Somebody To Love

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Meter: 3/4
Key: Ab-Major
Form:

 Intro I-II | Verse / Chorus ||
            | Verse'/ Chorus'| Bridge |
        Solo (Verse)/ Chorus"|
            | Verse | Vocal Break (AAAAAAAA'AABBB'...Intro I') | Coda (CCCCCCC-) / outro |


"Somebody To Love" was the leading single of the "...Races" album and as such it is an obvious target of comparison with "Bohemian Rhapsody". "Somebody..." is one minute shorter, has a more simple cyclic design til the gospel break. This gospel break sounds just as big as the opera choir in "...Rhapsody", but its more simple in terms of functional harmony and rhythm. The Bridge has ambigous harmony, but the rest of the song uses mostly basic chords: Ab, Bb, Db, Eb, Fm. The key is Ab-Major (four flats) which is a rare occassion of Mercury playing beyond Eb-Major (three flats).

The arrangement of the song is mainly the basic piano-ballad enseble with spare use of guitar and rich use of vocal harmonies, many antiphonal ones among them.
The gospel influence is not without precedent in pop music (eg. songs from the "Hair" musical), Brian May in an interview suggested the influence of Aretha Franklin.

Intro I
The song starts with an almost acapella intro (with soft piano backing) with five phrases of irregular length (roughly transcribed: 5/4 > 10/4 > 8/4 > 6/4 > ? ).
Both first and last phrase has merely one syllable each. A variant of this section will be shown up in the end of the gospel section, that is also a variant of the end chorus.

| Ab1           |
| Ab Gdim Fm7 Dbmaj7,13 |
| Eb4,7*        |
| Db Ab/C Eb7   |
| Ab1           |

In the live version this acapella section was substituted by a piano + solo vocal intro. In 1981 (Velez') the intro followed this chord progression:

| Ab - G | Ab Bb7/Ab Ghalfdim7 Db Eb Ab |
| I  VII | I   V/V    biidim   IV V  I  |


Intro II
The second part of the intro is played on piano, drums and bass enter for the upbeat before m7.

upbeat | Ab   | Eb/G | Fm   | -    | Db   | -    | Eb   | -    |

While the piano line instantly establishes the 3/4 meter, from m3 on we have a chain of disorienting hemiolas (2+2+2+2 groupings of chord-bass-chord-bass playing style).

Verse
The 24 measure Verse has six four measure phrases. The harmony is simple, it features the I > V6/3 > vi cliche. The third phrase is harmony-wiise same as the first.

| Ab   | Eb7/G | Fm7  | -    |
| I    |  V6/3 | vi   | -    | 

| Ab   | Bb7   | Eb   | -    |
| I    | V/V   | V    | -    |

| Ab   | Eb7/G | Fm7  | -    |
| I    |  V6/3 | vi   | -    | 

| Bb7  |  -    | Eb   | -    |
| V/V  |  -    | V    | -    |

| Ab   | Bb7   | Eb   | -    |
| I    | V/V   | V    | -    |

| Eb   | Bb7/D | Eb   | Db   |
| V    | V/V   | V    | IV   |

The section features many vocal harmonies both antiphonal and lead-harmonizing ones.
The second Verse is completely alters the first three melodic phrases and also the related vocal harmonies.
The third verse is for the melodic guitar solo with often flexible rhythmical phrasing.
The last verse is a closer variant of the fist one. The antiphonal vocal harmonies are completly changed.

Chorus
The 10 measure chorus is not sharply separated from the verse except the phrase lengths are not four measured anymore.

| Ab   | -    |
| I    | -    |

| Ab   | -    |
| I    | -    |

| Ab   | Eb7/G | Fm7  | Dbmaj7,9  | Eb7  | -    |
| I    | V6/3  | vi   | IV        | V    | -    |

The last syllable of the last vocal phrase falls on the downbeat of the next connector subsection. In the first and third cycle this connector follows mainly the same chord progrsession as the previous vocal phrase.

| Ab   | -     | Ab/G | -    | Ab/F  | -    |
| I    | -     |"V6/3"| -    | "vi"  | -    |

| Db   | -     | Eb   | -    |
| IV   | -     | V    | -    |

In the second cycle right before the bridge we have rather an extension of the chorus than a connector subsection.
It prolonges one chord with melodic bassline while Mercury prolonges a single syllable throughout.

| Ab  | -   | -   | -   | -   | -   | -   | -   |  

The 2+2+2 hemiola motif appears again in the last measures.

Bridge
The bridge has not clear tonal center due to lots of leaps of fifths (Ab > Db > Gb, Bb > Eb > Ab ), thus no roman numerals here. The two blocks of chain of fifths is connected with a parallel and relative chord change respectively.

| Db   | -    |

| Db   | -    |

| Db7  | -    | -    | -    |

| Gb   | -    | -    | -    | 

| Gbm  | -    | -    | -    |

| Bb7  | -    | -    | -    |

| Bb7  | -    | -    | -    |

| Eb   | -    |

| Ab/Eb| -    | -    | -    |

The first half of section uses this simple rhythmical motif thoughout reinforced by guitar chords as well:

1 2 3 1 2 3
* * * *

"Gospel" Vocal Break
The first subsection of the vocal break uses the concept of repeating a melodic phrase with always thickening arrangement. Phrase by phrase:
1st phrase: the main tune for bass voices.
2nd phrase: octave harmony added and also drums with slow gradual cresendo throughout the subsection.
3rd phrase: fifth and thirds
4th phrase: soprano octaves added
5th phrase: soprano thirds with different punctuation also handclaps and bass fade in.
8th phrase: phrase extension with oscillating last syllable
9th phrase: extra high notes on "...love".

From the 11th phrase it really sounds like a big gospel choir

/----- 2x ----\\
| Ab1  | Ab   |
| 1st  | I    |

               9>8
| Ab1  | Db/Ab 6>5 |
| 1st  | IV        |

| Ab   | -    | -    | -    |
| I    | -    | -    | -    |


| Ab   | Gdim | Fm7  | Dbmaj7,9 | /Eb  ...
| I    |"V6/3"| vi   | IV       | "V" 

This phrase is a variant of the opening phrase of the song (or vica versa).

The last phrase is for solo vocal. The last syllable is 11-note pentatonic melisma. Noteworthy how accurately the crowd was able to sing it on the tribute concert.

Coda
The coda sings the same eight measure phrase seven times with Mercury singing along semi-improvised vocals. The chord progression is mainly the same as the connector after the (first) chorus, only the harmonic rhythm is faster for the last two chords. The vocal harmony is tightly arranged.

Outro
The short outro is an extension of the ending phrase of the coda. It starts with a slow down. Piano plays some trills and ad-lib figures. The song closes with a staccato chord on the tonic.