In preparation of the upcoming Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, I thought I’d take the time to list all 15 Queen studio albums, from least favorite to most favorite. I’ve been listening to this band in some form or fashion since I was about four years old. No joke! It was around 1980 that I really latched onto Queen. That’s the year Another One Bites the Dust ruled the America, followed shortly by Queen’s Flash Gordon soundtrack.
You may disagree with some of my choices. You may agree with others. If you’re only a passing fan, you may say, “what album?” It’s all good. This is my list. Your mileage definitely may vary. Chances are pretty good that I’ll change my mind in a week. Whether you agree or not isn’t really the point. Mostly, I want fellow Queen fans to share their thoughts. I’m always interested to hear other people’s favorites. At any rate, here goes…
Kevin’s List of Queen Albums, Ranked
15. Made in Heaven (1995)
“All you do is take. All I do is give. All that I’m askin’ is a chance to live.”
Released four years after Freddie’s death, Made in Heaven is simply beautiful in some places and heart wrenching in others. It’s not a compilation of previously unreleased tracks. It’s the product of Brian, Roger and John returning to the studio without Freddie. Knowing that, makes it that much more wrenching.
But Freddie’s voice is full of life and passion; sometimes desperately so. That’s no more evident than on the gospel-inspired track, Let Me Live (the only Queen track to include all four members’ voices). Not a bad album, but I don’t think Made in Heaven was intended to be a classic. It feels more like a gentle farewell.
14. Flash Gordon (1980)
“He’ll save with a mighty hand. Every man, every woman, every child, with a mighty flash.”
This soundtrack flat out ROCKS! The movie is a campy, schlocky good time, too. And Queen’s original soundtrack certainly augmented the onscreen action. Most of the tracks are vignettes that scored the film, so it’s really not like any other Queen album. But Flash’s Theme is still pretty bad-ass!
13. Hot Space (1982)
“Insanity laughs, under pressure we’re breaking.”
In fairness, this is not a bad album. It’s sort of messy and disjointed. The band was sort of at a low point when they recorded it. Prior to 1980, Queen albums never included a synthesizer. With Hot Space, they tried to make up for lost time.
Yeah, Under Pressure is included, but that was thrown in well after its initial release on a greatest hits album. A couple true gems here—Put Out the Fire and Body Language—but overall, an acquired taste.
12. A Kind of Magic (1986)
“Who dares to love forever, when love must die?”
Speaking of soundtracks, several songs on this album appeared in the Highlander film, including Princes of the Universe and the fantastic Who Wants to Live Forever.
One Vision, which was released a year prior—and featured in the film Iron Eagle—was thrown on this album, too. Even though half of this album is marginal, this was the album that springboarded Queen on a massive world tour (to everywhere but the U.S., that is).
11. The Miracle (1989)
“It ain’t much I’m askin’ if you want the truth. Here’s to the future, for the dreams of youth.”
Arguably their creepiest album cover ever, I remember buying this album the day it was released. I always liked the sound and feel of The Miracle, especially the subtle rocker, I Want it All and the quirky The Invisible Man.
But I also remember a weird sense of foreboding when I listened to The Miracle. The lyrics to several tracks felt introspective; like something of the beginning of a long goodbye and Queen was taking a moment to reflect. And it wasn’t subtle. Scandal and Was It All Worth It pretty much laid it out there for the taking.
This is long before the internet, mind you. Freddie’s health was likely already deteriorating at this point, but no one really knew. In hindsight, The Miracle seemed to be hinting at the inevitable.
10. Queen (1973)
“Do you think you’re better every day? No, I just think I’m two steps nearer to my grave.”
One word describes this self-titled debut album: RAW. Everything Queen would become can be heard in its infancy on this album. The opening track, Keep Yourself Alive, is 45 years old and is still an over-the-top anthem. Standout tracks like Great King Rat, Liar and Jesus showcase Queen’s musical prowess, dramatic lyrics and rules-breaking mentality to song production.
As much as the album rocks, it’s sort of like the band is saying, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
9. Innuendo (1991)
“Inside my heart is breaking. My make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on.”
Released about nine months before Freddie’s death, Innuendo feels like a band aware of its legacy and trying to pay homage to it one last time. Even without that knowledge when the album was released, Innuendo felt very somber. It still feels that way to me. Clocking in at 6-1/2 minutes, the title track is a clear and obvious callback to those epic 70s Queen tracks like The Prophet’s Song or March of the Black Queen.
While Freddie’s terminal condition would not be known for months, the band seemed to be bracing its fans for it. Tracks such as These Are the Days of Our Lives and The Show Must Go On are respectively a love letter and a reminder to keep a stiff upper lip. But it’s not all somber and sober. Delilah is a Freddie-penned opus to one of his beloved cats. Still, Innuendo makes me sad to listen to, to this very day.
8. Jazz (1978)
“Are you gonna let it all hang out? Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin’ world go ‘round.”
Those opening lines to Fat Bottomed Girls may not be so kindly received today (same goes for the nudie poster included with the original pressings), but goddamn this song is a fun singalong! Jazz was Queen’s final album of the decade and finds them moving away from the long, epic tracks, but still very much experimenting with new sounds and styles.
Jazz still very much delivers the hopelessly singable, defiantly melodramatic power anthems that define Queen’s style. Bicycle Race, Don’t Stop Me Now and the aforementioned Fat Bottomed Girls. For my money, though, Mustapha is my favorite song from Jazz. Get on your bikes and ride!
7. A Day at the Races (1976)
“Get your party gown, get your pigtail down. Get your heart beating baby!”
If you’ve forgotten how hard Queen can rock, the opening track on Side 1 of this album will remind you. Tie Your Mother Down comes blazing out of the gates. At least visually, A Day at the Races acts as a bookend of sorts to the 1975 release, A Night at the Opera, and contains the vintage hit: Somebody to Love.
