Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 Essential Albums by LGBTQ Artists, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Considering that the qualifier “LGBTQ” can often be open to various interpretations, for the purposes of this particular list, we have defined an artist as LGBTQ if he, she or they have ever publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Moreover, albums by groups have been included in the list if any of their members fit the aforementioned criteria, even if some members do not.
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QUEEN | A Night at the Opera
Selected by Justin Chadwick
Not that their ever-loyal legion of devotees have ever wavered in their dedication to the band, but Queen’s legacy has received an impressive influx of renewed (and newfound) interest over the past year, thanks to the highly-decorated, multiple Academy Award-winning 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. And while the larger-than-life persona of frontman Freddie Mercury was—and remains—the central force behind the band’s mystique, it is their discography, namely their impressive run of albums during their peak 1970s period, beginning with their eponymous debut in 1973 and ostensibly concluding with 1977’s News of the World, that truly defines their eternal place in rock & roll lore.
While any of the six albums during this hot streak would be fair game for this list, I’m opting for their fourth LP, A Night at the Opera, on the undeniable strength of its creative ambition and adventurous pivot from its three predecessors. A genre-bending potpourri of musical inspirations, the album could be construed as a recalibration and rebirth of sorts for the group, both creatively and commercially, seeing as they were infamously bankrupt leading up to its creation thanks to misguided business contracts that they eventually sorted out.
Highlights abound across the set’s twelve compositions, all buoyed by Mercury’s distinctive, versatile voice, which is in flawless, fabulous form throughout. Chief among the standouts are the headrush of an opening salvo “Death In Two Legs (Dedicated to…),” the uplifting, Wurlitzer driven pop love song “You’re My Best Friend,” the musical theater indebted “Seaside Rendezvous,” and of course, the anthemic, shapeshifting and very much operatic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the set’s most universally recognizable offering.
Met with lukewarm critical reception upon its release, many have come to recognize A Night at the Opera as the band’s greatest studio achievement and one of the most vital rock & roll records ever made. Concluding, fittingly, with their rendition of the UK national/royal anthem “God Save the Queen,” a convincing case can be made that A Night at the Opera may just have saved Queen’s career, affording them the ensuing global stardom and financial stability they so rightfully deserved.