Queen – ‘Hot Space’ (1982) – Album Review (The Studio Album Series)

After the band’s album “Flash Gordon”, Queen actually released one of the biggest selling albums of all time their “Greatest Hits” which has sold well over 25 million copies worldwide. At one point it was said that one in every three families in the UK had a copy. It was on the charts in the US for over 400 weeks which is insane. The band was on fire and constantly busy. They wasted no time in getting back in to the studio to record their new album “Hot Space”. They started in June of 1981, but wouldn’t finish until March 1982 due to touring and other obligations. The album finally saw the light of day on May 21, 1982.

The band went a completely different direction with this album, I mean they pulled a complete 180o turn. The rock sound was replaced with a wide variety of sounds including disco, dance, pop, funk, r&b and pretty much everything but rock. When Kiss did this, they really only did it with a couple songs because “Dynasty” still had more rock than disco. Queen doesn’t do anything halfway, they went all in and it didn’t quite have the impact they were hoping. Although the album went on to sell over 3.5 million copies worldwide, upon its release it barely went Gold in the US only reach #22 on the charts. This album turned off a lot of people in the US and their popularity started to wane in a big way. But it wasn’t only the album. Homophobia set in with the US market as well and they weren’t as accepting of Freddie Mercury. This caused the band to actually stop touring the States after they finished the ‘Hot Space Tour’. Things were not all that well in the Queen camp. The good news is, the States came around eventually and Freddie is loved by all and I think people now realize what a true talent he really was. And this is really a story for another time as we are going to stick to the music.

The album kicks off with the funkified song “Staying Power”. It is full of synthesizers, drum machines and even horns that were arranged by Arif Mardin. This might be the only song ever by Queen with a horn section. There is no actual bass guitar on this as John Deacon plays guitar with Brian May. The bass sound is all effects. It isn’t a bad song if it wasn’t sounding the way it is. It is a complete left turn. I think we have the success of the song “Another One Bites the Dust” for this mess.

“Dancer” is up next and this is actually a fun track that has some nice guitar moments, but is still ultimately a dance track with more funked up grooves. This track was penned by Brian May with Freddie on vocals. It has tambourines, keyboards and every electronic sound you could think of, but it still has some of the edge of rocking Queen. The song mentions the title of the album so this could be classified as the title track.

If you think the first couple songs were some funky, well “Back Chat” really goes out. This time we get a funky R&B song from John Deacon with Freddie on vocals. It is has a cool vibe and groove and isn’t that bad. The album has gotten a lot of bad rap over the years for its complete turn, but there are moments that are worth hearing. This song feels like a classic 80’s pop song with some new wave elements and still has a great May solo.

“Body Language” is not your normal Queen song as there is no guitar on this song at all. It could be considered plain awful for that fact alone, but it is just plain awful period. Now what do I know as this was their biggest hit off the album in the US hitting #11 on the Charts. I think the US got it wrong, because this doesn’t even hold a candle to anything else they’ve done in their catalog. I don’t care, they can snap there fingers in the song as much as they want to sound cool, but I hate it the whole thing.

The next track takes its name from a Winston Churchill phrase, “Action This Day”. It was written by the great Roger Taylor and he shares vocals with Freddie Mercury. Roger doesn’t actually have a solo sung song on the album which is the first time that has happened (Flash Gordon doesn’t count). This is a pure New Wave dance track. Roger’s drumming is all done on an electronic drum machine. There are more horns on this song, but they are actually all synthesized. It is a fun, upbeat track and leave it to Roger to give something that still feels a little like Queen.

We then get the Brian May penned song, “Put out the Fire” which is actually about gun control. And almost forty years better we still need something as shootings keep getting worse. It is a more rocking track and has some great Mercury falsetto. The guitar solo by May was done while he was a little inebriated. Even drunk, May has still got it. This is another song that is close to the Queen we know and love.

Freddie brings the next song “Life is Real (Song for Lennon)” who had died only a year earlier as of the writing. For Queen, the music usually comes before the lyrics, but in this case Freddie’s lyrics were written prior to the music. It starts off with a repeated piano note before Freddie comes in to sing. As a tribute is a nice song, but it is so fluffy and a little cheesy and doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. I find it a little boring and unimaginative.

Roger comes back and saves us again with “Calling All Girls” which was written on the guitar. This is actually the first Roger Taylor song to be issued as a single for the band. Freddie is singing so they still haven’t released one with Roger singing. Now it didn’t do anything on the charts, but can’t believe it took this long for one of his songs to be a single. This is another 80’s song that sounds so 80’s pop music and I am okay with that as I love the 80’s. Roger still is the big rocker in the band and is able to keep some elements of that sound, but turn it in to one of my favorite songs on the album (not my favorite as that will come at the end).

