Any Way the Wind Blows: Covers of Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody might be the most iconic Queen song ever recorded. At a length of 5:55, and with six sections, and a blending of several pop and rock genres, Bohemian Rhapsody was an ambitious song to say the least. Regardless, any way the wind blows…we know we love this song, and we’re not the only ones. A quick look on Second Hand Song shows 151 different cover versions of Bohemian Rhapsody. While I’ll never get through all these covers, I’ve bravely decided to tackle a few of the more iconic, interesting, and just plain weird versions of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Anyway the wind blows, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody is a masterpiece.
©1975 – EMI

Original Version – Queen (1975)

Let’s start by looking at the orginal. Those who’ve seen the movie, know the story, or even seen the movie, know the song Bohemian Rhapsody was a labor of love and an major artistic achievement by Freddie Mercury.

The storyline of Bohemian Rhapsody follows the thoughts of a convict as he goes through the judicial system. We see him in his cell, awaiting trial…we see him in the trial, we hear his angry thoughts after the verdict, and we finally see him accept his fate. Six distinct sections that make up Bohemian Rhapsody: an intro, a ballad, a guitar solo, an operatic section, a heavy metal section, and finally an outro of reflection.

If I were to pay attention to every great and magnificent thing about the original Queen version, this article would probably reach 10,000 words. Instead, let me concentrate on some of the greatest parts of the song.

Firstly, the intro eases us into the song, with all four members of Queen singing acapella. The intro also gives us an almost false sense of security as we don’t expect what’s in store for us!

Another of the greatest parts of Bohemian Rhapsody comes alive in the ballad section. The raw emotions we hear – we really feel an empathy for the convict, as he talks to his mother. Lines such as “I don’t want to die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all,” just hurts our hearts.

Thirdly, the transition between the guitar solo and the opera section clash…and yet it works. We see the convict (through the change in sounds) go from his quiet, peaceful cell, to his very noisy, rowdy, chaotic trial. Its jarring, but the drama serves a purpose.

Finally, more emotions. Anger in the hard rock portion, and acceptance in the outro. As the outro fades into nothingness, we hear the a line repeated from the ballad – this time with a sense of nihilism. Nothing really matters to me. The gong at the end signifies the convict’s journey is at an end.

Cover – Weird Al Yankovic (1993)

Officially called “Bohemian Polka,” Weird Al’s version breaks one of his biggest rules. Weird Al never records straight up, full length covers. He does covers in concert, certainly, and of course Yankovic does parodies. Weird Al even does snippets of songs in his polkas, but never a full length song. We don’t quite know why Weird Al broke his own rule with Bohemian Polka. Perhaps because this song is a polka, and is separated into section. Perhaps Yankovic went this route because Bohemian Rhapsody was on its second wave of popularity due to the movie “Wayne’s World.”

Regardless, Weird Al’s cover of Bohemian Rhapsody (Polka) sounds….weird. Again, Weird Al does a polka version, though he somehow keeps five of the six sections in tact. Oh sure, the ballad is not a ballad as the tempo is really faster. In fact, the Opera section actually has a slower tempo than the “ballad” section. Weird Al also omits the guitar solo. Still. five sections are there, even if the genres of the song have changed. Any way the wind blows, Weird Al’s version of Bohemian Rhapsody makes us want to roll out the barrel.

Cover – Montserrat Caballé and Bruce Dickinson (1997)

A different approach on the “classical meets rock” melding of Bohemian Rhapsody, opera singer Montserrat Caballé invites Iron Maiden vocalist to explore the song as a duet. Caballé takes the more classically oriented intro and opera portions, whereas Dickinson sings most of the ballad and the hard rock. During the second part of the ballad and the outro, the duo swap lines. If you like both genres (opera and metal), you should approve of this cover. Honestly, all I can say is wow!

