Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gaga, Brian, and a guy named Mutt

Media Moment: Lada Gaga: Born This Way
Queen-related: Brian plays on track, other Queen references

I picked up Lady Gaga’s latest album yesterday to get a listen to Yoü and I, the tune that Brian plays on. Before hearing it, I honestly thought that this was going to be a cover of Deacon’s You and I, and if Gaga was such a huge Queen fan as I’ve been hearing, I didn’t think this was such a lame thought. But no, it’s her own tune . . . both music and lyrics.

When I got it unwrapped (no digital downloads for me . . . I still prefer the physical artifact) and loaded in the CD player,  I skipped down to track 16 and cranked it. The first thing that struck me about it was that it had a subtle bluesy stomp-stomp-clap beat to it, although it wasn’t consistent. Gaga’s piano playing has a bit of a Freddie feel to it not unlike Play the Game

With my limited exposure to her full catalogue of tunes, this song seems to be one of the least Gaga-esque that I’ve heard from her, and having Brian provide some crunch for it propels it into a different genre for her, in my opinion. Maybe she’s keeping that door open once the modern temper of her current popularity fades or she decides to change things up again.

Brian’s guitar makes an appearance fairly early on but, as expected, it’s the solo that gives him away. The latter portion of the song features Brian sounding suspiciously like Chinese Torture, which was completely unexpected. The liner notes for the song does acknowledge an element of WWRY being used and that Queen appears courtesy of their record label(s), so maybe it is sampled directly in some capacity . . . I just didn’t hear it verbatim as usual. 

Speaking of the liner notes, I caught Robert John “Mutt” Lange’s name as producer on that one track only. Holy shit. I was wondering when Brian would team up with Mutt Lange and now I know. Politics and marital criticisms aside for a moment, Mutt Lange is on par with Queen for staying power (pardon the pun) in the music business. I also think he and Brian are kindred spirits in their vegetarian lifestyles, although I don’t think Brian is a teetotaller — at least not yet — like Lange has been for years. Here’s a link to the article on Brian’s Soapbox where he talks about getting the call from Mutt to be on Gaga’s album.

Once word got out that Brian was going to be a guest on Yoü and I, it spread quickly in the mainstream music media. There’s an article on the Daily Mirror website here on it, and a scan of the print version can be found on Brian’s Soapbox here. What I didn’t care for in the DM article was the portrayal of Queen kowtowing to Gaga’s popularity (“Queen go goo goo for Gaga”). Sorry, I think it’s the other way around.

There’s another song on the album called The Queen, which seems like an obvious homage to one of her musical mentors. From what I saw in the Born This Way documentary the other day on TV, the absence of Queen in her dressing room, etc. but seeing Bob Dylan, Sting, and Poison plastered about made me wonder why she didn’t salute them more explicitly. But now to have a whole song called The Queen and then to reference “the killer queen” in the third line seems obvious that this is her nod to her heroes. There’s also a mention of a phoenix near the end of the song. Coincidence? 

One last thought . . . I think the umlaut accent ( ¨ ) above the “u” in the song title is her discreet way of dedicating the song to her ex-boyfriend, Lüc Carl, which is mentioned here in this Wikipedia article on the song. (Mutt Lange involvement (Daily Mirror scan)

Flash...saviour of the touchpad universe

Media Moment: BlackBerry Playbook ad
Queen-related: uses Flash’s Theme

BlackBerry® has been running an ad here in Canada for their long-awaited answer to the iPad . . . the PlayBook™. To promote the tablet, RIM seems to be relying quite heavily on its ability to run the latest iteration of Adobe’s Flash software, which is more or less a requirement these days for playing back video and/or animation on a computer. 

The editors of the TV spot were very careful in how they looped the “Flash . . . aaahhh” clip from the song because it never reveals any of the other lyrics in the song. There’s no alluding to the fact that this song is at all related to the movie or any of its characters — the only lyrics heard are “Flash” and “aaahhh!” That’s it. 

