Greatest Video Hits

BY Ian GormelyPublished Nov 12, 2012

Few '70s hard rock bands weathered the onslaught of MTV as well as Queen. Of course, this coincided with an increasingly pop-oriented sound that, while turning off hordes of long-running, longhaired fans, certainly produced some memorable singles, even if their albums suffered in comparison. Greatest Video Hits splits Queen's enormous trove of promo clips onto two DVDs. Roughly sequenced by date, the first disc, purists would argue, contains their best songs, while the second, as anyone with two eyes can see, houses the superior videos. That being said, the collection kicks off with "Bohemian Rhapsody," which remains the most iconic video (and song) in their massive catalogue. The floating heads in the "opera" section of the clip are especially impressive given the nascent level of effects in music videos in 1975. But most of the video is soundstage performance footage, ditto for "Another One Bites the Dust," "Tie Your Mother Down" and "Fat Bottom Girls," all of which rely upon Freddie Mercury's over-the-top frontman antics to carry the load. As things progress, increasingly interesting visual presentations slowly make their way into Queen's videos, but it's clear that there's limited vision beyond superimposing the group in front of flames. Queen's '80s video output is rarely embarrassing, which is a great deal more than can be said about other acts from the era, but the quartet didn't hit their visual stride until 1984's The Works. Although it flopped in the U.S., it was a massive hit in Europe, thanks to singles like "Radio Ga Ga" and its Fritz Lang-inspired video, and "I Want to Break Free," where the band infamously dressed in drag to spoof Coronation Street. What's interesting watching all these clips back to back is how Mercury slowly begins to flirt with gay iconography, particularly the black leather of "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" or adopting short black hair and a moustache for much of the decade. Meanwhile, the rest of the group, and bassist John Deacon, in particular, seem content to fade into the background, whether it's soundstage or sets inspired by the original Highlander movie, for which Queen provided the soundtrack. More curious is the absence of clips from the band's final album during Mercury's lifetime, Innuendo, perhaps due to the singer's gaunt look in some videos and the recycled footage that clutters others. As fun as it is to watch a group slowly adapt to a new medium, this collection offers no other features, rendering it pretty superfluous to anyone with a web connection.
(Eagle Vision)

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