Graded on a Curve: Freddie Mercury,
Mr. Bad Guy

A Freddie Mercury solo album? Hot damn! I didn’t even know such a creature existed until I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week. And immediately thought, “Man, that album has just got to be shit! I’d better listen to it right now!”

And guess what? 1985’s Mr. Bad Guy IS shit, and what makes it even worse is the fact that it was two years in the making. That said it’s relatively good-natured shit; if it seems Freddie’s working too hard and getting nowhere throughout, to his credit he has tongue firmly planted in cheek (watch out for that overbite!).

One thing you can’t accuse Mercury of is trying to recreate the Queen sound without Queen; on the other hand, he seems to be slumming. Most of the LP is either your standard flatulent mid-’80s shlock (lots of over the top ballads) or sleazy Eurodisco. Warning to fans of Queen’s rock operatic bombast–there’s not a single rock song on the album. And there’s no opera either!

Just a few electric guitar touches here and there, and (for all you opera fans) the ersatz “Bohemian Rhapsody” substitute that is the title cut, which dispenses with both figaro and magnifico in favor of a symphonic shlock and proceeds to plod, plod, plod. “Mr. Bad Guy” is to “Bohemian Rhapsody” what Alvin Stardust is to Ziggy Stardust. Aside from the amusing lyrics this clunker has nothing to offer the world, and I can hardly believe Freddie expended his vocal chords on it when he could have just soon covered Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

And things get worse. None of the overwrought ballads sway me; “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow” is sheer bombast, “Man Made Paradise” ain’t bad but hardly lives up to its wonderful “It’s Raining Men” title, “My Love Is Dangerous” is a reggaefied bore until the tempo kicks up a coupla notches and the electric guitar comes in, and the abysmal “Foolin’ Around” could be the archetypal bad ’80s pop song what with its trite synthesizer touches and boring drum drum drum (Producer: “Pick up the tempo, boys! And what’s that awful sucking sound?”)

As for, “Made in Heaven,” it’s okay if your tastes run to gooey ballads. “There Must Be More to Life Than This” works as existential kitsch but ain’t no “Dust in the Wind,” and the strings are bathetic. (Footnote: A Jackson-Mercury duet on “There Must Be More to Life Than This” was recorded but dropped by Mercury–ostensibly because he didn’t like working with the llama Jackson insisted upon bringing to the studio!)

Meanwhile, “Your Kind of Lover” is treacle masquerading as cocktail lounge balladry, or should that be cocktail lounge balladry masquerading as treacle, that is until it segues into (WOW!) a big dance number that owes a big debt (as do all of the upbeat numbers) to Michael Jackson.

And speaking of dance numbers: Freddie’s obviously wants to show off his disco bad self on this one, and that’s fine by me–ain’t no law says he can’t do the bump if he wants. Hell, I applaud him for doing something different. Trouble is most of the dance songs aren’t good dance songs; “Living on My Own” is the best of the bunch by far, and even it has a secondhand feel to it, but be sure to check out the video cuz flames come out of his eyes! “I Was Born to Love You,” meanwhile, isn’t exactly a disco call to arms, while “Let’s Turn It On” is a Thriller outtake at best.

No wonder I never knew this album existed. It’s about as useless as a Mick Jagger solo album, or a Roger Daltrey solo album, or a Jim Dandy Magnum solo album even, although I’d buy a Jim Dandy Magnum solo album in a heartbeat because it would be great! Which isn’t to say Mr. Bad Guy will not be of interest for Queen fans, or serve as a chilling cautionary tale for musicians who think they can do without the other musicians they’ve climbed to the top with.

Top US chart position: 159!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D+

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  • dan_oz

    “what Alvin Stardust is to Ziggy Stardust.” Yes!
    Never having heard this and with only your blow by blow description to go on, I think I could still safely rate this album as somewhat less useless than She’s The Boss.

    • Michael Little

      Hilarious! Thanks Dan!

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