The Miracle is the thirteenth studio album by British Glam Rock band Queen, released in 1989. It returns to the Hard Rock sound of the band's early material while simultaneously blending it with the synth-driven style of their later output.
Despite its cheery sound, however, it was recorded during a turbulent period full of personal crisis. Namely, guitarist Brian May was recovering from tensions in his marital life, and more significantly, vocalist Freddie Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS the year after their world tour for A Kind of Magic, with the visible effects of the disease (most notably Mercury's significant weight loss) leading to widespread and unfortunately correct media speculation that he was seriously ill; a good number of outlets even correctly guessed that he had AIDS. Thus, alongside Innuendo and Made in Heaven after it, The Miracle represents a sense of approaching finality for Queen, as the band were forced to confront Freddie's mortality in a time when an AIDS diagnosis was regarded as a death sentence. Indeed, Mercury would die at the end of 1991, months after the release of Innuendo, only confirming his battle the day before his death; before then, he tried to brush off speculation by claiming that he was simply exhausted from over a decade and a half of energetic performing.
As per usual for Queen, The Miracle was a considerable commercial success for the band, topping the charts in the UK, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland, and peaking at No. 24 on the Billboard 200. The album would go on to become the 14th best-selling album of 1989 in the UK, and would be certified platinum in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland, and gold in Australia, Austria, Finland, France, and New Zealand.
Starting on this album and continuing on the next, all songs are credited to the band Queen as a whole rather than to individual members. The Miracle was supported by five singles: "I Want It All", "Breakthru", "The Invisible Man", "Scandal", and "The Miracle".
- "Party" (2:24)
- "Khashoggi's Ship" (2:47)
- "The Miracle" (2:47)
- "I Want It All" (4:41)
- "The Invisible Man" (3:55)
- "Breakthru" (4:07)
- "Rain Must Fall" (4:20)
- "Scandal" (4:42)
- "My Baby Does Me" (3:22)
- "Was It All Worth It?" (5:45)
Bonus tracks on the original CD release
- "Hang On In There" (3:46)
- "Chinese Torture" (1:46)
- "The Invisible Man (12 Inch Version)" (5:29)
- John Deacon - bass, guitar, keyboard
- Brian May - guitar, backing and co-lead vocals, keyboard
- Freddie Mercury - lead vocals, piano, keyboard, synthesizer
- Roger Taylor - drums, backing and lead vocals, guitar, keyboard
Every little trope that's written... it's a miracle!
- Album Title Drop: As expected from a Title Track with a Title Drop, this occurs frequently throughout "The Miracle"It's the miracle we need, the miracle
The miracle we're all waiting for today
- As the Good Book Says...: "The Miracle" name-drops Cain and Abel and the Tower Of Babel.
- Badass Boast:
- "Khashoggi's Ship" features Freddie telling a gun-toting bouncer to "kiss my ass, honey" at a party.
- "The Invisible Man" repeatedly boasts about how he is uncatchable and undetectable.
- Changed for the Video: The single version of "I Want It All", used as the basis for the song's music video, cuts out the guitar intro— opting to instead open with an a Capella rendition of the chorus (in actuality the harmonized second half isolated and pasted to the beginning)— and shortens Brian May's guitar solo.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: "Chinese Torture" is named after the water-dripping torture technique, where someone is tied up while a drop of water keeps dripping on their forehead. The song's dark composition was intended to invoke the same sense of fear as the torture method.
- Continuity Cavalcade: The music video for "The Miracle" shows "Little Freddie" in kid-sized versions of Freddie's various outfits over the years, including his black-and-white diamond jumpsuit from 1977, his white tank top and jeans from Live Aid, and his yellow jacket and white pants from Wembley in 1986. Given that the actual Freddie Mercury knew he didn't have long to live, the video's use of this trope acts as a self-eulogy in hindsight.
- Cool Ship: "Khashoggi's Ship" is about a party held on the Nabila (now known as the Kingdom 5KR), a superyacht formerly owned by Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. For those wondering, a financially strained Kashoggi sold the ship in 1988 to Brunei sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who sold her to American businessman and future president Donald Trump, who sold her to Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who as of 2020 is still the ship's current owner.
- Cover Version: "The Invisible Man" received one by Scatman John in 1996.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover sophisticatedly blends the band's faces into one seamlessly flowing unit, with the back cover making a stunningly elaborate honeycomb-like structure out of their eyes. Both were achieved using a Quantel Paintbox, a computer graphics workstation typically used for television broadcasts.