I had heard on the QMS newsgroup — and confirmed on Wikipedia’s article on Flash’s Theme — that Motorola had also used the theme for the launch of their Xoom tablet back in February 2011, predating the PlayBook by two months or so. I haven’t seen the Xoom spot myself, but I suspect that the use of Flash’s Theme would have been treated in a similar manner to how RIM worked it into their marketing.

It’s rather convenient that Queen has a song in their catalogue that uses “flash” in its lyrics and that the song itself has a lot of drama due to the piano build-up to the big “Flash . . . aaahhh!” The rationale that Brian probably took in structuring the song like he did works just as well for building excitement around a product, in this case a product that is actually called Flash.

I wonder if it was Adobe’s decision to incorporate Flash’s Theme into the third-party marketing of whatever hardware is using their Flash Media Player? I would think that RIM wouldn’t want to sound like Motorola and vice versa as it could result in marketplace confusion between the products.

Whatever the case, when Adobe gets around to developing software called “Drowse” or “Liar,” I’m sure Queen Productions will be getting another visit from Adobe and friends.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gaga is named this way

Media Moment: Lady Gaga special on CTV
Queen-related: Freddie discussed

Lady Gaga’s latest and most anticipated album, Born This Way, was released yesterday and CTV here in Canada aired a one-hour documentary/interview with her to coincide with her concert at Air Canada Centre in Toronto recently.

E-Talk’s Ben Mulroney — Canada’s answer to Ryan Seacrest — had the privilege of interviewing her backstage before the Toronto concert. The interview clips were interspersed with glimpses into her travelling wardrobe collection as well as her makeshift home office where she brainstorms ideas and displays pictures and paraphernalia that inspires her or comforts her in some way.

The office shots were really interesting because it provides some insight into who Gaga is as both an artist and regular person. There were concert posters from Poison, Wendy O’Williams, and other miscellaneous 80s hair bands. There’s a photo of the Beatles and Bob Dylan on her desk. There’s an autographed picture of Sting and one of her and Elton John. It seems as though she draws inspiration from all genres and eras of pop music. What was curiously absent, though, was any evidence of Freddie or Queen. Sup with that?

Well, I didn’t have to wait long before Freddie makes an appearance . . . just not as an accoutrement in her office. One of the voiceover sequences that Ben provides is an overview of the various musical influences that Gaga admits to. At one point, Ben mentions she is a keen follower of glam rock and 80s icons like Michael Jackson and Britney Spears. A corresponding set of images appears on the screen (seen here) but Freddie’s name isn’t mentioned. But he does get some co-display time with Ms. Spears. Brief as it was, at least the band that inspired her name gets an acknowledgement.

What about her name? Would Ben ask her where it came from or has she told that story enough in the past three years that it’s old hat? Nope, it comes up in a clip aired in 2008 —again during a stop in Toronto — where she talks about taking her name from a suggestion by her producer. Here is a transcript of that clip:

“Well, I didn’t name myself ‘Gaga.’ My producer . . . he said I’m very theatrical when I perform. So, he would say that you’re so gaga. So one day I said, ‘you mean like the Queen record?’ He looks at me and says, ‘yeah, you’re like Freddie Mercury.’ [Gaga continues] You have to live and breath your art and if you don’t, you won’t get anywhere. And I got here by working very hard and that’s what the name is really about.”

So the word “gaga” has morphed into something different than what Roger originally described as the inspiration behind the lyric to the song, that being baby gibberish (which was a disguised metaphor for the state of radio in the early 80s). But now, Lady Gaga has taken the word away from the Queen context and uses it as a label for awestruck or wonderment instead of baby talk. It’s valid, in my opinion, because she’s proven to be unafraid of controversy and literally pushes the artistic envelope in her shows, fashions, and song themes. All characteristics that Freddie would respect and live by.

Her ties to Queen get even closer with this album since Brian guests on one of the album tracks (Yoü and I). I can’t wait to hear it.

And the sore winner is...

