Queen’s 1984 album benefits from lessons learned on 1982′s Hot Space. It retains and improves upon that infamous dud’s dance beats and synths — not enough to yield much club play, but this time the tracks that feature them aren’t sequenced one after another. Most of the songwriting is considerably more substantial both musically and lyrically: Check the difference between The Game‘s goofy “Don’t Try Suicide” and this one’s far gentler “Just Keep Passing the Open Windows.”
It still has its filler: Freddie Mercury’s Elvis-y “Man on the Prowl” fails to recapture the offhand magic of “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and Brian May’s “Tear It Up” strains too hard to follow its title’s advice. But the best of The Works emphasizes Queen’s reflective side, one that would continue to mature until yielding the quartet’s late career apex, 1991′s Innuendo.
Opening track and lead single “Radio Ga Ga” looks back lovingly on radio’s glory days while disdaining its then-current state with lasting consequences: The Roger Taylor-written song became Queen’s final U.S. Top 40 title. The next single, John Deacon’s simple yet soaring “I Want to Break Free,” was justifiably just as big overseas, but its video featured the band in drag spoofing a U.K. soap opera Coronation Street that was unknown in America. MTV balked, and the band’s American cachet faded until Mercury’s late ’91 passing.