Is Matthew Bellamy of Muse this generation’s Freddie Mercury? I kinda think he is.
Freddie Mercury is, no doubt, one of the greatest front men in the history of rock n’ roll. The voice, the songs, the ensembles, the flair and showmanship. Just about every major sporting event will involve “We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions” in some capacity. Hell, Queens responsible for one of the best scenes in Wayne’s World! Queen was a larger-than life band who wrote even bigger songs and had the skills to do it with style. Although it would be a gross injustice to act as if the other 3 members of the band weren’t absolutely vital to Queens success (another story all together), there is no doubt Freddie was steering the ship.
Queen officially took over planet earth on July 13th, 1985 at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid. The lineup for the evening may be the greatest show ever assembled: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Black Sabbath, CSNY, Dire Straits with Sting, U2, David Bowie, and Elton John with Wham! (Remember, it was 1985).
It was a true clash of the titans but, in the end, Queen stole the show. Although certainly aided by underrehearsed Zep, Who and Sabbath sets, Queen shown brightest in the galaxy of stars that evening and cemented their place in the pantheon of rock gods.
Sadly, this would be the last show Queen would play with Freddie as his health had begun to deteriorate. He passed away in November of 1991, after several years of battling HIV and AIDS. He was just 45 years old.
So where does Matthew Bellamy fit into all of this?’ many would ask. Freddie’s legacy is one fans are quite protective of, so one must tread lightly. This is no doubt in large part due to Freddie’s untimely death and controversy about his sexual orientation during his career. Some commentaries claim he was “openly gay”, while others say he never publicly “came out” as he never allied himself politically to any LGBT causes and often dodged questions in interviews with coy, indirect responses.
Although this was certainly uncharted territory for a frontman in a globally successful rock band and, perhaps, very important for society in generally, this can not and will not be my focus. Clearly, Matthew Bellamy is alive and well and who he finds sexually attractive is far from my business, so lets move on.
Where I find overlap between Bellamy and Mercury is in their music, their showmanship and their ability to make a statement. Let’s take a look.
Like Queen, Muse are also a globally successful rock band. Although breaking in America only a few years ago, Muse have been one of the U.K.’s finest live acts for well over a decade, winning back to back “Best British Live Act” awards at the Brits, a grammy for “Best Rock Album” and selling more than 15 million albums worldwide. Their most successful live album, 2008’s HAARP, shows the band’s triumphant 2007 show at, you guessed it, Wembley Stadium. Also, the power trio was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2006, named in honor of Freddie himself. Already, we see similarities.
More specifically, Bellamy’s musical abilities resemble those of Freddie. Although maybe not quite as strong of a singer, Bellamy is known for dramatic, operatic vocals and a sweet falsetto that certainly is in Mercury’s ballpark. If one listens to Muse’s newest single, “Dead Inside”, one can’t help but hear a Freddie-like delivery in the lines “I gave you everything/I can’t give you any MORE!” near the end of the track.
Like Mercury, Bellamy is also an accomplished piano player, perhaps even superior in this area. Although usually on guitar (which Mercury didn’t play) no Muse show would be complete without Bellamy hopping behind an extravagant grand piano to change the pace and keep the crowd guessing.
Songs like “Hoodoo” and “Sing For Absolution” are great examples of unexpected classical music influences amid Muse’s trademark, slightly prog-y heavy rocking. We could find examples of other great singers and piano players, but I beg the question: “Who does it more like Freddie?”
Queen were known for an over the top, powerful, rockopera performance style that had never really been seen before. Elaborate costumes, overwhelming light shows and Freddie prancing all about the stage made Queen THE band to see during their reign in the ’70s and ’80s. Today, Muse are that band. Bellamy wears shiny, colorful, sometimes glowing suits on stage and runs all over the place, playing guitar riffs that no one should be able to execute while karate kicking (which he does a lot). With his adept guitar playing not fazed in the slightest by his showmanship, I have come to dub Bellamy “Shreddie Mercury”.
Muse’s stage sets are also the stuff of legend. I, personally, have seen them play with giant screens with JFK speeches and other weird shit, on hydraulic columns that raise and descend throughout the show and, most recently, with a giant pyramid made of LCD screens that twisted, turned and even collapsed on itself above the stage before enveloping the band before the encore. Not to mention, no Muse show is without tons of pyro and SO MANY LASERS!!! Although a unique and different style than Freddie, we can certainly see the same unapologetic, grandiose, flat out absurd scale at which Bellamy performs.
Although the verdict was out on whether or not Freddie was gay during his career, it cannot be understated the impact he had on society. By refusing to answer questions about his sexuality and skirting the topic with hilarious, sly responses, he not only downplayed his personal life in honor of what was more important (the music) but his attitude showed that the questions were pointless from the start. Gay or straight was besides the point, it was living life to its fullest that Freddie was after and he certainly didn’t take himself too seriously. He was once quoted saying, “The most important thing, darling, is to live a fabulous life. As long as it’s fabulous, I don’t care how long it is”.
This might also be telling of his self-destructive behavior, but certainly shows what Freddie was all about. Freddie has certainly become an inspiration in the gay community and his death from AIDS certainly brought attention to the issue but, if that is all you see in his legacy, I do believe you have missed the point…darling.
Bellamy is much more direct with his statements. For christ’s sake, his newest album is titled Drones, which references the role soldiers play in conflict and also the remote controlled killing machines themselves. Instead of personal freedom in relation to who one chooses to love, Bellamy seems to be fighting for humanity’s basic right to exist. Earlier Muse tunes like “Take a Bow” and “Assassin” alluded to government conspiracies and even aliens, where now the message seems to be much more point blank with songs like “Psycho” touching on brainwashing in the military. Like Mercury though, Bellamy is an affable, friendly kind of guy who doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously either. He appears more like your average, disillusioned citizen than a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but still stands his ground fearlessly. He was recently quoted as saying “I always perceived Obama as a likable guy…but he makes kill decisions”, referencing the drone strikes that have killed hundreds in the middle east.
Although they are very different artists with very unique styles, I see an incredible amount of similarities between Mercury and Bellamy. Have there been other people who can sing and play piano similar to Freddie? A few.
Are there other mega-huge bands that rock stadiums with elaborate shows? Ask Bono. Are there artists fighting for causes? Again, ask Bono. There isn’t anyone other than Bellamy, however, that has done it all and, in my opinion, no one has done it the way Bellamy has done it. Genuinely, unapologetically and with the flair of a man who gives absolutely zero fucks.
There will never be another Freddie Mercury. Period. But if we have to live in a world without him, at least we have Matthew Bellamy.
Written By Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski