The Story of Freddie Mercury’s Solo Debut, ‘Mr. Bad Guy’
Freddie Mercury's debut was the perfect solo album, in that it became a outlet for his inclination toward non-rock music away from Queen and never threatened his group's integrity. In fact, it may have gotten Queen back on track.
Released on April 29, 1985, Mr. Bad Guy featured Mercury singing dance songs and anthem-sized ballads during a Queen hiatus, and handling all songwriting, as well as keyboards, orchestrations and some engineering duties. It served as a reminder of his rangy, often-overlooked skills in the studio, and as an expansion of the more lightly regarded elements of Queen's most recent LP, 1982's pop-focused Hot Space.
Only the expectations for a Mercury project were decidedly different. Queen had always balanced their dizzying array of influences with healthy dollops of straight-ahead guitar and drums. Mercury was, outside of a forgotten 1973 single, an unknown solo entity, and happy to be less than the sum of those parts.
Mr. Bad Guy became a labor of love, as Mercury took almost two years to pick and choose which portions of his Queen legacy intrigued him most. In the meantime, he scored a No. 10 U.K. hit with the 1984 solo single "Love Kills," though bandmates Brian May and Roger Taylor appeared on that session. Mercury's care paid off when Mr. Bad Guy matched Hot Space's U.K. Top 10 finish and went gold, and "I Was Born to Love You" became a No. 11 hit overseas. His attention to detail is reflected in song narratives, which take on a much more personal lyrical focus than anything Mercury had ever committed to a Queen song.
Still, Mercury's dedication to his main band remained. He dutifully dropped everything as Queen convened for subsequent projects like 1984's The Works, an album that – after Mercury's interest in dance music had been sated – returned to the group's rock roots. Beyond May and Taylor's contributions, Mr. Bad Guy also featured sideman Fred Mandel, who had earlier worked with May's Star Fleet Project and would also be featured on The Works. Just a few months later, Mercury was fronting his old band once again when Queen took the stage at Live Aid.
In the years since Mercury's 1991 death after a bout with AIDS, Queen's connection with Mr. Bad Guy has grown. Mercury's debut solo album has proven to be a treasure trove for posthumous releases. Both "I Was Born to Love You" and "Made in Heaven" were later updated by Queen's surviving members for 1995's Made in Heaven. And a discarded collaboration with Michael Jackson from the Mr. Bad Guy sessions, "There Must Be More to Life Than This," ended up on 2014's Queen Forever, as did the 1984 single "Love Kills."
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