The music, for the most part, is classical in nature. Lots of orchestra type of instruments, save for the hard rock section – which is full on hard rock. Perhaps the best part of this cover of Bohemian Rhapsody comes in the appeal to the masses. This duet takes two forms of music (heavy metal and opera) that can be quite inaccessible to non fans, and makes them palatable. Essentially, that’s what the original Bohemian Rhapsody, and the genre of progressive pop, is all about….taking the inaccessibility of progressive rock and bringing it to the masses. Any way the wind blows, Caballé and Dickinson truly capture the spirit of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cover – The Flaming Lips (2006)

The Flaming Lips begin Bohemian Rhapsody a little differently. There’s an organ before any vocals start. While this is a small change, it’s still significant. After all, the intro sets the tone. The harmonizing on the intro, also sounds lacking – Granted, this might have to do with the fact that Wayne Coyne does not have a classical friendly voice.

Still, The Flaming Lips try to capture the spirit of Bohemian Rhapsody. This is especially apparent in the opera. Again, Coyne (and the rest of The Flaming Lips) don’t really harmonize that well. Instead, they exaggerate the parts. At times, the opera portion sounds nightmarish, like Muppets on a bad drug trip. Then again, this adds to the horror of the section. After all, this is the court passing judgement (most likely a death sentence) on the now convicted murderer.

Back at the ballad portion, despite the fact that Conye does not have a classically trained voice, we still get the raw emotions portrayed in the original. We get the regret, the fear, the anxiety. We almost hear Conye crying through the lyrics!

Of course, as a psychedelic rock outfit, The Flaming Lips do an adequate job on the hard rock section! The section sounds natural, and effortless.

Finally, the outro. As we hear Conye sing the line “any way the wind blows,” we get a harmonization with himself. This brings us an almost ethereal sound. While the original never gives us evidence that the outro might be the convict’s last words (before the execution), we certainly get that impression at the end of the Flaming Lips version. Anyway the wind blows, despite its flaws, The Flaming Lips cover of Bohemian Rhapsody does the song justice.

Cover – Emilie Autumn (2008)

Emilie Autumn, who describes her music as “fantasy rock” or “Victoriandustrial,” gives us essentially a steampunk cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. Using harpsichords, auto harmonizing, and a string section, the sound transports us to almost a different timeline. Autumn’s Bohemian Rhapsody sounds modern, with electric guitars mind you – but somehow based in the 18th century.

This disconnect from our own timeline, however, gives us a new way to experience the convict’s world. The convict, after all, feels as though none of what is happening is real. The first lines of Bohemian Rhapsody are “Is this just real life, is this just fantasy?” Any way the wind blows, Emilie Autumn really captures the surreal nature of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cover / Parody – The Muppets (2009)

We all know the Muppets version of Bohemian Rhapsody is a joke, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find some sort of merit. After all…this was not the first time the Muppets covered the song, so they have to have learned something about it….but I digress.

We start off with Gonzo singing the intro with some of his chicken girlfriends clucking along. Animal, of all choices, sings the ballad – though most of what he does is say the word “momma” over and over. The opera section starts, and in comes the chaos. So….many…muppets. Beaker, the Swedish Chef, Sam the Eagle, and a host of other Muppets deviate from the lyrics entirely. The opera section should be chaotic mind you, but The Muppets take the chaos levels to new heights!

Of course, the hard rock portion of the song is handled by Electric Mayhem! And then more chaos, as a host of Muppets, some known, some unknown, sing “Ooo yeah! Ooo Yeah” at the end of the section.

Miss Piggy, of course, sings the outro…and changes the line to “Nothing really matters, but moi! As we hear the last line, all the Muppets – save for Kermit and Gopher – harmonize the line “any way the wind blows.” It’s kind of touching actually!

Again – The Muppets version is a joke. The video reveals this is all supposed to be a conference call and they’re goofing about. Kermit is not amused….yet any way the wind blows, the Muppet version serves as a nice palette cleanser.

Cover – Glee Cast (2010)

The kids of Glee cover Bohemian Rhapsody in the episode”Journey.” We’re left to ask…why?

The start of the song sounds ok – a bunch of the kids singing acapella. Then the lead vocalist starts his squeaky singing. Seriously – the tones he reaches sound like a nails scraping against a chalkboard. During the hard rock section, his voice improves…but oh do they ever get the guitars wrong. The guitarists plays the wrong freaking notes! and the amps are nowhere near loud enough. Oh, the effects pedals used….yeah no. They just don’t work.