Media Moment: Urban Dictionary
Queen-related: WATC mentioned

I feel old. Or at least when my post-secondary students start communicating in text speak or portmanteaus that I’ve never heard of before. So to get educated, I signed up for the word of the day from Urban Dictionary and feel much more enlightened about the current generation’s interpretation of the English language.

I get a new slang phrase or counterculture term sent to my email every morning. More times than not, there is some kind of sexual overtone to it — which may explain where Saturday Night Live gets many of their jokes these days — but today’s phrase (“sore winner”) caught my eye for a different reason . . . it mentioned We Are The Champions in the user-submitted definition.

Like Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary relies on user content, which in the world of wikis can be a mixed blessing. Wikipedia has been a battleground for what constitutes the “truth” about pretty much anything and there are many competing interests aiming for that lofty goal. In theory, Wikipedia is supposed to be a self-policing environment with volunteer “experts” replacing paid editors. At the end of the day, there is only one generally agreed upon definition or explanation for something. If there is debate about the accuracy of a topic, then it happens in the talk pages where it becomes a rhetorical free-for-all.

Urban Dictionary, on the other hand, is still user-controlled but they allow for multiple definitions to be displayed for each word or term. I suspect that the nature of the language being discussed doesn’t allow for one single voice to be taken as definitive because these are such newly coined terms. And, to be honest, having 37 uniquely worded definitions adds to the draw of Urban Dictionary. It’s part dictionary and part entertainment.

So if one types in ”Queen” into the search field on UD, six pages of results come up. Most are about the band (both supportive and critical), while others range from a label for a chess piece to a flamboyantly gay man. At times, the user-supplied definitions become an on-going thread instead of separate entries.

I wonder if Jeremy threw in WATC simply because he couldn’t think of any other song that was appropriate or if he’s a Queen fan.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A hard look at Walk Hard

Media Moment: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Queen-related: Freddie satirized

This DVD had been sitting on our mantel waiting to be watched after I borrowed it from a friend many months ago, and since I needed a distraction while on the treadmill last night, I figured I would give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised at how clever the storyline was and really impressed not only with John C. Reilly’s ability to carry a tune but also in impersonating the great singers from the past 50 years. And yes, it is him singing, as confirmed in both the end credits and the DVD commentary.

With the success of Ray in 2004 and Walk the Line in 2005, it was time for a parody of the music biopic genre and Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan were just the hooligans give it a go in 2007. Using Airplane as their satirical model, they managed to pack a ton of clichés, parodies, one-liners, and visual gags into Cox’s fictional 50-year run. I was hoping Freddie would get a working over since Bowie and the Beatles get skewered later in the film but unfortunately, there was nothing Freddie or Queen-related from what I could tell.

After the film and my treadmill torture was over, I checked out Dewey Cox on IMDb to see what interesting bits of trivia I could find. Lo and behold, I found this:

“Famous musicians that are spoofed by Dewey Cox are: Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Queen, Meat Loaf, David Crosby, Jim Morrison, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Elvis Presley, The Cars, Christopher Ward of the Ramones, Nelly, Tim McGraw, Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys during his “SMILE” album period, Stevie Wonder’s loss of smell after his 1973 car crash, and Michael Jackson with the monkey and the giraffe as house pets.”

Wait a minute . . . did I read that right? Cox spoofs Queen? I certainly didn’t see anything that referenced Queen in the movie. How could I have missed it? Then it dawned on me . . . maybe the reference appears in the Director’s Cut, also on the DVD I borrowed. Or maybe the commentary by Apatow, Kasdan, and Reilly would give some insights into where the overlooked scene was.

Before I do that, though, I thought I might find more information on its celebrity skewering on Wikipedia:

“As Walk Hard heavily references the film Walk the Line, the Dewey Cox persona is mostly based on Johnny Cash; but the character also includes elements of the life and career of Glen Campbell, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Donovan, Brian Wilson and Jim Morrison. The film also directly lampoons artists Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Elvis Presley and The Beatles, in addition to some artists playing themselves, including Eddie Vedder and Ghostface Killah. In addition, the film parodies or pays tribute to the musical styles of Bob Dylan, David Bowie and the seventies punk rock movement.”

