Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the most-streamed classic rock song of all time

Long live Queen.
Long live Queen.
Image: AP Photo/Gill Allen, File
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This is the real life and this is not fantasy: Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the most-streamed song from the 20th century, and the most-streamed classic rock song of all time.

Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music company and Queen’s record label, announced this distinction for the band on Monday (Dec. 11). “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released in 1975 as a single from the album A Night at the Opera, and it spent nine weeks at number one on the UK charts that year.

As of December 2018, the song has been streamed over 1.6 billion times on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, and other streaming services, according to UMG. Queen’s hit outperformed other powerhouse songs, such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and classics by Guns N’ Roses to take the top streaming spot for songs from the pre-streaming era.

Lucian Grainge, CEO of UMG, said that the streaming numbers were an “incredible achievement that is a testament to the enduring brilliance of Queen.” And Queen guitarist Brian May weighed in with a statement, the Guardian reports: “So the river of rock music has metamorphosed into streams! Very happy that our music is still flowing to the max!”

“Bohemian Rhapsody” clearly is an enduringly brilliant song, but its streaming dominance was also bolstered by the success of the recently released Queen biopic of the same name. Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek as Queen’s charismatic front man Freddie Mercury, has generated almost $600 million in box office earnings worldwide since its premiere on Nov. 2, and is the highest-grossing music biopic in history. Mercury died in 1991.

According to Nielsen Music data, weekly streams of Queen’s music more than tripled in the US between the release of the film’s soundtrack in October and the week after the film was released, the Wall Street Journal reports. The movie soundtrack also reached the third spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and helped boost sales of Queen’s previous records. As of Dec. 8, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of the top 10 most digitally downloaded songs, Nielsen’s research found.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is six minutes long—a sharp contrast to today’s pop songs, which are getting ever shorter—and moves through various music styles in episodic segments, as is typical of a rhapsody. The track was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004 and is widely considered one of the greatest songs of all time.