- Face on the Cover: A very special and literal example of this trope: the band members' faces are composed into one. Notably, The Miracle is the last studio album of Queen's to abide by this trope (discounting the collaborative album The Cosmos Rocks), with Innuendo featuring appropriated J.J. Grandville illustrations and Made in Heaven featuring just a back shot of the surviving band members on the back cover (with the front cover using a back shot of a statue of Freddie).
- Food Fight: Mentioned in "Party".We had a food fight in somebody's face.
- Foreshadowing: The title track and "Breakthru" mention "All God's People" and "Headlong" in their lyrics, both songs that would appear on the next album Innuendo.
- The Future Will Be Better: "The Miracle", a song that informs the listener that the day in the future "the time will come, one day you'll see, when we will all be friends".
- Grand Finale: "Was It All Worth It?" was written with this in mind, as Freddie and the rest of the band didn't expect that he'd have much longer to live (given how rapidly AIDS ate away at people before medication for HIV became widely available).
- Gratuitous Panning: The synth bass on "Breakthru" jumps between the left and right channels at multiple points throughout the song; Brian May's guitar part also indulges in this trope during his solo on the same track.
- Invisibility: Predictably, this trope serves as the point of focus for "The Invisible Man".
- Important Haircut: Freddie shaved the now-iconic thick mustache he sported throughout the majority of the 80's during the era for this album, with his clean-shaven look on the album cover representing Queen's return to a harder sound in-line with their late 70's work. At the same time, however, promotional photos and music videos for the album see Freddie grow a five-o-clock shadow, an apparent attempt at making his AIDS-induced weight loss less noticeable; it didn't work. Freddie would shave the beard while working on and promoting Innuendo, and would instead appear in that album's videos in heavy makeup and with Deliberately Monochrome image processing, which more effectively obscured his gaunt figure. The difference between mid-80's and late 80's Freddie would be further emphasized by the music video for "The Miracle", which features a child actor impersonating Freddie's Wembley '86 getup, complete with (fake) mustache, side-by-side◊ with the real, bearded Freddie, wearing the same outfit.
- "I Want" Song: "I Want It All".
- List Song: "The Miracle" names several things Freddie considers to be a miracle.
- Longest Song Goes Last: On LP and cassette copies and all versions of the 2011 remaster, the closing track is "Was It All Worth It?", which at 5:45 outpaces every other song on the record.
- Mona Lisa Smile: "The Miracle" describes The Mona Lisa and her ability to maintain her iconic smile in the face of the world's turmoil as one of the many miracles listed throughout the lyrics.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Freddie does this literally in "The Miracle", where among the various things he considers to be a miracle he also lists stuff like "Cain and Abel" and "Sunday mornings with a cup of tea".
- Mythology Gag: "The Invisible Man" harks back to the formula of "Another One Bites the Dust" from nearly a decade prior, being a catchy dance song driven along by a prominent bass guitar part.
- New Sound Album: Compared to the heavily synth-driven material the band had been putting out throughout the 80's, this record steps back into the Hard Rock direction of their 70's output, though not without its own 80's synth flourishes, effectively acting as a modernization of the "classic" Queen sound. The only song on the album that can really be considered in-line with the band's previous 80's albums is "The Invisible Man", which is primarily driven by John Deacon's bass and copiously accentuated by synth flares.
- Nightmare Face: The head on the album cover: a composite of the band members' faces.
- Nostalgia Filter: "Was It All Worth It?", where the band looks back on their career and success. Eventually Freddie decides that despite the less pleasant moments and especially his failing health, it was all indeed Worth It!
- One-Man Song: "The Invisible Man".
- One-Word Title: "Party", "Breakthru", "Scandal".
- Pep-Talk Song: "The Miracle", "Breakthru", "Rain Must Fall" are all energetic songs that confirm to the listener that life is great, despite that sometimes "some rain must fall."
- The Power of Love: "Breakthru" and "My Baby Does Me" are powerful love songs.
- Protest Song: "I Want It All" was interpreted both as an anti-apartheid song and as an LBGT anthem, though neither of those meanings were intended by the band. The anti-apartheid interpretation is rather ironic in that Queen was one of the few major groups not to abide with the UN cultural boycott on apartheid South Africa, and they ended up fined and blacklisted. Queen members later argued that they weren't a political group and that the crowd was integrated, missing the point on the policy of de-investment.
