Queen’s effect on Rock music still resonates today. The band’s influence on music back in the 80’s and 90’s was massive, which was a result of the pure genius of all four members of the group. From songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Love of My Life,” “We Are the Champions” and “Radio Ga Ga,” Queen has shown their versatility in lyricism, vocals and music.
One of the songs that have remained mysterious and still does is “I Want To Break Free” from the hit album ‘The Works’ released in 1984. Even after three decades, fans are still arguing about what Queen really meant by this song. It is either the meaning is too simple that we don’t believe it is the meaning, or it is too deep that we don’t grasp it at all.
Despite popular opinion, Freddie Mercury did not write this song, which weakens the argument that the song’s meaning is tied to ‘coming out’ as Freddie was homosexual. In fact, Queen’s bassist John Deacon composed the lyrics to this track.
“I Want To Break Free” was released with a music video, in which all Queen members dressed in female clothing. This was a re-enactment of the popular soap opera Coronation Street. However, the message was misinterpreted in the USA and MTV banned the video from their networks, as the public opinion on drag queens and homosexuals were not as openly invited back then.
Today, “I Want To Break Free” is revered as one of the most iconic songs of all time.
Watch “I Want To Break Free” Video by Queen
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The first part of the music video shows a living room set up as one would see in the soap opera from which this theme was adopted. Freddie Mercury dresses as a typical housewife with a pink blouse and short, tight leather skirt and knee-high and heeled shoes. His outfit is complete with a fake set of breasts, but he keeps on his thick moustache. Brian May gets down from upstairs wearing a nightdress and pink bunny slippers. Roger Taylor is seen dressed in a white blouse, black miniskirt with white high socks and black shoes, resembling a typical schoolgirl.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “I Want To Break Free”
This song’s meaning has been a topic of debate for over three decades. Hence, we would not end the arguments by relying on one meaning. We will explore different meanings and the reasons for the meanings to have come up.
Freddie Mercury is screaming that he wants to break free from something. What does he really want? Only late great Freddie would know. So we open up this question for debate once more.
One of the most popular arguments for the meaning of this song is that Freddie is singing about him coming out as bisexual or homosexual. The ‘breaking free’ cry is a hint on the oppression of the society on the LGBT community back in the days. These people were forced to keep their true nature or identities hidden their entire lives by their family members, friends and society. This song could be Freddie’s outcry that he cannot suppress these feelings or his true nature anymore. However, the argument against this meaning is that Freddie Mercury did not write the lyrics to this song. It was John Deacon who composed the song and he was straight.
Another interpretation of “I Want To Break Free” is what is shown in the music video. The start of the video shows Freddie Mercury dressed as a woman, labouring at the household. Some argue that this song is an anthem of freedom for women. Back in the 70’s, gender roles were heavily defined and women were mostly restricted to the house chores. Freddie is seen vacuuming the floor while he performs the first verse.
One other interpretation of “I Want To Break Free” is the idea that you can be whoever you want to be. You don’t have to live in the shackles of societal norms and constrictions. You can be gay if you want to and you can be a drag queen if you want to, or you can be an astronaut if you want to, or a housemaid if you so please to.
One line in the first verse “You’re so self-satisfied, I don’t need you” implies that the singer feels isolated from the world because of whatever reason. The rest of the world is so satisfied with whatever that thing the singer cannot have. Hence, the singer says he does not want anything to do with them or don’t need their help either.
Whatever the exact meaning of this song is, “I Want To Break Free” stands as an anthem against oppression and supporting freedom.
The second verse of “I Want To Break Free” is where the annotations on the singer’s love life come into play.
Freddie sings that he has fallen in love for the first time. If we read between the lines, we can understand that what he means is that he has found true love for the first time. Is he singing of a love affair with the same sex?
The singer continuously brings up God to tell us that God knows his feelings. This could be a cruel slapback at the Church which condemns same-sex love and marriage.
Watch Queen Perform “I Want To Break Free” Live in 1986
For some reason, John Deacon uses the word “strange” to address whatever this reason that keeps him shackled. This has also sparked interpretations of homosexuality, which was considered a ‘sickness’ or ‘strange’ back then.
The singer’s feelings for this person is strong. But he also does not want to be stoned by the society. The ‘door’ could be a reference to the popular phrase ‘coming out of the closet’ which means accepting that you are gay. Freddie sings that he strongly wants to experience this new love he is feeling for the first time. But he also wants to be free from the torments within and from outside.
The third verse changes the entire aura of the song. In this, Freddie sings of his acceptance of these shackles put on him by the world. He tells himself that he will learn to live without this new love if he has no other option.
The singer also admits himself that life without this other person or whatever salvation he is seeking for is a world of sorrow. But he is not getting any help from anyone. He will be branded. He will be outcast and neglected if he breaks free.
Freddie Mercury died in 1991 due to complications arising from HIV/AIDS. Major breakthroughs in medical research were made very soon after his passing. Maybe, Freddie was born in the wrong century.
“I Want To Break Free” will forever be marked as one of the greatest classics of music history. The controversy and mystery surrounding the meaning of the song have perplexed generations. And it will likely continue to do so into the future.
The comments section is open for your ideas and thoughts. Let us know what you think about “I Want To Break Free” and its meaning. Or drop your favourite memory of this song and your personal experience of this song. If you loved this article, do share it with your friends.
5 thoughts on “Queen – I Want To Break Free (Lyrics Review and Song Meaning)”
I think it means that we are all in hell here… and his new love is God but “life” in hell continues on even after he’s found and fell in love with God. So, how do we break free? I prefer, for me, that it not be dying of AIDS but I’d take it in stride if it were the way to “break free” from the torments of hell.
To me the song means anyone being different, ie having a mental illness and society always looking at the person as what’s wrong with you for being different. They just deserve to be treated like everyone else. Why if we were all born unique, must we all be the same. They long to break free.
John talked about this song in a Japanese interview in 1984, and said within the song “There are various situations, such as relationships with people, where you belong, relationships with your parents, and so on” He also said his relationship with his mother was “so so”. The first verse, and the “God knows” could have been directed towards his very religious in laws and possibly his mother as well. Lots of people may disagree because he was married, but I believe John was gay. He said something else in the same Japanese interview when asked about homosexuality. He said that gay people may “worry about the inability to have children, and have anxiety about the future as they get older. That’s why I got married” I feel that this song was about his frustration of not being able to come out because it was considered taboo. Perhaps he was hesitant to “walk out that door” (come out of the closet) regardless of how much he was loved by the person he was writing about. Most of his songs were about loneliness. How could he be lonely with a wife and kids? When Freddie died of AIDS, I think it shook him to the core due to the fact that it could have been him as well if he had indeed, broke free.
To me it means .. take this f**king mask off my face