What Is Art?
Last week, I realized I have a superpower — I have the ability to absorb the wisdom of others, to extract the insights from their life, and to apply those insights to my own life. I can observe what skills empower others to find happiness and fulfillment in life, then develop those skills for myself.
Consequently, I have begun a quest to study the lives of the most inspiring individuals throughout history and around the world. After watching the film Bohemian Rhapsody, I was inspired to partake the mind of the incredible Freddie Mercury, as the first course in my Mind Tasting meal.
To learn more about Freddie Mercury’s life, I watched a couple documentaries on YouTube. These films taught me the details of his life, but I realized these films are stories by other people, about Freddie. This is not enough. I want to know and understand Freddie from his perspective. I want to understand his deepest thoughts, his motivations, his psyche. How can I learn about Freddie directly from the source?
Archaeologists have found cave paintings that date back over 30,000 years. Why is art a principal characteristic of human culture? What is art?
Before the development of language, art was the ancient human’s method of communication. This definition holds true today. Art is communication. Art is expression. Art is a medium to deliver a thought, an idea, a feeling, a vibe.
Freddie Mercury is highly regarded as one of the greatest artists in the history of popular music. He expressed himself through his singing, his songwriting, and his stage performance. Therefore, the best way to Mind Taste Freddie — to extract the insights of his life — is to decipher the messages in his art.
Freddie often emphasized he was not the leader of Queen. Yes, he was the lead singer, but Queen was equally Brian and Roger and John. However, individual songs were often written and conceptualized by one band member, and then fully developed as a group. The following is analysis of 4 songs in which Freddie Mercury is credited as the main songwriter.
Don’t Stop Me Now
Throughout his career, Freddie Mercury was criticized in many different ways — for his exuberant performance style, his flamboyant flair for fashion, his ambiguous sexuality, or his extravagant party lifestyle.
Don’t Stop Me Now is Freddie’s response to this criticism. He speaks directly to the listener:
“Don’t stop me now!” & “There’s no stopping me!”
He proclaims that his behavior is good spirited (“I’m having a good time”) and uses powerful, uncontrollable metaphors — shooting stars, rocket ships, and atom bombs — to explain he is simply expressing what would naturally explode out of him.
We can learn from Freddie’s mindset here. Although not all of us are star performers with international fame, the current landscape of social connectivity has increased the attention, and therefore criticism, that the average person must face. Freddie teaches us that outside opinions should not stop us from having a good time, from expressing ourselves, and from doing what makes us feel alive.
We Are The Champions
In psychology, positive affirmations have been shown to increase mood, performance, productivity, self awareness, and overall mental well being. Freddie Mercury didn’t study psychology, but he intuitively understood the power of positive affirmations, and wrote a song illustrating this power.
We Are The Champions begins — sonically and lyrically — in a darker tone. But then, the guitar and drums aggressively transition the listener to the chorus, behind the lyrics:
“And I need to go on and on, and on, and on.”
The combination of the drums and guitar symbolize the relentless and painful grind of life’s challenges, and the equally unwavering determination and perseverance required to overcome these challenges. All before the chorus, the glorious proclamation:
“WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!”
Freddie sings, “we” not “I”. He demonstrates inclusivity, encouraging his listeners to celebrate life’s wins with our friends. All the achievements in the world are worthless if we cannot appreciate our triumphs with our loved ones, and then inspire and champion their success. Together, we are the champions.
An examination of Freddie Mercury’s songwriting is incomplete without analysis of his most revered song, Bohemian Rhapsody.
Because of its prominence, there is no shortage of analysis and speculation on the meaning of Bohemian Rhapsody. However, when directly asked to explain the song, Freddie kept its meaning ambiguous and mysterious. He allowed the song to be interpreted in different ways depending on the listener. In this way, Freddie shows us that art is a special form of communication. Unlike language, where the intention is to provide a clear message, art leaves the true message open to interpretation, based not only on how the artist presents the message, but also on how that message relates to the consumer.
The details of the true meaning behind the bizarre lyrics and unusual music composition will forever be up for debate. For me, there is one clear insight we can gather from the song. The variety of styles of music presented in the different sections of Bohemian Rhapsody showcase Freddie’s mastery of songwriting. He blends dreamy psychedelic vocals, heartfelt lyrics, and vibrant guitar riffs, with dramatic opera and hard rock.
Freddie’s masterpiece demonstrates that the most creative and innovative art derives from many sources of inspiration. Art is not mimicry; art is synthesis. An artist does not produce what already exists; an artist imagines something original. Freddie gives us permission to draw from all of our influences and create something uniquely special.
Mother Love was Freddie Mercury’s final vocal performance, which he recorded six months before death. Brian May, who co-wrote the song with Freddie, explained that upon reaching the final verse, Freddie told May he had to go and “have a rest”, but he would return later to finish it. Freddie never made it back to the studio, and May ended up singing the last verse on the track.
Freddie was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987; he spent 4 years knowing his days were numbered. Yet, in these final years, he was still writing songs, still recording with Queen. How was Freddie able to continue work as an artist even while facing death?
Freddie created art for as long as he could because art is not work; art is therapy. Expressing oneself is healthy for mind, body, and spirit.
Art is healing. Art is revitalization. Art is fulfillment.
Art is a snapshot of the mind of the artist in that moment in time. Art also exists outside of time. Art lives forever. Art is our legacy. When an artist passes, their art serves as a lasting memory for the world to forever appreciate.
Art is the life of Freddie Mercury. Died 45 years young. Died with the love and admiration of millions of fans, who can no longer share this love with him directly. Even so, his spirit lives forever through his art; we can share our love by singing his songs, by analyzing his lyrics, by watching and re-watching his performances on YouTube.
Most of all, we can remember Freddie Mercury by embodying his way of life: by embracing our wild side even when critics try to stop us; by believing in the champion inside all of us; by expressing our uniqueness through synthesis of our inspirations; and by creating art until our dying days.