The legendary Rock band Queen has produced countless hits in their tenure that lives to-date. The secrets of these evergreen songs are the unparalleled musical production, the lyrical prowess of each of the group members and Freddie Mercury’s vocal talents. One such song that captures all of these elements very well is “Killer Queen” by the band released in 1974. This was one of their first ever songs to breakthrough, and even chart hight in foreign countries in and out of Europe.
“Killer Queen” is the second track on Queen’s 1974 album ‘Sheer Heart Attack.’ This album also contains other songs such as “Brighton Rock,” “Flick of the Wrist,” “Lilly of the Valley” and “Stone Cold Crazy.”
In an interview with NME, Freddie Mercury explained what “Killer Queen” means;
“People are used to hard rock, energy music from Queen, yet with this single you almost expect Noel Coward to sing it. It’s one of those bowler hat, black suspender belt numbers – not that Coward would wear that… It’s about a high class call girl. I’m trying to say that classy people can be whores as well. That’s what the song is about, though I’d prefer people to put their interpretation upon it – to read into it what they like.” – Freddie Mercury/NME
What Makes “Killer Queen” Unique?
As per Queen’s guitarist Brian May, this song is quite special for Queen.
“The whole record was made in a very craftsman-like manner. I still enjoy listening to it because there’s a lot to listen to, but it never gets cluttered. There’s always space for all the little ideas to come through. And of course, I like the solo, with that three-part section, where each part has its own voice. What can I say? It’s vintage Queen.” – Brian May/Quora
As per Genius, this song has an unusual lyrics structure. The song structure changes from 4 bars to 5 bars and even 2 bars immediately with tempos varying from 12/8 to 6/8, and vice versa.
On top of this “Killer Queen” is played on Eb major key-which is not a popular tone in Rock music. Brian May was sick with hepatitis during the initial recordings of this song. The other members went along and recorded their bits and left room for May to recover and record, which eventually happened.
On top of all these, you might notice the different music effects used on the track. This technology is called multi-tracking, and this is effectively used in the song. Some effects used in this song are the flanger (pitch bends), panning (sound moving from the left ear to the right), portamento/glissando (sliding from one note to another), distortion (giving a sound distortion effect), wah-wah on the guitar, string bending and sliding.
Lyrics to “Killer Queen” are very smooth. You may notice how easily they roll off the tongue and the jumping bar pattern gives the song a Pop-feel, rather than Rock.
“Killer Queen” was a major success in several countries. In the UK, the song reached #2 on charts and broke into top 20 in The US and Canada, and top 30 in Australia. This song was the break Queen was looking for.
Watch “Killer Queen” Music Video by Queen
As Freddie Mercury very explicitly explained in his NME interview, “Killer Queen” is about a high-class escort. In other words, a prostitute who only caters to the elite. He also says that this song is about high-class people who can be “whores.” So the song could be a reflection on how people who seem classy and pure on the outside, are actually dirty and sell-outs on the inside. However, Mercury invites us to have an open mind while going through the song and develop our own interpretation.
Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Killer Queen”
A high-class escort obviously has high-class tastes. Throughout the song, Queen describes what her choices are, and how her personality is.
Moët & Chandon is a luxury Fresh liquor brand iconic for high-end champagnes.
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. The French disliked her claiming her Austrian descent and called her “Autre-chienne” meaning ‘Other bitch’. These thoughts were harboured due to her promiscuousness and her sympathies for France’s enemies. Marie Antoinette is wrongly related to the phrase “let them eat cake” because of her lack of touch with the commoners.
The phrase “let them eat cake” is a translation from the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” These words were apparently said by a prominent princess of France who lacked the touch with the common people of France. When this princess came to know that the common folk had no bread to eat, she supposedly announced “let them eat cake” which is absurd in all senses. A cake is more difficult to make than bread and needs more ingredients. People lacking bread would obviously have no means of making a cake. The phrase is often used to interpret lack of touch with practicality or common sense.
