Freddie Mercury: The Experimental Genius

Abigail Swanson
4 min readDec 1, 2016

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen till 1991, was an experimental genius. A experimental genius is a person who uses trial and error with no clear goal as a way to create their work. On top of not having a goal, they are never satisfied with their final product and are known to revisit old works. That definition is based off information found in Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast episode 7, Hallelujah, of Revisionist History. During his lifetime he wrote many songs including: We Are the Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Don’t Stop Me Now, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Somebody to Love. Freddie Mercury never really went into songwriting with a clear picture in his head. Which lead to experimenting with his songs and making them work.

Songwriting was both a group effort and an individual one within the band, Queen. With that being said, Freddie Mercury commented that “I think, in a funny way, when we do a Queen album they are like four solo project within themselves…So it is like four little solo project working side by side then we put them all together.” Due to that, it is a fair statement to say that Freddie Mercury deals with songwriting quite a lot. Also, add in the fact that many of his songs became popular and still are popular 20 to 30 years after they were written. In some aspects the songs he wrote proved that he was at least a genius; however, this particular quote does not point to what type of genius. Proof that Freddie Mercury was an experimental genius showed when he gave an interview about his songwriting, “I write songs the way I feel it, if it means a song that I like needs something that is old fashion still do it.” According to the quote, it seems that he puts his current mood into a song. Due to the fact that people can not predict what type of mood they are in ahead of time it makes it seem as if he spontaneously writing songs instead of following a detailed plans that were laid ahead of time. Later, his sporadic song writing is proven by an article in Clash magazine that basically said that Freddie Mercury’s assistant was required to always have a pen and paper with them in case he was inspired randomly. This practice lead to some of the lyrics to the song, Life is Real. Which again agrees with the fact that there was no direct course of action for a song if he could randomly become inspired. That is mostly based on the fact that if a plan has already been laid out then there is no need for new inspiration until starting the next project.

Freddie Mercury later said in an interview, “I’d never let the song down, the song comes first.” He is saying that as he is writing the a song that he put everything he has into it no matter if it goes against his original plans for a song. Thus, reinforcing the earlier statement that he doesn’t have a clear, detailed plan about where the songs are headed; however, a new piece of evidence that he is an experimental genius is also presented within the quote. The use of trial and error throughout the songwriting process, is another way that Freddie Mercury was an experimental genius. If Freddie Mercury was to not putting the song first, as he claims he did, then he would be okay with whatever the first draft sounded like. Since he put the song first, it must mean that he experimented with the songs to create the sound he wanted. This idea is reinforced by an interview about writing Bohemian Rhapsody, “It was basically three songs that I wanted to put out and I just put the three together.” Originally Freddie Mercury had written three individual songs, but when they weren’t good enough to make it on the album he toyed with the three different songs and ended up making a one song out of all three that later became one of Queen’s most popular songs. Of course there was most likely plenty of trial and error while finding perfect combination of the three songs, but he persisted until Bohemian Rhapsody was the final product.

On top of the fact that Freddie Mercury didn’t have a plan when writing and that he used trial and error in order to achieve his goal, he rewrote and revisited songs after they were already finished. Songs that Freddie Mercury wrote that were later revisited are songs such as In the Lap of the Gods, which later became In the Lap of the Gods Revisited, and It’s a Beautiful Day which became It’s a Beautiful Day (Reprise). By revising songs that he wrote he did what a normal experimental genius did and changed the song to make it better for his own standards. He created many of Queen’s most popular songs, but still was never satisfied with his work. He once said while being interviewed, “I just feel that I’m not equipped to do things that John Lennon did.” Proving that he wasn’t even willing to compare himself with what he considered to be a great artist. Since he wasn’t willing to compare himself to John Lennon, it means that he wasn’t completely satisfied with the music that he put out. The dissatisfaction with his work is a common trait between experimental geniuses, once again supporting the fact that Freddie Mercury was an experimental genius. With all the fact considered, it should not be hard to say that Freddie Mercury was an experimental genius through and through.