What? No mention of Queen on Wikipedia? Why is there a discrepancy between IMDb and Wiki on this? Well, there was only one way to know for sure . . . I’d have to watch the Director’s Cut frame-by-frame with the commentary turned on.

The only scene that comes close to imitating Freddie is the royal cloak that Cox wears onstage during a segment of his fictional Dewey Cox Show from the 1970s. The segment, incidentally, struck me more as a parody of Richard Simmons than Queen. (Wait a minute, maybe I just found the connection in this scene.)

Other than the cloak, I have no idea where Queen’s history would have been parodied. Sure, there are numerous drug scenes and a full-on orgy scene in a hotel room with lots of penis footage, but I think it would be a stretch to think that Freddie’s antics would be solely reflected in these sequences. Most major music stars have been culprits in this regard.

Bottom line . . . the jury is out on exactly how or where Queen is referenced in this film. IMDb says it is. Wikipedia says it isn’t. And there was nothing in the audio commentary about Queen at all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

T-shirt design contest brings in the Works

On the eve of Brian and Roger’s May 25th selection of a t-shirt design for Queen’s 40th Anniversary celebrations, I thought I’d share a few comments on a few of the entries and some of the recurring themes that have emerged from the designs.

As a designer myself, I was excited at the chance of submitting a design but felt that it was an impossible task for me to win given how the rules of the contest were set up. Like viewer voting on Idol, the 100 finalists would be chosen merely through a social network of Facebook friends rather than reviewed by professionals who can spot a reasonable design, anticipate its production limitations, and understand mass marketing messaging rather than self-indulgence, I knew that my Facebook connections weren’t going to be sufficient. Oh well. 

It doesn’t prevent me, however, from turning a critical eye on many of the entries and offer an objective opinion on how they could be perceived by Brian and Roger prior to their announcement of a winner on May 25th.

I’ve categorized a large selection of the approximately 300 designs into twenty or so themes or groups that had some kind of repetitive element throughout them. A few of the categories are exclusively mine (Kitchen sink, My favs, and Oops), while others are so big they need subcategories, like the WTF sections. I end with my submission that, while scarcely viewed online and garnered no votes, still exemplifies what Queen have been all about for the past 40 years and what they would like to do in regards to AIDS awareness worldwide.

1) Album covers

Incorporating album cover art into a design meant to reflect 40 years of musical output is an obvious place to start for a t-shirt design. The problem is, what albums do you include? Regular releases? If so, what countries’ releases do you include? What about the artwork from singles? What about video releases? Defaulting to the regular releases in North America and/or Europe is a safe choice but the challenge is now: what do you do with the covers? How do you arrange them or work them into a larger conceptual arrangement that still captures the essence of what Queen represents?

2) Charitable focus

The secondary focus of this t-shirt design contest is as a fundraiser for the Mercury Phoenix Trust Fund which is primarily an AIDS awareness and support organization. A few of the submissions took this approach, as seen here. I don’t know how much Brian and Roger want to make the fight against AIDS a dominant message rather than the celebration of their musical legacy. Although it’s a noble cause, fighting AIDS is only a small part of what the band stood for. Besides, the MPTF logo was not a requirement and they did not even provide artwork for it like they did for the 40th Anniversary logo. In my opinion, if they wanted it front and centre, this would have been made explicit on the Talenthouse website.

3) 4Q

The tail of the Q used in the Queen wordmark has been a recurring design element in the band’s marketing for quite a while now, so when I saw that many entries combined the zero in 40 with the Q from Queen, I thought it was a clever twist. There’s a gestalt problem with using a Q as a 0, though, because the Q becomes the dominant message rather than read as a zero. I don’t know about others, but my repeated perception of these designs is to see “4+Q” (i.e., four kues) rather than as two numerals (i.e., 40 years). It’s an interesting twist, nonetheless.

