What Can We Learn from Freddy Mercury, Rami Malek, Queen, Bohemiam Rhapsody?
Well, I can’t stop thinking about Bohemian Rhapsody. Which is an impressive sign of its visceral impact. It’s been a long time sine a movie has “stayed” with me this long. So, I did what writers do, I wrote about it. Hope you find this intriguing and useful.
Have you seen Bohemiam Rhapsody? I highly recommend it, especially if you “take notes” on why Freddy Mercury and Rami Malek are such phenomenal performers. If you will be speaking or performing in public, you can learn a lot from their incredible example. Notice how Mercury:
1 .OWNS THE STAGE: Robert Frost said, “No joy in the writer, no joy in the reader. Well, no joy in the performer, no joy in the audience. Freddy clearly LOVES what he’s doing, He had fun, so we do too.
Instead of staying locked behind a lectern, (which would reduce him to being a talking/singing head), he uses the whole stage as if he was born to do this. You can’t take your eyes off him because he is so clearly in his element. When you speak, don’t pace, prowl. Own the stage so you command our attention.
2. PUMPS HIMSELF UP BEFORE A PERFORMANCE: While waiting in the wings, Freddy jumps up and down to energize himself, mentally and physically.
Some speakers spend the minutes before a speech thinking, “I hope I don’t forget what I’m supposed to say. What if no one listens? I’m so nervous.” They talk themselves into a state of dread by focusing on their fears. What’s worse, they practice in front of a mirror (badvice) which makes them self-conscious.
Instead, be like Fred. Get out of your head and into your body. Loosen up by moving around. Walk and talk while telling yourself how excited and grateful you are for this opportunity so you take the stage with an eager confidence and have people at hello.
3. DOESN’T SCRIPT HIS MOVES IN ADVANCE: Actor Rami Malek said the film producers had initially hired choreographers to coach his dancing. But after studying videos, Malek realized that Freddy didn’t plan his moves beforehand. He believed it would lock him into pre-prescribed routines that would feel fake and forced. He preferred to be in the moment so he could respond to the moment.
As a result of his spontaneity, it’s like watching live TV. We are on the edge of our seats because we don’t know what’s coming next. That’s because he didn’t know what was coming next.
Some speakers choreograph their gestures, which can seem contrived. Your gestures will flow naturally if you put yourself back in the scene of the story you’re telling and relive what happened. You won’t even have to think about gestures, they’ll emerge organically from the moment if you respond to what’s happening in the room in the moment.
4. GIVES HIS AUDIENCE A VOICE AND A ROLE. Some speakers adopt a “sage on the stage” approach. They’re almost like professors, “I’m the expert here, you’re not. Be quiet and take notes.” They’re essentially delivering a monologue with witnesses. This approach borders on arrogance and creates a top-down division with the audience.
In the movie, Queen band members create a way to engage the crowd with a rhythmic foot stomp and hand claps so they’re part of the performance instead of being apart from the performance. As a result, they feel included instead of excluded. Queen creates a connected community where everyone feels they’re contributing to what’s happening, instead of simply watching it.
How about you? How can you turn a monologue into a dialogue? How can you interact with your audience and give them a chance to participate instead of just spectate?
5. IS NOT CONTENT WITH BEING COMMON. In an inspired scene, Freddy shares his creative vision for the six minute (unheard of at the time) Bohemian Rhapsody.,He pitches it as having “the power of opera, the wit of Shakespeare, the unbridled joy of musical theater.”
Mercury understood that people yearn for the next new thing. They are tired of hearing the same old thing. He fervently believed we have a responsibility to be a visionary on behalf of our art and industry. Doing the new may be risky, but going stale isn’t an option.
As Byron Katie says, “Don’t be careful. You could hurt yourself.”
Although Bohemian Rhapsody was initially panned by critics, it resonated with people, and of course, has gone on to become one of the most famous anthems in rock history.
How about you? Are you playing it safe, being careful, sticking with familiar content or material you’ve performed for years?
Is it time to try something new? To disrupt what you’re doing and experiment with something that is more visionary, more creative?
6. THROWS HIS HEART OVER THE FENCE. Malek noted that Mercury never had his head down, gazing only at the first three rows. He looked up and out and sang to the people at the back and in the top rows of the stadium.
There is a saying in show jumping. “Why would a horse jump over a fence when he can’t see what’s on the other side? He’ll do it if the rider throws his heart over the fence first.”
Why was Mercury able to enthrall every single person, even in a huge stadim? Because he threw his heart, voice and eyes over the fence. He invested his soul in what he was singing. He didn’t just mouth the words, he meant them.
When you perform, project your voice to the back of the room. Make eye contact with every single person. If it’s a large crowd, look at each section of the crowd. If you don’t, people will feel excluded, like you’re not talking to them. It’s only a matter of time before their digital devices come out. If you immerse yourself in the experience and fill the room with your heartfelt intent, everyone will be “with” you, they’ll be entrained.
So, when will you be speaking or performing next?
What will you do to pump yourself up beforehand, to engage every single person in the room, and to look forward to this opportunity so people ride on the coat-tails of your confidence, energy and conviction?