I could go on about how bad this cover is, but I am losing interest. Just do yourself a favor. Forget this cover exists. Any way the wind blows, you’re best to avoid the Glee Cast cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.

This is much more pleasant that the Glee version of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cover – The Protomen (2012)

The Protomen did an entire concert and live album of nothing but Queen covers. With 9+ members that harmonize fairly well, if anyone could pull of Bohemian Rhapsody, it would be the Protomen. And oh….they got the cover right!

Sure, The Protomen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is a tribute style cover – meaning they didn’t really try to add anything. The Protomen just wanted to cover an already amazing song. Still, the Protomen preformed Bohemian Rhapsody so well, we just can’t help but love it! Yeah, vocalist Raul Panther III, does not have a voice like Freddie Mercury’s – no one does. He still does such a freaking amazing job with his own unique voice. The instrumentation – especially the guitars and piano parts – do a fair job as well.

There is one major thing The Protomen change in their version of Bohemian Rhapsody: the gong at the end is replaced by all instruments on deck played at once – loudly. This was probably to simulate the gong as The Protomen probably lack one. Whatever, it’s a good substitute. Any way the wind blows, The Protomen do an interesting tribute to Queen with their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Cover – Panic! at the Disco (2016)

Say what you will about Panic! at the Disco. They tried hard with their version of Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean, they failed miserably, but they at least tried to respect the song.

The instrumentals are fine mind you. In fact, at times I swear they’re just using a recording from the original Queen version. Of course, they’re not – as evident in the guitars in the hard rock portion of the song, as well as the string section Panic! at the Disco added.

The harmonizing is on point as well. In fact the vocals for most of the song are really good. Lead vocalist, Brendon Urie, pulls a few liberties with effects during the opera portion of the song – and they work well. However, during the ballad and the outro portions of the song, this is what I have the biggest problem with. Urie tries to sing like a crooner, but his voice isn’t a crooner voice. The whole lead vocals during these two sections falls flat, and bring the rest of the song down with them. Even if he had sung a little differently in the outro, we might have forgiven this cover – but no, sorry. Any way the wind blows, Panic! at the Disco tried….and I commend that, but they still failed.

Cover – Pentatonix (2017)

Winners of The Sing-off, season 3, Pentatonix tries to translate Bohemian Rhapsody into an acapella song. The results are, well, interesting. So interesting, I’m trying to process if I like the results or I hate them.

Firstly, I will say this group has talent. The group’s talent is especially highlighted in the opera section of Bohemian Rhapsody. Of course, an acapella group would naturally shine on that section, but still – all five members have amazing voices and they do an exemplary job. The bass vocalist especially adds to this section, as his vocals give the section more depth.

So, what about the more instrumental driven sections – the guitar solo and the hard rock section? Well…this is where the song falls apart the most. Again, this is an acapella group. Granted, Pentatonix did cheat a little…using a drum machine in the hard rock section. I also must commend Pentatonix for powering through the guitar solo, without guitars! Other covers have outright cut this part, as it just didn’t fit. Instead, the group members harmonized a bunch of gibberish, with the lead tenor singing through a megaphone. While this produced an assimalance of an electric guitar, it still was lacking.

My least favorite part, however, was the outro. The lead tenor at this points sounds almost exactly like Karen Carpenter! While, this is impressive of itself, this just doesn’t work in Bohemian Rhapsody.

And yet….any way the wind blows, I’ve decided I like this cover.

Anyway the wind blows, you just can’t top the Queen version.

Honestly, I don’t think anyone tried to top the Queen version in the covers reviewed. Sure, some tried to add their own spin – the Muppets, Weird, Al, Pentatonix, and Emilie Autumn. Some bands tried to match the style as closely as they could – Panic! at the Disco and the Protomen. The Flaming Lips does a little bit of both. Of course, the cast of Glee just ignored everything that’s good about Bohemian Rhapsody.

Regardless, anyway the wind blows I’m in love with almost all of these covers. I love the Protomen version, as well as The Flaming Lips version. The Weird Al and the Muppets version make me laugh. The Emilie Autumn version is interesting, and the Pentatonix version just might have moved into my “like” column. As long as you try to keep the spirit of Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s hard to fail.

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