for Billy Joel, who’s relatively easy because he doesn’t have many bsides etc

            I think Kez burnt out on the popular songs of his favourite bands years ago.

  6. Here is the list du moi. I listened to the ones on yours. I will overgeneralize here (as that is my thing) and say that you learn more towards the operatic Queen, I lean more towards the rockin’ Queen. I note as well that my list was written pretty fairly equally between May and Mercury FWIW.

    1. Bohemian Rhapsody
    2. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
    3. Somebody to Love
    4. We Will Rock You
    5. We Are the Champions
    6. Tie Your Mother Down
    7. Fat Bottomed Girls
    8. Keep Yourself Alive
    9. Stone Cold Crazy
    10. Get Down, Make Love

    • A lot of people have mentioned that one. I like the electric piano – apparently Mercury refused to play it, so it’s Deacon playing it.

  7. Many good tracks here, Graham. That being said, I had to look up your no. 1 pick and a few others.

    I think my list would mirror Jim’s from Music Enthusiast, except I would have included “Don’t Stop Me Now” and left out “Get Down, Make Love.” As for ranking, fugetaboutit, not my thing as you know!

    Though if I only had to pick one, I’d go with “Bohemian Rhapsody” – yes, it’s been hopelessly overexposed. Still, it’s one of the weirdest, most over the top, yet at the same time most brilliant rock songs I can think of. There’s really nothing else like it – at least not based on what I’ve heard!

    • I can’t think of any other pop songs like a mini-operetta in the middle. A lot of the ideas from Bohemian Rhapsody are present in the band’s earlier work, but they’re in a more palatable form there.

  8. Can you believe that I would rather hear Ice Ice Baby than Under Pressure? Seriously. Lol. I love that bass thing or guitar thing or whatever it is, but I think it sounds better in Ice Ice Baby. Ha ha. And also I’d rather hear the bass thing from Chic’s Good Times in Rapper’s Delight than in Another One Bites the Dust. It sounds better in Rapper’s Delight. Can you believe that?

          • Yes. It’s the best part. I can think of about 5 songs that have either the guitar or bass parts from Good Times as the source.
            They’re so catchy that it’s easy to see why.

          • ’39 is another song I forgot that I liked. They should have done more stuff like that. Like more non-jokey stuff. I think that’s why I was never a big fan of Queen. So many of their songs just came off as really good jokes to me. Like they’re really great when you’re first hearing them, but then the humor wears out. Like when someone tells you a really great joke, you love it the first time you hear it. But if they kept telling you the same joke over and over, you would just start to resent it. You don’t want to hear it anymore. Lol.

          • I think there’s enough happening musically that they get away from it. Brian May sings 39 – he’s generally less showy and better and communicating emotion.

  9. My top one would be Somebody To Love…that track to me is over the top, melodic, and the most Queen song possible.
    Keep Yourself Alvie, You’re My Best Friend, and Millionaire Waltz would be on there also…just for May’s solo alone.

    Great list though…haven’t heard Innuendo in a long time.

    • Somebody to Love is great – feels a bit silly not to have it even higher. I read where Mercury thought it was his best song too. They didn’t venture into gospel much – Let Me Live from Made in Heaven is the only other one I can think of. Jesus from the debut is religious-themed but more like it’s from a musical like Jesus Christ Superstar.

      Millionaire’s Waltz is a cool pick. I find A Day at the Races a little sleepy apart from a couple of May rockers, so it gets a bit lost for me.

      • The words I was looking for earlier…Somebody to Love is the quintessential Queen song to me. If someone from Mars wanted to know about Queen…I would hand them that song.

        You mentioned News of the World…it was the first non Beatle album I ever really noticed…other than my sisters albums. On the playground in 3rd grade a kid brought it…. other than the hits…. the one that stuck with me at that time was It’s Late. It is a great album.

        • I kind of wish they stayed in that vein for a couple of albums – there are some nice, relaxed, personal songs on there. I wasn’t so keen on Jazz.

  10. 1. Somebody To Love
    2. Hammer To Fall
    3. Liar
    4. The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke
    5. March Of The Black Queen
    6. Killer Queen
    7. One Vision
    8. These Are The Days Of Our Lives
    9. Flick Of The Wrist
    10. It’s Late

    Bubbling under – Brighton Rock, The Seven Seas Of Rhye, Great King Rat, White Queen (As It Began), Lap Of The Gods (revisited)

  11. Maybe it’s cause I grew to appreciate the more deeper cuts of the band these past couple of years, but I don’t agree with more than half of your list. However, t’s your list and that’s cool! We all have our own opinions. At least you showed appreciation for “Fight from the Inside”! Roger Taylor’s songs are so underrated! I also like that two of the songs on your list are from ‘Queen II’ since that’s my favorite Queen album!

      • Oh tell me about it! I’m so glad we both share the same love for “Fight from the Inside”! Not that I assumed a lot of Queen fans hate that song, but I was not expecting that song to be on the list.

  12. David Bowie is considered by many to be the greatest single force/influence in the evolution of modern rock. Others might disagree but the arguments for Bowie are quite compelling.

    But Queens collective fingerprints are everywhere – if you look for them .

    As a Canadian example, try the song “World container” – an obvious nod to Queen (I think).

    • I always thought of Queen as kind of an evolutionary dead end – they made everything so big and grandiose that it was hard to follow them. Jellyfish’ Split Milk is the one Queen-influenced album I can think of that I really like.

  13. So many great things to choose from . . . I guess right now, my list would look like this (I tend to favor the hits over the deep cuts when it comes to Queen) . . . .

    #10. Who Wants to Live Forever
    #9. Somebody to Love
    #8. You’re My Best Friend
    #7. Killer Queen
    #6. I Want to Break Free
    #5. Radio Gaga
    #4. Another One Bites the Dust
    #3. Don’t Stop Me Now
    #2. Bohemian Rhapsody
    #1. Hammer to Fall

  14. Love Queen. Don’t know what to pick but here’s my attempt:

    10. Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy
    9. The Prophet’s Song
    8. A Kind of Magic
    7. Fat Bottomed Girls
    6. Innuendo
    5. Somebody to Love
    4. Don’t Stop Me Now
    3. Breakthru
    2. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
    1. The Millionaire Waltz

    • That’s cool – we have a few in common. You’re the second person to really like ‘The Millionaire Waltz’ – I always find Day at the Races a little languid and some good songs get lost for me.

  15. The ballad Play the Game is sweet. It remembers me my first “slow dance” with a girl when I was a kid. The awful one is the main theme from the movie Flash Gordon.

    • I like Play The Game a lot – I don’t think anyone else has mentioned it yet. I’ve never minded Flash, even though I think it’s their weakest album overall.

  16. It’s interesting that Bohemian Rhapsody has been all but ignored in the comments here. Still my #1 Queen track. It may well be overrated and overplayed, but there is no denying its legacy.

  17. I don’t know enough of Queen’s songs to come up with my own list. I know some of their hits and that’s about it. I would put these songs on my list, though:

    The Game
    Crazy Little Thing Called Love
    Hammer To Fall
    Radio Gaga
    Under Pressure

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