- Questioning Title?: "Was It All Worth It?"
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- "Khashoggi's Ship" was written about billionaire Adnan Khashoggi and his large private yacht the Nabila (nowadays the Kingdom 5KR).
- Not only was "Scandal" inspired by the real-life intrusion of the tabloid press on Freddie as he was secretly suffering from HIV/AIDS, but a certain amount of them were equally intrusive upon Brian's divorce and his entering a relationship with actress Anita Dobson.
- Revisiting the Roots: The Miracle sees Queen return to the Hard Rock style of Glam Rock that had punctuated both their very first album and their material from 1977-1980. Innuendo would take the approach even further, modernizing the Progressive Rock style of Queen II, A Night at the Opera, and A Day at the Races.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Most of "The Miracle" (Brian and Roger do sing at the end, though), "Scandal, "Rain Must Fall" and a few bits on "Party".
- Series Fauxnale: In 1989, an AIDS diagnosis was still functionally a death sentence due to the lack of available medication leaving the human immunodeficiency virus free to eat away at the infected within a terrifyingly short span of time. Thus, when Freddie was diagnosed, he didn't think he'd live long enough to see more than one album put out: "Was It All Worth It?" consequently became an attempt to wrap up Queen's story in true Queen fashion while Freddie was still alive. However, he was miraculously able to live long enough to finish recording for another album and most of a second before his inevitable passing (only failing to finish vocals for "Mother Love"; Brian stepped in to fill the gaps), resulting in those two collectively becoming the real finale to Queen's career with Freddie.
- "The Miracle" name-drops several things that are a miracle, among them The Golden Gate, The Taj Mahal, Captain Cook, The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon, Cain and Abel, Jimi Hendrix, the Tower Of Babel and The Mona Lisa.
- "The Invisible Man" is a shout-out to The Invisible Man.
- "I Want It All" became an anti-apartheid anthem among the youth in South Africa at its release.
- Siamese Twin Songs: Both "Party" and "Kashoggi's Ship" cover themes of partying and are very similar to one another in sound and structure; their placement side-by-side on the album results in the cold ending to "Party" jumping straight to the abrupt opening of "Kashoggi's Ship", thus making the songs sound like two movements of a larger piece.
- Singer Name Drop: All four band members are name-dropped over the course of "The Invisible Man", in time to when they first make their presences heard.
- Spin-Off Babies: In the music video of "The Miracle" the band is played by children, dressed up as them. The grown-up Queen joins them on the set at the end.
- Spot of Tea: Of course, a Brit would think that "Sunday mornings with a cup of tea" would be a miracle in the title track.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Brian May sings co-lead vocals on "Party" and "I Want It All". Roger Taylor sings co-lead vocals on "The Invisible Man", having previously done a guide vocal for the track (included on the bonus disc for the 2011 remaster).
- Take That!:
- "Scandal" is an attack on the celebrity-obsessed media, who were giving both Freddie (over his health problems, resulting in a picture of him looking haggard and emaciated on the front page of The Sun) and Brian (over his divorce and subsequent marriage to actress Anita Dobson) a hard time in the late eighties. Ironically, Freddie's appearance in the music video for "Scandal" only furthered media speculation about his health, as it vividly showcased his AIDS-induced weight loss to a degree not seen in other videos from the era.
- John Deacon once went AWOL during some recording sessions, leaving just a note on his bass saying "gone to Bali", which shocked and upset the rest of the band. To get back at Deacon, the line "we went to Bali" was incorporated into "Was It All Worth It", which Freddie thought at the time would be his swan song (as he didn't think he'd live long enough for another album; he proved himself wrong two years later).
- Title Track: "The Miracle"
- Traintop Battle: Kind of. In the music video of "Breakthru" the band performs on top of a riding train, battling to keep their balance.
- Trrrilling Rrrs: Freddie does this with Roger Taylor's name when introducing him for his drum solo in "The Invisible Man".
- War Is Hell: "The Miracle", a song with a message for world peace.
- Worth It : The gist of the closing song, known as "Was It All Worth It?". According to the band, despite all the effort and heartache they put into it all, even after they knew that Freddie had AIDS, "It was a worthwhile experience!"