4) The Queen

The terms “Queen” and “The Queen” have never been interchangeable in my world. One is, without question, a reference to a musical act; and the other is, without question, a title for Queen Elizabeth, who has her own public legacy to worry about. So when I see QEII being tossed into the mix as part of the band’s legacy, I get confused because the two terms have inarguably different referents. Yes, I know that QEII is one of the most recognized British symbols and it’s tempting to capitalize on her stature by aligning her with Queen, but outside of Queen’s early promotional photo with the QEII lookalike, I don’t recall these two icons of British culture converging since. Unless there’s more to their connection that non-Brits aren’t privy to.

5) Art history motif

Queen have dabbled in a lot of musical genres over the years and many of their song themes range from fairies, fantasy, politics, science fiction, car love, peace, and big bums. They’ve also toyed with art history as well. The earliest example of this, obviously, is Richard Dadd’s painting The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke. Roger’s keen eye during the NOTW period introduced us to American-born (but Canadian-raised)  Frank Kelly Freas, a sci-fi artist from the 50s and 60s. And if we fast forward a few albums, we see that Innuendo cover art borrows generously from French caricaturist Grandville’s illustrations from the mid-1800s. Introducing new elements of art history to their legacy seems awkward and not the kind of imagery expected nor recognized by the average Queen fan (at least not here in North America). While I like the Picasso-type treatments and the Art Nouveau motif above, I don’t think they nor the Fabergé egg and the Duchamp-inspired [Freddie] moustache on QEII would resonate with Queen fans.

6) Freddie’s moustache

I suppose the Duchamp moustache entry above would qualify for this theme as well, but it had a stronger tie to art history than to Freddie’s image, so that leaves us with these three which are trying to capitalize on the band’s history as being the same as Freddie’s image. The problem, as I see it, is that Freddie’s moustache is just one of many different looks he adopted over the duration of the band’s existence, so to adequately reflect a 40-year legacy with a look that didn’t even start until 10 years after they formed doesn’t tell the whole story. Not that you can tell their entire story in a single design, but treating Freddie’s image as the only identifying moniker is not fair to the other three band members. Queen was more than just Freddie’s band, as we all know.

7) Song titles

Okay, so using album covers as the basis of a t-shirt design was tried already. How about a typographic solution using song titles to create a figure/ground relationship? Okay, but you’re still challenged with how to arrange the song titles into a shape that symbolizes something about Queen and incorporates strong enough design principles that it becomes a well-rounded solution both conceptually and visually. Or take a line from a song and give it a context. This works very well as we see in the Killer Queen design. The Fat Bottomed Girls attempt falls short for many reasons, which are obvious. But limiting a 40-year career to a single song is risky, unless you’re talking about Don McLean.

8) Miracle blend

When I first saw the cover of the Miracle in 1989, I was amazed at the photo-realistic blending of their faces into one another. If I remember correctly, Photoshop didn’t exist yet and something called a Quantel Paintbox was the photo manipulation system used to achieve this hyper-realistic effect. (Boy, Quantel got their butt kicked by Photoshop in this market, didn’t they?) This blending of faces was uniquely Queen at the time, so many of the t-shirt entries took this approach as a way to symbolize the band. In a strange way, I actually prefer the typographic version of the Miracle blend which shows four different Qs morphing into each other. However, I don’t know whether most fans would get it immediately which is one of the parameters of good t-shirt design.

9) Cartoons & caricatures

Having Queen portrayed as caricatures or cartoon renditions of themselves shows how the illustrator sees them in their own idiosyncratic way. Some here are more successful than others but all seem to play off one stereotype or another that Queen has had over the years. Freddie as Japanese anime would be an interesting video short or comic series. 

10) Illustrations

An illustration sets the bar for spatial depiction requirement that much higher than cartoons or caricatures. These entries all take a commendable attempt at rendering a design that hinges on some technical ability to paint or draw. My hats off to them as it is extremely difficult to do well. The problem with this approach, as with other themes, is that it pigeonholes the band into a single time period which may be too restrictive to fully express 40 years worth of musical output.

