As Queen prepares to drop its first album without singer and founding member Freddie Mercury, the band's influence on contemporary rock music is pervasive. Much of that influence can be traced to the Queen ethic, which insisted that widely disparate musical styles could make strange but accommodating bedfellows. Moreover, a rampant experimental modus operandi needn't preclude one from making music that still qualified as pop.
We might not hear much of this sort of thing in the mainstream, but the fringes of modern rock and pop -- where the best work is being done, nine times out of 10 -- is rife with nods to the Queen legacy. Here are a few examples of the band's continued resonance and relevance:
Jellyfish, "Spilt Milk" (Charisma records, 1993)
Though this record was released shortly after Freddie Mercury passed away, it, more than any other rock album of the past 20 years, is literally dripping with Queen references. The massive, multitracked vocal harmonies, heroic guitar figures and general sense of wildly creative giddiness combine to form what is once a tribute to Queen and a record that stands as one of the most joyous of the '90s.
Rufus Wainwright, "Want One" (Dreamworks, 2003)
The shadow of Freddie Mercury's talent hangs over all of Rufus Wainwright's campy chamber pop catalog but is most amply evident during the beautiful "Want One" album. On this record, Wainwright fully embraced the lush, grandiose production ethics favored by Queen, particularly during the heart-rending masterpiece "Go Or Go Ahead."
The Arcade Fire, "Neon Bible" (Merge/Rough Trade, 2007)
Though it owes just as much to David Bowie, U2 and moody '80s alternative rock, the Arcade Fire's overarching sense of musical ambition and its tendency toward the arena-sized and bombastic reveals a debt to Queen. The immaculately produced "Neon Bible" offers a suitable case in point.
The Flaming Lips, "The Soft Bulletin" (Warner Bros., 1999)
Wayne Coyne and Co. began life as a post-punk band with tendencies toward the avant-garde, but by the time they released the stunning "Soft Bulletin" album, musicianship had grown to match attitude, and a Queen influence could be spotted. In fact, that album's "The Gash" bears the mark quite plainly.
Of Montreal, "Skeletal Lamping" (Polyvinyl, 2008)
Of Montreal mastermind Kevin Barnes wears his admiration for Freddie Mercury plainly on his sleeve. This just-released magnum opus packs in more Queen allusions and innuendos than one mere mortal can count.
Mercury Rev, "The Secret Migration" (V2, 2005)
There are myriad influences at play in the music of Mercury Rev, but the career-defining grandeur of "The Secret Migration" deftly factors a bit of Queen magic into the equation. "The Climbing Rose" and "Diamonds" make no explicit references to Queen, but somehow, they seem a logical extension of that band's best work.