The name says it all! This week: Queen and its new frontman, cock rocker Paul Rodgers.

Rodgers, you see, was the swaggering frontman for the two bands that were originally responsible for establishing the generic-FM-rock-band archetype: Free and Bad Company. He's the dude who penned that now-classic verse of white-blues poetics, "Aaalllll riggghhhht now/ Baby, itsa aaalllll riggghhhht now." If, musically speaking, a more inappropriate choice for a Freddie Mercury replacement exists, then I'm unaware of him (or her). The painful evidence supporting this can be heard on the live double disc credited to Queen + Paul Rodgers and titled Return of the Champions. To put it bluntly, this recent release is unlistenable. With Rodgers at the helm, Queen is as edgy as a basketball.

But, this shameless quasi-Queen reunion must not be easily dismissed because May and Taylor (Deacon did not return to the fold) are practicing a rather sinister form of image revision. Here, then, is my outlandish theory.

These two feel ashamed of Queen's popular legacy. They believe the world considers them to be campy, Broadway-bred art fags -- total homos. And in order to restore some manliness, virility, and unquestionable heterosexuality to Queen's image, they have hired as their frontman the all-time king-shit of sweaty, cock-rocking, groupie-banging meathead vocalists, Mr. Paul "Feel Like Makin' Love" Rodgers.

Queen's PR goons even admitted as much on the band's Web site, giving the story a sleazy, promotional spin: "Over half a million people had seen and celebrated the return of the mighty force that was Queen, and realized the added rock/blues edge that Rodgers had brought to one of rock's best loved song catalogues ["added rock/blues edge" = "gave it a real set of balls"]."

Queen rocked hard, and Mercury is without question irreplaceable. It's just a shame that the surviving members of Queen (who owe their fame and fortunes to Mercury's unique genius) don't realize this. Queen has been touring the world since March (stopping in L.A. and NYC stateside, although a full U.S. tour is in the works for early '06), which is a head-scratcher because frontman Freddie Mercury died back in '92, and let's be honest: He was the factor that enabled Queen (and its progressive fusion of hard rock, theatrical camp, power pop, classical music, and new wave) to stand apart from the group's generic FM-rock contemporaries. Without Mercury's stage charisma, conceptual audacity, and "absolutely fabulous" presence, the surviving trio of Brian May (guitar), Roger Taylor (drums), and John Deacon (bass) would have been just another early-'70s Zeppelin knockoff, which is why Queen's choice for Mercury's replacement, Paul Rodgers, is bitterly ironic and damn suspicious.

 
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