I recently watched Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic about the legendary Freddie Mercury, and the message that resonated with me the most about the film is the importance of staying true to one’s vision.
When coming up with the iconic song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Freddie Mercury drew from his love of opera, mixing musical genres to include everything from a ballad section to a hard rock anthem. The song defies norms, though in the movie we see how a music executive refused to release it as the lead single from the band’s album, A Night at the Opera. He criticized it for being six minutes long, twice as long as the typical three-minute standard song format, and the fact that there was no chorus.
Despite the criticism, Freddie Mercury adamantly stood by his creative vision. When the song was first released on the radio in 1975, it was initially met with mixed reviews from critics. In the movie, snippets of particularly negative reviews appear on screen. I was honestly in awe reading them, and yet, despite all of that, “Bohemian Rhapsody” went on to become not only Queen’s most popular song, but considered one of the all-time greatest rock songs.
I can only imagine how incredible an experience it must’ve been to see Queen perform live, or at the very least hearing that iconic song for the first time on the radio. I happen to remember the first time I myself heard it. I was 17, and incidentally, how it took that long for me to discover this classic rock song is beyond me. I was, of course, familiar with Queen, but really the only two songs I knew by them when I was younger were “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You.”
I had been working out at the gym with my mom, absently listening to the music blaring as it does to motivate the patrons while working out, when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on. I was honestly entranced to the point where I stopped and just listened to it. I remember asking my mom what the song was, and she told me to keep listening, that it was like several songs in one with each of the sections. I remember thinking how unbelievably cool that was.
It just goes to show the power of taking risks. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is just one of so many pieces of art—whether that art is a song or a movie or a painting or anything—that epically defies its genre and stands the test of time. It’s no wonder there’s risk involved when going against the grain of what people have come to look for in a certain genre of music (or book, TV show, etc.; you get the idea). Freddie Mercury was an absolute musical genius, but just as importantly, he had the passion and determination and drive to break the mold and turn his vision into a reality. The greatest thing is to see so many people embrace that vision and have it inspire them.
To that point, I was reminded of a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, which is: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” It’s a matter of knowing the rules of a genre inside and out so that you can do something different with it and truly stand out. And when you work up the courage to put your art out there, even if it’s not an instant success, what’s important is that you’ve created something that truly speaks to you. It’s about believing in your vision so strongly that you’ll stand by it no matter what the critics say. In doing so, you can not only break the mold yourself by reaching people with your art, but likely even influence others to create something revolutionary of their own.
Thus is the true power of art.