Welcome back to another social justice edition of "Behind the Lyrics"!
This week, we are looking at Queen's song "I Want to Break Free". In a past edition of this series, we analyzed "Freedom! '90" by George Michael. One of the reasons why "Freedom! '90" remains popular is because of its optimistic message that can fit almost anyone's problems.
Much the same -- Queen's "I Want to Break Free" using vague lyrics to once again adapt to a feeling many people feel. Let's dive in:
"I Want to Break Free" -- Queen "I want to break free I want to break free I want to break free from your lies You're so self satisfied I don't need you I've got to break free God knows, God knows I want to break free I've fallen in love I've fallen in love for the first time And this time I know it's for real I've fallen in love, yeah God knows, God knows I've fallen in love It's strange but it's true, yeah I can't get over the way you love me like you do But I have to be sure When I walk out that door Oh, how I want to be free, baby Oh, how I want to be free Oh, how I want to break free But life still goes on I can't get used to living without, living without Living without you by my side I don't want to live alone, hey God knows, got to make it on my own So baby can't you see I've got to break free I've got to break free I want to break free, yeah I want, I want, I want, I want to break free"
At first glance, it seems like a cut and dry breakup song. Which, to be fair, can absolutely be one of the interpretations. There is plenty of textual evidence to support that, for example, "I can't get used to living without, living without, living without you by my side." This interpretation alone would appeal to a large mass of fans. However, we also know that the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, was never forthcoming about his own sexuality, even with his own bandmates (Deriso). This song (and several other Queen songs) can be analyzed as a dream to literally "break free" and be himself. Others may argue that there are just too many lines referring to a past love for this work, but I would argue that there may indeed be a previous lover in the mix of all this confusing emotion. Mercury's bandmates expressed that he had several relationships with both men and women, so if anything they thought he might have been bisexual (Deriso). In other words, one of the beautiful things about this song is how complex and accurate it depicts humans. We all have different affections, different sexualities, and different experiences. However, we also all desire for the brave, proud declaration Mercury made with "I WANT TO BREAK FREE." With those five simple words, he empowered anyone who has felt used, abused, and unhappy to make a different choice. To make the choice to love themselves before anyone else.