Freddie Mercury, British singer-songwriter and lead vocalist of rock band Queen, defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. With timeless hits like Bohemian Rhapsody and Don't Stop Me Now, his unique stage presence and his great vocal range has left a resounding legacy that provokes and inspires listeners and musicians alike.
One of Freddie Mercury's greatest claims to fame is his four-octave pitch range.
The singers’ voice range was 48 semitones within the pitch range of F2 (about 87.31 Hz), in All Dead All Dead, to E6 (about 1318.51 Hz), in It’s Late.
An analysis of voice tracks isolated from instrument recordings with data from Spotify and aubio confirms the extraordinary range of the singer.
This piece takes a closer look at Queen’s 10 most popular tracks, to better understand Freddie Mercury’s voice.
Although Freddie Mercury did not have the largest pitch range of all time, he stacks up pretty decently against other well-known singers of his time. Surprisingly, Freddie Mercury beats Whitney Houston when it comes to higher pitch and also ranks higher on pitch range than Tina Turner.
However, he has a smaller pitch range than Paul McCartney, David Bowie and Axl Rose. The latter, a baritone who occupies the first position in the rank, is known for using falsettos, a method of voice production used to sing notes higher than their normal range.
Besides having a surprisingly high pitch range, Mercury also stood out for his atypical vibrato, a rapid and slight variation in pitch. A 2016 study published in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology concluded that Mercury's vocal cords moved faster than the average person's. While a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4 Hz and 6.9 Hz, Mercury’s was 7.04 Hz, according to the report. "These traits, in combination with the fast and irregular vibrato, might have helped create Freddie Mercury's eccentric and flamboyant stage persona”, states the report.
The pitch commonality between Queen’s top 10 songs on Spotify
Press the buttons to hear the songs.
When comparing Queen’s most popular tracks, some similarities can be noticed. The most evident one is probably the flow of pitch throughout the song: almost every track starts with a higher pitch, which decreases halfway through it (on the bottom of the radial).
The visual pattern of each chart also convey some interesting aspects about the songs. For example, We Will Rock You has fairly distinct blocky plateaus, as it has many sections of contiguous near-monotone, whereas Bohemian Rhapsody or Don't Stop Me Now are visually much finer, representing a more constant pitch variation.
In addition to pitch range, another interesting aspect of Freddie Mercury’s music is the sentiment attached to the songs’ lyrics. When compared to the popularity score, the positiveness of the tracks also vary.
The relative proportion of happy songs seems to have a slight inverse relationship with popularity - the most highly popular songs tend to be either neutral or sad.
Popularity of 0 Queen songs by positiveness:
how popular are happy, neutral and sad tracks?