Somewhere between 1981 and 1984, two of the world's biggest music acts, Queen and Michael Jackson, collaborated. The result sat in the can for roughly thirty years until it was dusted off and touched up to be featured on a career-spanning retrospective called Queen Forever
. "There Must Be More to Life Than This"
was originally written by Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury, in 1981 and intended to be released on the album, Hot Space
Mercury took the unfinished song to Jackson's home in Los Angeles to record vocal tracks, but still it failed to see a release. On his debut solo record, Mr. Bad Guy
, Mercury recorded a different, much less Queen-ish sounding version.
The version of "There Must Be More to Life Than This" recorded with Jackson became highly anticipated when its eventual release was announced, and understandably so. Both acts are beloved and highly influential. The song, at its foundation, is a lighthearted piano ballad. However, with every listen, more facets reveal themselves.
Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor give the ballad more heft by adding fullness and punch behind Mercury's piano. The accompanying string arrangement elevates the mood of the song to a grander level to match the evergreen lyrical content. Just past the midway point of the song, a well engineered guitar solo acts as a catalyst into the second half's crescendo.
The aspect of "There Must Be More to Life Than This" that is disappointing is the vocal performance. Jackson's voice emerges in the second verse, quivering like a prepubescent teenager. Even as the song draws nearer to the dramatic climax, neither singer quite belts it out. As much as the music urges the vocals to explode, they never quite match the intensity and passion of the instrumental.
The question arises: why collaborate in the first place? To work with an artist who can add something that you're not capable of producing yourself perhaps. If that's the case, then it almost seems like an unnecessary collaboration, since Jackson's performance really doesn't do anything for the song. Then again, "There Must Be More to Life Than This" lives in the shadow of Queen's classic collaboration with David Bowie, "Under Pressure."
"There Must Be More to Life Than This" is not a bad song. In fact, it's a well orchestrated and well executed pop song. Perhaps the problem is, as consumers, we expected too much from two colossal artists working together.