11) Chess pieces

Like the Queen Elizabeth discussion earlier, here the Queen chess piece is used as the primary symbol. But just like the conceptual problems associating QEII to the band, forcing two strong identities into one design creates a competing focus. It underscores the semantic problems inherent in using identical labels for different cultural memes.

12) Playing cards

Where else can we find the term “Queen”? Oh yeah, in a deck of cards. I’m surprised that no one included a queen-sized bed in their design. I think these entries are struggling to find something unique in their interpretation of the band, their name, and to tell a story that’s not been told before. It’s a noble effort but the problem is that fans might not buy into your version because it was never officially endorsed by the band. There needs to be some modicum of recognizability in the visual cues presented so fans of all stripes can appreciate the common history of the band. But to introduce an element that was never part of the band’s identity derails the intention of the message. 

13) Creepy . . . in some way

Sorry, Freddie’s unitard exposing pale yellow skin reminded me of the cadavers I handled at the funeral home years ago. Besides the coloration issue, how many women would be comfortable portraying a hairy chest with a tattoo? Is the photocopied face meant to imply that Queen punched this guy in the face? Putting lion heads on the band members’ bodies looks like something out of The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe. Putting letters on the heads of the band members gets weird, too. Freddie and QEII going halfsies is creepy and doesn’t flatter either of them. The amorphous abdomen is a commendable attempt at updating the morphing of bodies together. Too bad it’s so ambiguous as to what it is. And a hand holding a bleeding heart just isn’t that romantic, contrary to what the song title implies.

14) Memento mori motifs

I was surprised to see so many skulls finding their way into several designs. At the risk of generalizing, I am wondering if such momento mori images are a cultural norm found outside of North America (except for the cow skull, which I’ve seen a lot of in Canada). This imagery borders on the macabre, which is okay, actually. Queen routinely sang about death -- such as Death on Two Legs…, All Dead, All Dead, Who Wants to Live Forever -- and even March of the Black Queen gets pretty occultish in parts. The bigger question is whether the depiction of death is reflecting Freddie’s passing or the perceived death of the band? Come to think of it, maybe death should have been the dominant theme because the rapture will be here on Saturday.

15) XL

A few clever souls realized that 40 years can be expressed as XL in Roman numerals and conveniently worked their designs around this interpretation. While I think the approach could work, the fact that it appears on a shirt immediately sets the context to that of clothing. Clothing size (XL) now supersedes the notion of “years.” At least that’s me. Perhaps there was an intentional double entendre with Queen (Freddie?) being larger than life. If that’s the case, then Extra Large would be okay, but then you lose the focus on their anniversary. Again, this is one of those multimodal gestalt situations that could go either way depending on a viewer’s initial reading of the message.

16) A rainbow of colour

There’s nothing like a rainbow of colour to grab your attention. The problem is, once you’ve got it, what are you telling them? It would seem from most of these entries that use the 40th Anniversary crest as the focus of the design, which is fine, but they all tend to look the same because of it. The album cover art used as tone (ala Hot Space portraits), wasn’t intended to be a rainbow of colour, but it comes off in a similar way. I think the colourful hair design (bottom row, second from right) was one of the leading contenders in the contest according to votes, so I’ll be curious to see how it fares on May 25th.

17) Interesting . . . for some reason

These ones caught my eye for different reasons. They all had some quirky connection to Queen, even the papercut butterfly. The headphone bra and heart-shaped ear look like they were produced by the same person. The 40 fingers=40 years=crown idea is unique, although at first glance it resembles a turtle skeleton. Freddie as land masses is great. Killer Queen looks like a James Bond character. The Rock Legends idea strikes me as an awkward combination of two disparate symbols. But unlike the shared nationalism of QEII and Queen, this one is half American and half British. I don’t know how the Brits would feel about it.

18) Original . . . for some reason

Life doesn’t get better than a cranky Leo giving the finger to the masses on a t-shirt design. (Sort of reminds me of the tourism volunteer I met years ago who was wearing a shirt with Mickey Mouse flipping the bird.) While I don’t quite understand how Queen became ferriers (i.e., horseshoes), but it’s original. The other two designs are just kinda cool in their unique interpretation of Queen’s legacy.

