I Want To Break Free

Composer: John Deacon
Album: The Works
Single:
Meter: 4/4
Key: E Major
Form:  

Intro | Verse  | Verse | Bridge |
      | Solo (Verse')| Verse'| Outro |

Single version:

Intro I-II(Verse")| Verse  | Verse | Bridge |
     solo (Verse')| instr Verse | Verse' | Outro| 

intro I = instr. end of Bridge
intro II = instr. Verse"

"I Want To Break Free" is a great pop song. In this context its level of section repetition is anomalously low: we have no chorus, one bridge, and only three vocal verses the last of which is altered much, plus a solo-verse. On the other hand we will see more subtle ways of melody repetition supporting the overall catchiness of the song which made this song so very popular 20+ year after its release.
Strangely the album version is more radio friendly than the single version. The latter features a longer intro and an extra instrumental Verse after the solo underscoring the ballett interlude of the video-clip.

Walkthrough

Intro - album version.
Its four measure long rhythm guitar hook exposing the tonic (E5) chord. This hook is played throughout the Verse.

Intro I-II - single version
It has two subsections the first of which is the synth backing of the Bridge faded in from m.5. The top line is played higher and higher for each last three harmonic phrase.
The second subsection is an instrumental Verse with shortened (from 4 to 2 mesaures) first phrase. Without this shortening the first phrase would be too long. The backing track is different from that of the Verses dominated by synth chords. There is a lead guitar fill in m.6 quoting the lead vocal melody. After this fill there is one power chord (B5 chord) strangely interrupted.

Verse:
The harmony follows the good old 12 bar blues cliche:

E:
| E   | -   | -   | -   |
| I   | -   | -   | -   |

| A   | -   | E   | -   |
| IV  | -   | I   | -   |

| B   | A   | E   | -   | 
| V   | IV  | I   | -   |

The thing that prevent it sounding even remotely generic is its avoidance of bluesiness (no shuffle beat, no blue notes), its rhythm and its clever melody development. Let's see this latter in detail:
The second vocal phrase is a close variant of the first. The third phrase is an exteneded variant of the first one where the extension is repeated with another extension repeating a descending scale fragment four times with staccatto odd-rhythms. The fourth phrase is a mirror-variant of the first. The rest of the section is not variant of the earlier phrases. The rhythm department makes use of triplets (or 3+3+2 patterns of 1/16ths), staccatto notes (first phrase).

The second Verse is tad different:
Its second phrase ("I can't...") is an extended variant of the first where the extension (love for...) is repeated ("this time...") and altered and extended. Very similar technique was used in the first verse, but the target is different. This similarity is too subtle detail to treat as an unifying element. The rest of the section is not altered much. It closes with guitar harmonies leading in the Bridge.
The third Verse is altered except the first melodic phrase and the last harmonic phrase. The last harmonic phrase is repeated.

The instrumentation is very spare: only rhythm guitars(playing mostly power chords), bass and drums.
The second Verse adds harmony vocals:
"...in love": third above
"...real": third then fifth and sixth below respectively
"God knows": third below, this harmony features also in the first Verse.

The solo is skilfully performed by Fred Mandel on synth. It sounds very guitarish: the pitch bends sound like string bends and releases, the glissando down ending is also reminiscent of Brian's favourite tremolo-dive on the open low E string (eg. Lost Opprtunity). If you try to adapt it for guitar, it results in a not very guitar-friendly fingering. No wonder Brian altered the tune much for the live version. The rhythms are often not-quantized.

The first two melodic phrases are variants of that of the Verse. The rest of the solo is new except m.13 which copies the "God knows..." tune. M.7-8 is shifted up variant of m.5-6, m.9-10 shifts it back.
The additional instrumental Verse of the single version duplicates the last phrase (foreshadowing the next Verse) and has a few additions and changes in the arrangement.

Bridge:
The Bridge is 13 measures long with sqare phrasing: 2+2+2+2+2+3. As typical for bridges, the harmony steers away from the tonic. In the last three phrase the harmony lands on the tonic after two "failed attempt" on its relative minor chord. Very interesting and subtle cross-reference with Deacon's "Who Needs You" (1977) is the  ... IV > vi > V/V(sus4>3) > IV > V > ... > I chord progression (m.4 - ) in the key of E Major. Interestingly the two songs does not even resembles to eachother just like the first Verse does not resemlbles to any blues number or the "Back Chat" intro to "The House Of The Rising Sun" (Animals).

E:
| B    | A     |
| V    | IV    |

| B    | A     |
| V    | IV    |

| C#m  | F#sus4>3 |
| vi   | V/V      |

| A  B | C#m B |
| IV V | vi  V |

| A  B | C#m B |
| IV V | vi  V |

| A  B7| E     | -     |
| IV V | I     | -     |


Outro
It starts is built on the rhythm guitar hook of the Verse, and prolonges the tonic chord throughout until the song fades out.
m.1-4: The first two vocal phrases rhythmically paralelling the opening phrases of the Verse.
m.5-6: no vocals here
m.7-10: final vocal phrase with 3+3+3+3 rhythmic trick and oscillating shape.
m.10- : additional synth hook repeated a couple of times