Random Runners-Up: ‘We Are the Champions’, by Queen

One final runner-up for the week, and a bit of a forgotten classic to finish on…

‘We Are the Champions’, by Queen

#2 for 3 weeks, from 13th Nov-4th Dec 1977 – behind ‘The Name of the Game’ and ‘Mull of Kintyre’

Only kidding. To tell the truth, I always thought that ‘We Are the Champions’ was released as a double-‘A’ with ‘We Will Rock You’. It wasn’t, at least not in the UK, where ‘We Will Rock You’ was the B-side. But if ever there was a song that didn’t need any support, that could stand alone as a statement, ’twas this one.

It’s not that ‘We Are the Champions’ invented the rock opera. But before this, rock operas were spread out over entire albums. Queen managed to get the form down to three perfect minutes. The choruses: rock, soaring rock. The verses: pure Freddie Mercury theatre. The way he toys with the line You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it…! is sublime. It doesn’t come close to scanning with the song’s rhythm, but he makes it work.

This record has been slightly lost to sports events now, blasted out after every cup final and league title because, well, no time for losers. But in its original form it feels like more of a positivity anthem. We are the champions, all of us, and we’ve all had to struggle to get there. Mercury himself, of course, was no stranger to not having things easy, growing up non-white and non-heterosexual in a time not much inclined to accept either of those things. And yet he took the sand kicked in his face and came through…

It’s easy to be cynical, and I can be cynical about most things in life… But I refuse to be cynical about this song. It’s irrepressible. It’s been confirmed, in a 2011 study by actual scientists, to be the catchiest song ever written. And in the recent ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ biopic, Queen’s performance of this song at Live Aid drew the film to a close and sent me out the cinema thinking, briefly, that I had just seen the best movie ever (I hadn’t, but there are few films that wouldn’t be improved by having a performance of ‘We Are the Champions’ tacked on the end…)

Back to the regular countdown next week.


7 thoughts on “Random Runners-Up: ‘We Are the Champions’, by Queen

  1. “We Are The Champions,” like a lot of Queen songs, is one that’s been played so much that it’s hard to imagine a time when it was a new hit cause it’s just become so much a part of the air now. This along with “We Will Rock You” are forever a part of sports games and celebrations. In terms of America, “We Are The Champions” was paired with “We Will Rock You” and I still hear them played together on the radio which makes sense to me considering their themes. The double sided single wound up being on the Hot 100 the bridge between their breakthrough with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and their 1980 dominance of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Another One Bites The Dust” peaking at #4 in early 1978 when The Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever were dominating.

    • For me it’s a song that does something every time. The soaring ‘We….’ hits a sweet spot, a mix of glam rock and showtune. There isn’t a better singles band in rock, I don’t think, from ‘Seven Seas of Rhye’ through to ‘The Show Must Go On’, one hell of a Greatest Hits.

  2. You know the way you feel about Hey Jude? That is the way I feel about this one…Is it great though? Yes it is…but if I see one more lighter up in the air or sports team use it…ahrgggg…I love We Will Rock You however…the solo in that one is the first one to ever really catchy my young attention.

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