Thursday, August 18, 2016

Suicide Squad Trumps Limitless Suits on Billboards from the ’70s

While I don’t have as much time these days to update Queenville as often as I’d like, pop culture references to Queen are as pervasive as ever it seems.

For example, I just finished watching Season 1 of Suits, a TV drama focusing on a high-powered law firm in NYC. (I noticed, however, that many of the high-rise shots actually featured Canadian buildings from downtown Toronto, so after some snooping on iMDB, I discovered it is indeed shot in Toronto and stars Canadian-born Patrick J. Adams as the gifted college drop-out, Mike Ross.)

What I didn’t expect was the nerdy character of Louis Litt (played by Rick Hoffman) proclaim Queen to be the best band ever, as seen in his S1:E8 exchange with Harvey Spector, the firm’s star lawyer, as he goes through Harvey’s record collection:

Litt: I see that the greatest band of all time is conspicuously absent…
Harvey Specter: Who would that be, Louis?
Litt: Oh, I don’t know…a little British band called Queen.
Specter: Should have seen that coming. You know, real musicians…they don’t wear eyeliner.

I’m assuming that the writer of this episode is a Queen fan who saw Louis Litt as a bit of an outsider; people seem to judge him based on his appearance rather than his abilities, not unlike Queen in many ways. But then Litt goes on to defend eyeliner on rock stars by reminding Specter that Prince would disagree with his assessment of “real musicians.” Or maybe Litt just has a preference for musicians with royalty titles because it reminds him of what he wants to achieve?

Another TV series that used an obscure Queen song was Limitless in the S1:E9 episode called Headquarters. The song plays for quite a long time over an extended montage of scenes mimicking pop culture/social media characters that were “trending” at the time. You can watch the YouTube segment here.

The connection to a father and a son wasn’t immediately obvious as I watched the show, although the main character’s dad does pay a visit to his son at one point late in the episode. Whatever the reason for the song selection, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked with the visuals.

In politics, it was Trump vs Queen – not once, but twice –  during the GOP candidate’s campaign run leading up to the RNC last month. The Trump machine had used WATC at one point and Brian specifically asked that he not use their songs as a soundtrack to his campaign. And a month later, during the RNC, it was used again when he won the party’s endorsement as the official Republican party candidate.

There was a flurry of opinions as to whether or not Trump had secured the rights to the song for that particular event...some claimed it wasn’t his call but the event coordinator’s and that the licensing of the song was legitimate. Others contend that Queen doesn’t own their songs anyway so Brian has no say in the matter.


Unless the ownership of Queen’s catalogue has changed hands in the last 20 years, I distinctly remember Brian claiming that the band had bought the rights back from their record label back in the day and that they were one of the few bands who actually had ownership of their music. So unless that was signed away during the whole Hollywood Records deal or some other transaction that I missed, I’d say that Brian has a pretty good leg to stand on as far as asking Trump to stop using it.

What’s a bit perplexing, though, is that Hollywood Records released a mash-up of WATC interspersed with Desert Storm quotes from Bush Sr. and I don’t remember Queen having much to say about that back in 1991. Whatever the case, I’m pretty sure that Brian and gang still retain the moral rights to their work and would conceivably have a say in how it is used separate from general licensing. At least that’s my understanding of intellectual property rights here in Canada.

As an aside, WATC has been a rallying cry for Americans before. When the White House announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces military unit in 2011, a flash mob gathered at the White House to sing the national anthem and WATC. You can read about it here in a previous blog post. Coincidentally, I was watching Celebrity Apprentice when news broke of Bin Laden’s assassination.

There’s some buzz going on right now about Bohemian Rhapsody and its use in a trailer for Suicide Squad, the latest DC Comics adventure starring Will Smith. Queen’s version of the song was used in the trailer in a way that suggested the song would be a “character” in the film, much like its appearance in Wayne’s World back in 1992.

But it’s not Queen’s version that ends up in the actual’s a cover version by Panic! at the Disco. And when the Panic! version starting to get a lot of positive reaction from the — I’m guessing, younger — crowd who dominated the Comments section, a lot of people suggested that they check out the original by Queen which was better. Those that did check it out claimed that the lead singer of Panic! was as good as Freddie since he hit the big notes (I haven’t heard their version yet so I can’t verify this). But if Panic! is so great, why can’t they hit it out of the park with their own material?

Finally, a local radio station up here in Calgary has been marketing themselves as the “70s and more” station and this billboard featuring Freddie went up next to a high-volume thoroughfare. (They also have an Elton John silhouette sitting at a grand piano and a silhouette of the Fab Four walking across a crosswalk.)

I’m all for Freddie and the boys being used as a draw for listeners, but if they’re all about the ’70s, why did they use a Freddie pose from the Magic Tour?


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Together again?