Jan. 8 (UPI) — The success of Golden Globe-winning Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody has rocketed the music of Queen back into the popular zeitgeist, but evidence suggests the band and its classic rock contemporaries might owe much of their enduring appeal to the influence of social media.
Bohemian Rhapsody, which earned Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture — Drama and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for star Rami Malek on Sunday, led to its titular song making a fresh appearance in the pop charts for a third time since its release in 1975 — the second being in 1992, owing to the famous lip-synching scene in the film Wayne’s World.
Spotify said the popularity of the recent film sparked streaming of Queen’s music to surge by 333 percent, making them the No. 1 artist on the streaming service for two weeks. Some 70 percent of those listeners are under age 35 — too young to have experienced the album A Night at the Opera during its heyday.
The recent film can’t be the sole reason for Queen’s popularity on Spotify, however, as the band was the service’s top catalog artist from 2010 to July of 2018, pre-dating the release of the movie’s first trailer.
Ronald Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, offers some ideas as to why many young people are drawn to the “classic rock” more closely associated with their parents’ generation. Among them: Modern parents are more involved in their children’s lives, thereby exerting a larger influence on their artistic tastes; the 1960s and 1970s are “enshrined” as culturally significant in pop culture; and the Baby Boomer generation controls many of the largest media platforms consumed by young people, especially TV.
Many younger Queen fans, especially Millennials, cite exposure to the band’s music through songs — including “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions,” “We Will Rock You” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” — in popular films. Wayne’s World, D2: The Mighty Ducks, A Knight’s Tale, Small Soldiers, Shaun of the Dead are just a few of the popular films to rock Queen in their soundtracks.
The rise of an even younger fan base, Generation Z and beyond, also coincides with a major shift in the landscape of the music industry: the rise of social media and digital platforms such as YouTube. The Internet’s emergence as a musical force has undeniably had a powerful impact on the artistic development of young people.
A recent study by MusicWatch, a consumer research and analysis firm, suggests that music is a major part of most social media users’ online experiences. The survey of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram users found 9 out of 10 of the 800 respondents — 36 percent of whom were between ages 13 and 24 — use the apps for music-related activities.
The survey suggests a high percentage of social media users follow musicians, engage with official accounts, and even use the platforms to listen to and share favorite songs.
The 1975 music video for “Bohemian Rhapsody” was posted to Queen’s official YouTube channel in 2008 and has since racked up a staggering 791,798,330 views as of Tuesday, not including the numerous unofficial uploads from fans.
The official Twitter account for Queen has 1.66 million followers, while dozens of unofficial fan accounts add up to millions more — @freddiemercuryclub, an Instagram fan account dedicated to the band’s late lead singer, has 289,000 followers alone.
YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and even Reddit are rife with younger users — some not even old enough to drive — extolling their lifelong love of Queen and using the platforms to introduce some of their less-cultured peers to the chart toppers of yesteryear.
The social media posts, which come from young fans located all over the world, cite a variety of sources for their first introduction to Queen, including unexpected online encounters, such as an early trailer for 2016 DC Comics super hero film Suicide Squad, which was popular online and prominently featured Panic! At The Disco’s cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
In discussing what brought them into the fandom, many young fans on the Queen subreddit cited the same influence: YouTube.
“I kinda love the movie [Suicide Squad], so I listened to a few songs recommended on YouTube and the cover ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of Panic! At The Disco made me feel kinda overwhelming,” one fan wrote on Reddit. “Then, I found out that it was performed by Queen. From then on, I started liking hearing Queen’s songs.”
Another redditor, who was similarly introduced to Queen’s music via the Suicide Squad soundtrack on YouTube, said the cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” served as something of a gateway to the original.
“As I listened to it again and again, I fell in love with the song. I sang along the opera section, headbanged to the hard rock section then felt tired, and sat to listen to the melancholic end that ended with a powerful gong hit by that woman-looking drummer,” the fan wrote, referring to the then-long-haired percussionist Roger Taylor.