The Game (1980)


 
1. Play the Game 2. Dragon Attack 3. Another One Bites the Dust 4. Need Your Loving Tonight 5. Crazy Little Thing Called Love 6. Rock It (Prime Jive) 7. Don't Try Suicide 8. Sail Away Sweet Sister 9. Coming Soon 10.Save Me

 

Every now and then, an incredibly popular and successful artist will, for whatever reason, take an abrupt, sharp turn and go entirely in a new direction. Quite often, this ends in embarrassment. This time, thankfully, everything works out wonderfully. For a band as grandiose and colorful as Queen, it seems a bit of a shock that they would narrow their focus so much on a particular album. For the most part, the songs here are simple, straightforward rock songs. The black and white photograph featuring the guys in a menacing stance could be a bit misleading, as this is not a "heavy" album by any means, yet it does sort of have a 1950's direct approach that is rather refreshing.

Why did they do this? Who knows. It could be a statement that the flamboyant 1970s were over, and this is what they felt the new decade would bring. The album does have a bit of a dated sound, but this is not an "80s" album. Remember that what most people associate 80s music with (bad hair, synthesized new wave, MTV, etc.) really didn't take off until a few years into the decade. And, yes, they probably lost a significant chunk of their core audience with this record, but those individuals were probably people that couldn't accept change and secretly wished that groups like T-Rex or Mott the Hoople would make a roaring comeback. Not to mention, they probably gained a much bigger audience from this record to counter any negative effects. It's not that these guys sold out. No, they've proved time and time again that they could pretty much tackle any style of music and make it sound great. It probably helped that all four guys were stellar song writers at this point, and they wrote songs just fine on their own as well as collaborating with each other.

The majority of this album has a direct, funky, rockabilly sound that the guys manage to make their own. Prime examples are the number one singles Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Another One Bites the Dust. Those two songs don't necessarily have much in common, other than the fact that they're incredible tracks. And, yes, Another One Bites the Dust ended up being the biggest selling song of the entire year. And while we're talking about this incredible song, it's amazing how it sounds nothing like those other two classics Bohemian Rhapsody and/or We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions. Talk about diversity.

Most of the rest of the album follows the same fashion. True, some songs sound a bit juvenile and/or dated as Rock It (Prime Jive) and Don't Try Suicide, but the hooks are incredible, and you won't be able to get these tracks out of your head. Who cares if they're not "cool"? Other songs such as Need Your Love Tonight and especially Dragon Attack were songs that could have easily topped the charts had they been released as singles. As a matter of fact, Dragon Attack is probably the best Queen song that never "made it", and I'm convinced that if it were re-released in its exact form during any time period, it would become an immediate hit. Yes, it's that good.

Queen always scored points for being a bit "all over the place" on their records, and ironically, this seems to be a bit of a drawback on this record. There are a few songs that don't fit the mold, and one wishes these songs would have been left for another record. Songs such as Play the Game and Sail Away Sweet Sister have their charms, but this is the one Queen album where you wish they would have stayed on a straight line for the entire album since the record is so focused.

Many would argue that this album was their swan song (those that did like it, that is) and they would go back and forth on their eighties records to try to recapture the magic not only on this record, but on past albums as well. Yes, they would put out some very strong stuff in the next decade, but they would never sound this linear and focused again.

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