Other classic Queen tracks “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Show Must Go On,” “We Are The Champions,” “Radio Ga Ga,” “Under Pressure,” “Love Of My Life.”
This ‘killer queen’ was a built-in remedy, meaning a cure for many men. Queen also drags in names of Nikita Khrushchev (Premier of the U.S.S.R from 1958-1964) and John F. Kennedy (President of The U.S.A. from 1961-1963) who had tension between them (and the two countries) during the Cold War. Queen suggests that these two men’s tensions could have been relieved by this escort. Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy are both accused of their sexual lives in real life. Kennedy for her affairs with Marylin Monroe and Khrushchev for engaging in scandalous sexual encounters including his wife.
In the last few lines of the first verse, Freddie Mercury describes this escorts behaviour. She is well versed in etiquette (mannered behaviour among people), very nice personality and her liking for caviar (roe from wild sturgeon in the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea) and cigarettes.
There are arguments that “Killer Queen” could be referring to a transgender escort as well.
Whatever she is, she has a gunpowder and dynamite of a personality; a body like gelatine and laser-like focus to blow your “mind.”
The word “anytime” is used in stand-alone to enhance its effect. Being an escort, whichever the class, they have to be ready to fulfil their spender’s wishes anytime they want. Usually, high-class escorts have higher standards and demands compared to prostitutes.
Watch Queen Perform “Killer Queen” Live
These lines are a recommendation by Queen for this escort. They highly recommend her for her price. And she will take care of your insatiable appetite. And they playfully question the listener if they want to try as well?
Being an escort is not an easy job. She has to engage with high profile personnel being a high-class escort. So there could be a minister with an unhealthy attachment to her; there could be a businessman with crooks wanting to own her only to himself; there could be policemen monitoring her route. These all prove to be difficult to resolve if she stays in one place. But on the other hand, if she moves around, she can avoid unnecessary problems in her escort life. Prostitution is still illegal in most parts of the world.
A baroness is the lowest title of the royal lineage. However, baronesses are still well educated and spoken than the common folk. She is an escort, so she will never be high royalty. But she has just enough amount to place herself among the elite class.
Geisha are traditional female dancers, often mixed up as prostitutes. K. G. Henshall wrote that the geisha’s purpose was “to entertain their customer, be it by dancing, reciting verse, playing musical instruments, or engaging in light conversation. Hence, one could interpret that Geisha’s role was somewhat similar to that of an escort without the sexual activities.
Her extravagant tastes such as luxury perfumes come straight from Paris. It is possible that her wealthy clients present these to her as well. She has no need for cars; high-class escorts usually get picked up by the client’s driver and get dropped to her apartment.
‘Fastidious’ means ‘attention to detail.’ This is possibly relating to her routine with each client. Usually, high-class escorts are expected to build a relationship with their client. Usually, she will not be a one-time gig. Hence, she would be expected to know the client quite personally, and she has to keep track of all of them.
These lyrics of “Killer Queen” are dedicated to detailing this escort’s nature of sexual play with her clients. Playful as a pussycat, stopping and starting again, teasing, and very very eager and willing to play with you. She is a pro at this.
“Killer Queen” is possibly one of the most effective songs in describing the ways of a high-class call girl and her style. The tone of the song matches perfectly with the playfulness of the lyrics. Freddie Mercury, ever the showman, does an amazing job in the music video to show his arousal by this girl.
The song has been covered by many artists over the years. Few notable covers are shown below.
“Killer Queen” Cover by 5 Seconds of Summer
“Killer Queen” Cover by Panic! At The Disco
Drop in your thoughts and ideas about “Killer Queen” by Queen and let us know what you think this song is about! If you have different interpretations of the song lyrics and meaning, do let us know in the comments below. If you liked this article, make sure to rate it below and share it with your friends.
In a 2021 documentary titled ‘Queen: The Greatest,’ more details were given about the composition and background of the song. Watch below.