Welcome to "Behind the Lyrics" with Elise Chandler. Each week, I find a song that I feel is understated both musically and lyrically, and I analyze it through several critical lenses.
Yesterday, I finally had a chance to see the new movie Bohemian Rhapsody, whose content matter is focused on one of the original alternative rock bands -- Queen. In honor of this incredible band and movie, I'll will spend this week on "Radio Ga Ga" by Queen.
Queen prided itself on being "a group of misfits playing for the world's misfits" (Bohemian Rhapsody). Because of this, the group never feared: playing with different genres, experimenting with different instrumentation, or finding the best producers who would support their sound and not try to change it.
In "Radio Ga Ga", Queen is writing a kind of ode to the radio. The music has a sweet, romantic quality to it, and the lyrics personify the narrator's beloved radio. There are many reasons the narrator loves his radio, but here are just a couple:
1. "My only friend through teenage nights"
The narrator may not have been able to depend on human love and support, but the radio never failed to be there for the narrator always, providing an appropriate soundtrack to his life.
2. "You gave them all those old time stars
Through wars of worlds - invaded by Mars You made them laugh, you made them cry You made us feel like we could fly"
Not only was the radio there for the narrator, but it provided the narrator worlds of information that could help him meet far and distant people, places, and gift him with information that could empower him.
After he praises all the goodness of the radio, the song takes a twist. The radio has empowered and strengthened the narrator throughout all of his time; however, now, he finds it is his duty to praise and encourage the radio because so many people fail to see its significance in our new, fast-paced, visual culture.
"So don't become some background noise A backdrop for the girls and boys Who just don't know or just don't care And just complain when you are not there You had your time, you had the power You've yet to have your finest hour"
Radio must remember that is far greater than the "girls and boys" simple, ignorant comments. It still is necessary, it still has power, and it will still have its "finest" hour. The television is seen as a distraction. It paints the picture for the audience. Whereas, radio encourages active listening and participation; hence, why it is the far greater power.
This all leads into the most fun part of the song -- "Radio Ga Ga".
"All we hear is Radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is Radio ga ga Radio goo goo Radio ga ga All we hear is Radio ga ga Radio blah blah Radio, what's new? Someone still loves you!"
While just enjoyable to sing along to, this series of lyrics is mocking the masses who fail to see the beauty, power, and prestige radio holds. It is not some tool to be used. It is a platform that allows the transference of necessary information both musically and auditorially.
It leaves the audience with a question -- are you the whining, unimaginative, not-attentive radio listener who has been tricked into singing silly lyrics? Or are you the self-aware radio listener who sings the lyrics as a powerful ode to one of your favorite mediums? A fun analysis for sure. But isn't that what good music does? Until next time.