Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Music streaming service Spotify recently conducted a study that found, among other things, that one in three people could name a song that was “better than sex.” Topping the list? “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the British rock band Queen’s mock-opera opus, released in 1975 and now a singing competition staple for melismatics everywhere.
Spotify’s Science Behind the Song Study, conducted by Daniel Müllensiefen, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, asked 2,000 people ages 18 to 91 in Great Britian about music and sex. The best music to get in the mood or for a romantic dinner? Marvin Gaye and Barry White. To flirt on the dance floor? Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” During the dirty deed? Anything from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Out of the 20 songs considered “better than sex,” four are by Queen. Thunderbolt and lightning! This leads me to a couple of my own conclusions:
1. Queen fans are all too eager to volunteer for studies.
2. Queen fans in the United Kingdom need to get out more.
3. Sex isn’t that big of a deal for English people, at least after hearing “Bohemian Rhapsody” hundreds of times.
As a lifelong Queenologist, I’m often asked to issue my opinion whenever the band enters the public consciousness. I relish this role of Queen griot in my social media village, fielding GIFs, lipdubs, and parodies. Hey, what do you think about surviving members of Queen play at the London Olympics closing ceremonies? Touching, I say. And Sacha Baron Coen portraying the late Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic? Intriguing, I will reply.
But better than sex? Some folks would rather scaramouche and do the fandango than do the nasty?
The notion isn’t so far-fetched. For years, I found myself in the Bohemian Rhapsody-is-better-than-sex camp. Granted, those years also coincided with my not yet experiencing sex, but still. Songs that made the better-than-sex list, head researcher Müllensiefen said, can all be considered “epic masterpieces.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” certainly qualifies as epic: six-minutes that begin a capella, moves into ballad, guitar solo, mock opera, headbanging and ends with a gong. Its narrator confesses to his mama he’s “just killed a man,” perhaps goes on trial and escapes, then resigns to his fate. The opera section mentions Beelzebub and Bismallah and Galileo and Figaro. By the end, all that’s missing is a cigarette and a sandwich.
Taken this way, the iconic scene from Wayne’s World where five dudes bang their heads in Pacer could be seen as the Brokeback Mountain of car sing-alongs.
In the U.K., where Queen rank second to the Beatles, they take their Bohemian Rhapsody seriously. In a 2004 BBC special on the song, producers gathered English dons in the Oxford Union to parse the lyric’s meaning.
“We’ve got aching and more or less sexual sensations going on,” one don says with a straight face. “And indeed the structure of the lyrics trace a kind of sexual rhythm, I think. And it ends up not in some nihilistic position, but simply in a state of careless, indifferent post-coital exhaustion.”
Writing about sex, Martin Mull once famously said, is like dancing about architecture. Comparing music to sex is like comparing shaking hands to video games, or haircuts to Malcolm Gladwell, or Twitter to stuffed animals.
“Marvin Gaye is key to success when it comes to seducing a partner in the bedroom,” Angela Watts from Spotify said in their release, “and if you don’t have a partner, we can highly recommend Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody!”
What the lonelyhearts want from their sex-surrogate playlists, I fear, embody what made them lonely in the first place: unreasonable, epic expectations. Music has always been central to lovers everywhere. Maybe we should advocate a strict three-minute limit for celibate Spotify users.
Do they have cookies for that?
- Spotify study: Music is arousing (cnn.com)
- Do The Sounds of ‘Dirty Dancing’ Turn You On? New Study Says It Should (mix941fm.cbslocal.com)
- Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody Now Sells Gum (adrants.com)
- What Are the Best Songs for Seduction? The Results Will Surprise You (entertainment.time.com)
- Songs To Spice Up Your Sex Life (fox8.com)
- For many, Bohemian Rhapsody is better than sex: Survey (sunnewsnetwork.ca)
- Music more arousing than touch? (timesunion.com)