19) The kitchen sink

Sometimes less is more, if you know what I mean. With 40 years of activity to reflect in a t-shirt design, it can be tempting to include as much of the band’s history in a single image, which is what happened here. All of the constituent parts of these designs work well on their own -- whether it was a photo, design element, or colour pattern -- because they were intended to be the focus of the item they were used with. But to put a bunch of primary images together creates a lack of focus and ultimately weakens everything. Sort of like bolding everything in your text because you want to draw attention to everything but everything is given equal emphasis because of it. There needs to be a visual hierarchy for the viewer to follow.

20) 40th Anniversary crest

By far, more entries in the contest used the 40th Anniversary crest as the basis of their designs. This makes sense because it was meant to be the star of the show anyway, so to speak. What’s really interesting here is to see all of the interpretations of the crest and the mixing and matching that went on to create a unique look for it. As well, the fact that the 40th Anniversary crest is a version of Freddie’s original band crest underscores the strength of Freddie’s idea and the stability of his design through the years. But when you see them all together like this, can you pick one that is definitely the best out of the bunch? They tend to all look the same because the concept is, more or less, the same for each.

21) Oops

Before you upload, you might want to have another pair of eyes proof your work. Or at least turn on spell check.

22) WTF . . . tenuous connection?

Queen as stormtroopers? Okay. . . I get it. But the Star Wars connotation is so bloody strong I would wonder who is paying who for licensing of their brands on such a t-shirt: Queen to Lucas or Lucas to Queen. (This brings up an interesting point: what did stormtroopers look like before Star Wars since Brian’s song predates Star Wars?) The graffiti approach is interesting but so illegible that it is rendered moot. Is that a Mormon temple with Shrek fighting off a giant snake? And a fly with Queen tattooed on its back? Is the brain meant to symbolize Queen’s cerebral music? And WTF is Freddie’s silhouetted hair doing on the table with a nose on the floor? I don’t get it.

23) WTF . . . representational

Who’s your daddy? A neaderthal feather walker? A flaming eyeball? A countryside church? Wow, these entries are miles away visually from anything a typical Queen fan would recognize as being about the band. Perhaps in the entry write-ups the designer had a solid explanation as to how their image ties back into the Queen legacy, but if you need to explain a concept in 250 words, it falls far short of the few seconds that a t-shirt has in communicating its message. What’s truly missing in these entries is any semblance of a shared memory between the designer and the viewer.

24) WTF . . . abstract

Enter the realm of complete ambiguity. These abstract entries have nothing at all to connect them visually to Queen. Why bother entering if you’re not going to speak the same language as other fans?

25) My favourites

Out of all the entries, here are my six favourites . . . all for different reasons. If I had to pick my second favourite shirt, it would be the Q-neck design. It’s a clever use of the t-shirt shape but subtly suggests Queen through the distinctive tail of the Q. If I had to pick an absolute favourite, it would be the band members-as-roots illustration. It is so absolutely bizarre in its portrayal of the band but executed in a unique style that still manages to incorporate subtle motifs from the band’s history, it works in my opinion. 

My design

So I barely got any views and not one vote on my entry through Talenthouse, but that's okay. After reviewing all of the submissions, it is obvious to me that it’s nearly impossible to encapsulate Queen’s 40 years of achievement in a single, graphical image. You can sum up their history in words, though, which is what I opted to do. They made a big noise in rock history . . . and it is their hope that us fans will make a big noise in bringing awareness to the problem of AIDS worldwide. 

UPDATE: MAY 25, 2011 — Winner announced

Well, here it is . . . Brian and Roger’s choice for the fundraising t-shirt design. I was surprised that they went with such a Freddie-dominant theme since the band was definitely larger than just Freddie’s influence. 

The fully contoured design will require a significantly more demanding manufacturing process since the textiles will need to be printed first, then sewn into a shirt later on. I’ll be curious if I see anyone around town wearing one to Costco and such in the next few months.

Photo credits: Talenthouse (except mine)