Merry Christmas vs Bohemian Rhapsody

Someone once said to me that the lyrics to songs these days are shallow and meaningless (or words to that effect) compared to the lyrics from when he was a youth, so I thought that I’d compare today’s number one song to that of thirty years ago.

Ed Sheeran is the chart’s darling at the moment. After taking a year off from music to be with his wife and family he stormed back in 2021 with a new clutch of songs. I think (I’ve not checked) that every single he released last year went to number one and he knocked himself off the top spot twice in the process of racking up double figures at #1. As we speak (aka type and read) he and Elton John (who is also having a very successful year) are up there with a song called Merry Christmas.

Thirty years ago today, it was the turn of Queen to rule (sorry) the roost. Their song Bohemian Rhapsody was at the top for five weeks at the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992. I don’t know much about what else they were doing that year, but I do remember that the video to this song looked great on Top of the Pops and the lyrics were exquisitely nuanced and delicate. In other words, I had no idea what they were yammering on about. That said, the song was great to sing along to and I just about know (wrongly as it turns out) all the words off by heart.

So, how do the lyrics compare?

Merry Christmas:

Opening lines:
Build the fire
and gather ’round the trees
Fill the glass
and maybe come and sing with me.

The chorus:
Dance in the kitchen while embers glow
We’ve both known love, but this love we got is the best of all
I wish you could see it through my eyes, then you would know
My God, you look beautiful
Right now, Merry Christmas.

Closing lines:
It’s Christmastime for you and I
We’ll have a good night and a Merry Christmastime

Bohemian Rhapsody:

Opening lines:
Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landside,
No escape from reality.

The chorus:
Erm, actually there isn’t a chorus. No words are repeated (aside from the odd Scaramouch and Galileo) in the sense of them embodying a theme or central message, with the only (unlikely) candidate being this:
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go
(Let him go!) Bismillah! We will not let you go

Closing lines:
Nothing really matters, Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows…

When I think about it, I’m inclined to both agree and disagree with that certain someone who said that today’s lyrics have a certain shallowness about them compared to the vintage stuff. On the basis of what Ed and Freddie served up, you can clearly see that Freddie had the edge in terms of depth. There’s a lot of substance to what he was saying in Bohemian Rhapsody compared to the rather formulaic fare that Ed is providing.

On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea, to this day, what Freddie’s song was banging on about. I mean, what on earth is a scaramouch, never mind a bismillah?! There’s surely a lot of depth there, but is it meaningful depth? Nah, not at all; unless, of course, you’re a scholar or sumfink. Ed, on the other hand, speaks to us all when he sings. He’s evoking here the very meaning of Christmas: gathering together, seeing the best in one another, experiencing a good time and having a bit of tipple while we’re doing it. So many images that are so meaningful to every one of us.

So, in conclusion, admittedly on a very small sample, today’s lyrics and shallow and meaningful and the lyrics from thirty years ago are deep and meaningless. How about we just call it a draw.

7 thoughts on “Merry Christmas vs Bohemian Rhapsody

  1. Scaramoosh was a ref to an opera??, if I recall, and of course, the use of the term BismilAllah was likely to emphasize the idea of justice being done without mercy, which the western world has of Islam (this is a phrase that my Turkish friends always use in prayer, as it starts the phrase ‘In the name of God, the Merciful…’), despite the irony that that is the very term which introduces the title of Merciful God. So, I’d definitely side with Freddy, along with the fact that the song is being sung by a murderer awaiting execution.
    Thanks for the interesting post!

    (sorry, I’ve been editing, and spotted your comment to one of my posts, but haven’t yet had time to edit: was correcting a lesson plan when I saw this post! lol!)
    Best,
    S.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, S – you’ve really opened my eyes here! I didn’t realise any of what you said. That’s really great that you took the trouble to explain – thanks a lot. I don’t suppose any of us need Ed Sheeran’s song explaining. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t know about you but when it comes to terms with Indian songs, the ‘Old is gold’ suits me better because I agree with that certain someone too. My friends keep telling me that I’ve been born in the wrong generation because of that xD

    Liked by 2 people

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