Life Is Real

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Album: Hot Space
Meter: 4/4
Key: G Major, Bm, (D Major)
Form:  

 Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge - Chorus |
       | Solo (Verse)| Verse - Outro I - II (AAAAAA)|

This ballad is Mercury's (and the band's) tribute to John Lennon who was killed in late 1980.
The songform is simple (simplified: AAB(A)A ), on the other hand the sections are unusually long and non-repetitive. We have one Bridge with a chorus like ending, similarly to the Verse that also ends with title phrases. The arrangement is relatively economic: piano, bass, spare guitar works, some synth fills (octave harmonized). Among the chords you can find some with bass notes half or whole note below the root.

Intro:
The song is introduced with the piano playing a treble G note on the 3rd beat of each measure. By the start of the track it is still ambigous where the downbeat is (shades of "You Really Git Me" (Kinks, 1964))

|  G1 |  -  |  -  |  -  |
| 1th...


Verse:
We have three Verse plus an instrumental one. The harmony of the first two phrases is built around a stepwise descending bassline and a G note on top which was already exposed in the intro. The chord transcription is based on the guitar chords added for the second Verse and the outro.
The phrasing of the 20 measure Verse is 4+4+2+2+4, the first two phrases have the same harmonic backing.

G:
/---------- 2x ----------\\
| G   | D/F# | Em  | D   |
| I   |  V   | vi  | V   |

| C   | C/B  | C   | Am  |
| IV  | "I"  | I   | ii  |

| G   | G/F# |
| I   | "V"  |

| Bm  | /D   |
| iii |  -   |

| F/C |  C   | G   | -   |
| bVII|  IV  | I   | -   | 

The arrangement of the second Verse hardly changes: it adds soft guitar chords for the first two phrases in synchron with the treble G notes and drops the ending synth figure. The lead melody also changes for only these two phrases. The last Verse adds synth motifs in parallel octaves echoing the lead vocal. This Verse also starts with variant phrases that are closer to the first Verse. The instrumental Verse section is a triple solo (shades of "Dragon Attack" with drum solo followed by bass solo and guitar solo respectively). First the (probably fingerpicked) Red Special solo (first two phrases), then an acoustic guitar solo (middle phrases), synth solo with lots of slided notes (the last phrases). The latter copies the lead melody of the Verse, while the Red Special solo for just the first phrase.

Bridge:
The Bridge phrasing-wise similar to the Verse: 20 measures 4+4+4+2+2+4. The harmony is ambigous as the b-minor tonality does not supported by strong cadences. The dominant chord in m.7-8 does not resolves to the tonic, but to III (see also in "Death On Two Legs"). Similarly to the Verse the first phrase features stepwise descending bassline. The third phrase slides toward the relative Major key (D).

b:
| Bm   | F#/Bb| D/A  | G    |
| i    |  V   | III  | VI   |

| G    | -    | F#   | -7   |
| VI   | -    | V    | -    |

| D    | -    | C/D  | -    |
| III  | -   bVII/III| -    |

| Bm   | -    |
| i    | -    |

| B  C# | D    | : lead melody
| B  A# | A1   | : guitar notes 
chromatic/contrapuntal

| Em   | -    | G   | G5/A  |
b: iv  | -    |
D: ii  | -    | IV  | "V"   |

The m.5-6 are melody-wise mainly identical with m.19-20. The last phrase starts with a dramatic Em chord up-stroked (a favourite lick of guitarists) with a dramatic rising lead melody. The last two chords suggest a D Major tonality, but the Chorus...

Chorus
... the chorus suggests the return of the G Major key, weakly though. At last it gets established with a double plagal cadence for the beginning of the next instrumental Verse. The phrasing is 2+2+2+2 AABB harmony-wise, AA'A" melody-wise. The last melodic phrase is a close variant of the closing of the Verse (without the "oh yeah").

 /----- 2x -----\\
 | D    | C/D   |
D: I    | bVII  |
G: V    | IV    |

 /----- 2x -----\\
 | F/C  | C     |
G: bVII | IV    |

This is the only section with harmonized vocals. The last phrase harmonized differently: pedal bass and parallel thirds. The section ends with long guitar trill faded in and out and also stereo crossfaded.

Outro
The outro has two subsection. The first one grows out from the last Verse, overalpping its last phrase. The harmony  alternates the first two measures of the Verse with guitar arpeggios added.

m.19-

/----- 4x -----\\
| G5   | G5/F# | Cadd2 | D1   |
| I    |       | IV    | V1   |

Melody-wise it is mostly quotes the title phrases of previous sections.

The second subsection repeats the Verse-opening chord progression six times with more title phrase variants. After the synth hook in the fifth cycle (parallel fourths) the song fades out.