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(Un)Covered: I Want to Break Free

“I Want to Break Free”
Writers: John Deacon
Original Release Date: April 2, 1984

I’m kicking off (Un)Covered 2017 with a majestic song that speaks to the feeling of leaving such a terrible year behind us: Queen’s “I Want to Break Free”.

You don’t have to be a big Queen fan to appreciate Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant vision. That being said, this single was actually written by bassist John Deacon, and it’s most famous for the accompanying video, which parodied the long-running British soap opera, Coronation Street. Structurally, the song is quite simple: there are three verses, all similar in length, and a bridge. There’s also a synthesizer solo two minutes in that leaves no doubt in the mind that this song was produced in the eighties, but it’s elements like this that makes Queen songs so memorable.  Interestingly, there are three versions of “I Want to Break Free”: the album version, which is just over three minutes long; this “regular” single version, (clocking in at four and a half minutes); and an extended seven minute long version which includes fragments of other songs. I’m not sure why they decided to release so many takes, but for such a simple song, it can provide hours of sing-along entertainment—no matter which version you’re listening to.

It’s so hard to imitate an icon like Freddie Mercury, so, while you can’t compare The Cab’s Alex DeLeon’s voice with that of Mr. Mercury, you have to give him credit for making a solid effort. The Cab’s cover features a more prominent piano and a different bass tone, but on a composite level, it’s identical to the classic version. There are less synthesizers, so it comes across as more contemporary and less like it’s stuck in 1984, and, by replacing the synths with guitars, it almost feels more mellow, like the lack of electronics took it from a triumphant anthem into a pop ballad territory.

Freddie Mercury’s vocals are pretty much unparalleled,, so I’d take my pick of any of Queen’s three versions before getting into The Cab (whatever happened to them anyway?).

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