The most underrated gem on this album is Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy.
6. The Works (1984)
“But life still goes on. I can’t get used to living without, living without, living without you by my side.”
Less cohesive than Queen’s most classic albums, The Works is a bit messy with a few forgettable tracks. But the hits more than make up for the forgettable ones. Radio Gaga, Hammer to Fall, Tear It Up and I Want to Break Free. Not a bad effort for a band that was rumored, at the time, to be going its separate ways.
And lest we forget, Radio Gaga was one of the songs Queen played during its enduring Live Aid performance and yielded some of the most lasting visuals from this concert.
5. The Game (1980)
“When you’re feeling down and your resistance is low. Light another cigarette and let yourself go.”
Yes. You know Another One Bites the Dust; Queen’s biggest U.S. hit as well as its other biggest hit: Crazy Little Thing Called Love. But The Game is solid from end to end. Pound for pound, The Game might be Queen’s strongest album.
Clocking in at 36 minutes, all eight songs are absolute gems. Anchored by John Deacon’s bass, Dragon Attack may be Queen’s grooviest, most badass song ever. And then there’s Freddie’s vocal on Play the Game. And then there’s Roger’s vocal on Rock It (Prime Jive). And just when you think it can’t get any better, they close with Save Me. Listen to The Game once and all you want to do is play it again; completely forgetting it contains two of Queen’s biggest hits (because the rest of the album kicks so much ass).
4. A Night at the Opera (1975)
“Nothing really matters, anyone can see. Nothing really matters…nothing really matters to me.”
This is when Queen shifted into another gear and found its voice. Creatively, A Night at the Opera is truly unparalleled. Bohemian Rhapsody is and always will be Queen’s opus and serves as the album’s centerpiece. But let’s not forget Death on Two Legs, 39, Love of My Life, You’re My Best Friend and the underrated I’m in Love with My Car.
The one track I truly love that most people have never heard: The Prophet’s Song. It’s every bit as dramatic and intense as Bohemian Rhapsody. But yes, Bohemian Rhapsody. How do you top that?
3. Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
“It’s the same situation just cuts like a knife. When you’re young and you’re poor and you’re crazy.”
In a way, this album reminds me of Bruce Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. No, not in style, tone or songs. Rather, Sheer Heart Attack is the last of Queen’s early period; when they were experimenting with album-oriented rock songs and starting to find their collective voice as a hit factory.
As the album that precedes A Night at the Opera, Sheer Heart Attack stands on the precipice of Queen’s leap to super-stardom the same way Springsteen’s E Street Shuffle was the last stop before his landmark Born to Run and all its success. Killer Queen is the hit on Sheer Heart Attack, but it’s hardly its best song. The entirety of Side A presents Queen in all its shock-and-awe beauty. A band that, at its heart, wants to rock bookends this side with two rockers (Brighton Rock and Now I’m Here).
In between are four songs blending into a nearly-seamless medley that flexes all of Queen’s muscles; the best of which (if you ask me) is Roger singing Tenement Funster. And that’s all before we get to Side B, anchored by the heavy metal thunder of Stone Cold Crazy.
2. News of the World (1977)
“He spends his evenings alone in his hotel room. Keeping his thoughts to himself he’d be leaving soon.”
Some days, this comes in at my No. 1. Some days. We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions are two of Queen’s most enduring stadium anthems. There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t know the STOMP-STOMP-CLAP rhythm or the chorus to We Are the Champions.
Unfortunately for the world, that’s pretty much all they know about this timeless album. News of the World is a beast of a record, lousy with hits, riffs and classics. Roger’s Sheer Heart Attack, John’s Spread Your Wings and Brian’s It’s Late—my personal favorite—are ferocious songs. Seriously, how did I not pick this album as my favorite? Oh yeah, because of…
1. Queen II (1974)
“I reign with my left hand I rule with my right. I’m lord of all darkness I’m queen of the night.”
This record…Jesus! Where to begin? Casual Queen fans probably have never heard a single song from Queen II. There are no greatest hits and nothing they play live these days (with the exception of Seven Seas of Rhye), but Queen II is something of a Rosetta Stone of all the hits that would follow. The underpinnings of those stadium anthems, the dramatic lyrics and elaborate production can be heard on Queen II’s raw and passionate songs of monsters and royalty and otherworldly imagery.
A concept album conceived in two acts: the White Side and the Black Side, Queen II is mostly a showcase of Brian and Freddie’s songwriting. The White Side (side A) is all Brian May compositions with one Roger Taylor entry—The Loser in the End (with an absurdly awesome drum “groove”)—to close it out. It’s sometimes heavy, sometimes melodic and sometimes gentle. White Queen (As it Began) showcases Brian’s ridiculous guitar playing with a luscious vocal from Freddie.
And then, Freddie provides the answer with the Black Side. Launching with Ogre Battle, the Black Side begins in fifth gear. It’s Freddie’s song, but Brian’s guitars are cranked to 11 and make you want to run through a wall. Continuing the medieval theme, The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke and Nevermore are winding us up for Freddie’s response to Brian’s White Queen song: The March of the Black Queen. This is, without a doubt, one of Queen’s finest compositions. Beginning as a slow burn, The March of the Black Queen quickly transitions into an epic wild ride of operatic vocals, heavy metals thunder and monstrous kick drum. And just when you’re so fired up you want to drive your car through a wall, Freddie slows it down, But take a breath, it’ll pick right back up. For 6-1/2 minutes, The March of the Black Queen takes you into battle and then brings you back home safely. Just in time for Queen II to close out on the whimsical Funny How Love is and Seven Seas of Rhye.
Queen II is a goddamn treasure.