Play The Game

Composer: Freddie Mercury
Meter: 4/4 (occasional 2/4and 6/8 measures)
Keys: C-major, F-major

    Intro | Verse | Chorus | Break 1 |
          | Verse | Chorus | Break 1'| Bridge |
 | Break 2 (Verse)| Solo (Chorus) | Chorus' | Chorus" |

 "Play The Game" is a piano ballad, Freddie's stylistic homeland, "Jealousy" and the bridge of "Flash" are close neighbors. The song form can be derived from the one-bridge model. The phrasing is predominantly non-four squared.


The first note is G (dominant) followed by several descending synth glissandos and reverse cymbals. Toward the end of the intro the glissando gets continuous, and the noises get more intense, and just before the glissando reaches G again, enter Freddie and the piano (shades of "Death On Two Legs").

It is unusually short for a Verse, only four measures (2+2), and it is followed by a Chorus.

| C    | Bbmaj7 |
| I    | bVII   |

| Am   | Fm6/G# |     Fm6/G# = C#halfdim/G#
| vi   | iv     |

The tonality of the Verse is not very strong. The Bb chord is motivated by chromatic descent (C B A# A G#). Note the unusual maj7 leap in the lead vocal in measure 2. Bass enters in measure four, drums enter on the downbeat of the Chorus (except a short roll on the downbeat of the third measure). The lead vocal of the second phrase parallels the first. The fist phrase is closed with an exotic maj7th leap in the lead vocal.
In second Verse drums and bass play all the way; the bass imitates the lead vocal in measure 3. The last words are harmonized (four voices).
Break 2 is an instrumental Verse dominated by a guitar playing along with the chromatic descent. Synth glissando figures are added where the guitar holds the note. This hard section is "resolved" by substituting the rhythm guitar with piano in the next section(solo-Chorus)

We have four Choruses plus an instrumental one, so this is the central section of the song. The phrasing is not square. The first phrase uses a cliche progression.

| C  Am | Dm G |
| I  vi | ii V |

| C   -7   | F  Fm(6)| C  G/B | C  | Gm7* | Ab  Bb || C...
| I V-of-IV|IV  iv   | I   V  | I  |"bVII"|bVI bVII|| I...

The Gm7* chord/harmony is spelled from bottom: G Bb D F A C. This nice six-note chord superimposes Bb, Gm7, F and probably several other chords. The upbeat of the section ("it's so") features flat-6 and flat-7 degrees foreshadowing the end. The bass line is very jumpy.
The second Chorus has different lyrics for the first three measures.
The third Chorus is filled by the guitar solo. Note the ear-pleasing effect: how the noisy preparation switches to a mellow piano-driven accompaniment. The first two notes of the solo (notation with degrees: 5, 9 bent to 10)
are a recurrent element of May's soloing: "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Flash/The Hero", "It's A Hard Life". The solo is not speedy; it presents another possible lead vocal melody. Talking about the lead melody, it returns for the end of the section.
The fourth Chorus: the lyrics are in their second variant. Some lead guitar fills are added, and the seventh measure has a 3+3+3+3+4 pattern of 1/16ths. Freddie's vocal closes on a seventh, slowly resolving upwards.
The last Chorus: the lyrics are in the first variant. We have more lead guitar figures and once again the 3+3+3+3+4 rhythm figure that fades out.

Break 1
The harmony of these three and a half measures section is driven by electric guitar walking down chromatically from C to G.

c:               half
Piano :| C  -  | C?   | Ab  G | Ab ...     ||
Guitar:| C5 B1 |Bb1 A1| Ab1 G1| Ab1  F Bb5 ||
       | I ... | .... |bVI  V | BVI IV bVII|| I

Note the delayed entry of the lead guitar and the sweet vibrato.

The variant Break 1 section is shorter and follows the original progression in the first two measures. In measure three the harmony modulates to F-major.

C:               half
Piano :| C  -  | C    | G   C || F
Guitar:| C5 B1 |Bb1 A1| G1  C5|| F1
       | I ... | .... | V   I ||
                    F:| II  V || I

The four-in-a-bar beat gives one a "double time" feel. Note the effect when the staccato fill changes to legato in measure 3.

 | F  Bb/F | F     | Dm G(sus4)| C/G Em | C  | Em  C D  |
F: I  IV   | I     | vi V-of-V |        |    |          |
                  e: ii  III   | VI  i  | VI | i  VI VII|
                  C: ii   V    | I   iii| I  |iii  I II |

Four part harmonies:

  6/8       6/8
| Em7 C6 | C7/Bb Gm7 |

The metric frame is distorted here: a 3+3+3+3 rhythm pattern is used, where the 1/8 pulse is slowed down, and this phrase is followed by a pause of non-quantized length.

... |... Ab  Bb ||
        bVI bVII|| I