Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Songs #17 & 18 of 9999 - It's TWOsday!

Songs #17 of 9999                                Song #18 of 9999

Title: Under Pressure                            Title: Feel Like
Artist: Queen & David Bowie              Artist: Queen
Year: 1981                                            Year: 1981
Album: Hot Space                                Album: N/A - unreleased track

It's TWOsday, so I was going to feature two songs, but then I realized by featuring both David Bowie and Queen, I was fulfilling my self-imposed requirement for TWOsday with just one song. But then, while doing research about "Under Pressure," I came across the original idea for the track, a song called "Feel Like." So, I ended up with two songs anyway. It's complicated.

"Under Pressure" is one of my favorite songs of all time. The bass riff is famous of course, not only for propelling this song forward, but also for propping up Vanilla Ice during his 15 minutes of fame and taking the already active debate about sampling in the 80s to a higher level. But the reasons I love this song are more subtle. The key change at 2:10, the chords that play over over the pedal point at 0:56, the grand build-up at 2:55 (which is so Bowie). Not-so-subtle highlights are Freddie Mercury's vocal performance and the utter grandiosity that unfolds over four minutes. It's an amazing pop achievement, certainly on the level of even the most ambitious Beatles song.

The fact that much of this record evolved from improvisation between these two UK pop superpowers is a testament to the power of collaboration. Listening to the rough cut of "Feel Like" and getting a sense of where this song was headed, one can probably conclude safely that it would have been relegated to the B-side of a Queen catalog that was already on the wane. Whether "Under Pressure" is the "best song of all time" (as stated Stylus music critic Anthony Miccio) is questionable, but it may be the greatest collaboration between two rock artists and it certainly is a masterpiece of pop.

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