“Las Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love)” is an atmospheric sounding keyboard/synth ballad that is pure and utter dribble (is that a word?). I have never been a fan of any of there songs were they sing in a different language which I find strange and might need to explore the reasons why one day, but not now. This does nothing for me and feels cheesy with a side of more cheesiness. Moving on…

The funk is brought back to life with “Cool Cat” a R&B treat written by Freddie and John and has Freddie on falsetto the whole time. Interesting to note that David Bowie was on backing vocals, but didn’t like his performance so it was removed. I like the groove on this one and Freddie’s high end is sick so how can you not love his vocals. It doesn’t feel like a Queen song, but a good song is a good song.

The album ends with what may be the greatest Queen song ever (at least to me) so sit back as I have a lot to say about this one. “Under Pressure” is about how life’s pressure can really take a toll on your life and how it destroys everything; however, love is the answer and can make everything so much better.  I definitely got all that from the song, but it was less about the words and more about the give & take of the vocals between Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.  Two of the best artist of all time duking it out vocally is one of the greatest things you can ever hear.  I guess God wanted to hear this song live as now both have passed over to the other side and they can sing it to Him.

The song is also famous for that simple, two note bass line by John Deacon.  That “don don don dondo don” (or something like that) was immediately recognizable and played throughout.  After Deacon had come up with that riff, the band went to lunch or something and completely forgot the riff.  One of the band members (or maybe Bowie) helped remind him what it was.  That famous bass line is not to be confused with “don don don dondo don don” the Vanilla Ice riff for “Ice, Ice Baby”…there is a difference and he will tell you…whatever.

The song came about while Bowie was in the studio with them to sing backing on “Cool Cat”. The band had been working on the song “Feel Like” and with David’s help and a little jam session, the song turned into “Under Pressure”.  I love how sometimes songs are created instantly while others have to be worked through and retried over and over until it somehow materializes. Well, the extra effort was worth it on this one as it is incredible and helped make me a Queen & Bowie fan for life. Whew, I think that is enough for that one. What a way to end the album.

Track Listing:

  1. Staying Power – Keeper (1/2 Point)
  2. Dancer – Keeper
  3. Back Chat – Keeper
  4. Body Language – Delete
  5. Action This Day – Keeper
  6. Put Out The Fire – Keeper
  7. Life Is Real (Song for Lennon) – Delete
  8. Calling All Girls – Keeper
  9. Las Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love) – Delete
  10. Cool Cat – Keeper
  11. Under Pressure – Keeper

The Track Score is a 7.5 out of 11 or a 68%.  Solid enough score.  The album is not the band’s best, but ain’t their worst either. Yes, they completely changed things up and went funked up disco with a twist of R&B and New Wave but at least they keep trying new things.  I would’ve hated this album when it came out, but now some decades later, there are some fine elements here.  There is no denying the talent and the vocals, but they still crafted some great songs albeit very different from prior albums.  Overall, I think I will be generous and give it a 3.0 out of 5.0 Stars mainly for “Under Pressure” because not many bands can write a song as good as that one is.  If you hated this album, give it another try and let me know what you think.

BONUS E.P.

The Bonus E.P. is chock full of goodness. You get a live version of “Staying Power” which is better than the studio version because the song has more life and a little more rocking as it has some real drums with it. The tempo is sped up and now it fits in a Queen show. It was recorded at the Milton Keynes Bowl in June 1982. Next up is a studio track called “Soul Brother” which was the B-Side to “Under Pressure”. It is a great R&B track that feels like you are going to church at times. Talk about cultural appropriations (ha! kidding). Then we get the single remix of “Back Chat” which really makes it sound like a dance song but maybe not as funked out. Still a cool song and I see why they wanted it as a single.

Next up are two live songs form the Tokyo show in November 1982. First up is “Action This Day” and live they rock it out. Roger and Freddie on vocals dueling it out. It is a more uptempo track and a total blast. As much as I do like the studio track, this is pretty great. Then we get “Calling All Girls” and the crowd goes nuts when Freddie tells them it was written by Roger Taylor. It is quite funny at Freddie’s reaction as he goes “You Bet” and gets right back to what he was going to say. Another great live performance from the band as do they ever sound bad live? The answer to that question is a resounding NO!

And there you have it. We are not 2/3’s of the way through their catalog. We will see you in two weeks for the next review…

UP NEXT: ‘The Works’ (1984)

THE STUDIO ALBUM SERIES:

  1. Queen (1973)
  2. Queen II (1974)
  3. Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
  4. A Night at the Opera (1975)
  5. A Day at the Races (1976)
  6. News of the World (1977)
  7. Jazz (1978)
  8. The Game (1980)
  9. Flash Gordon (1980)
  10. Hot Space (1982)
  11. The Works (1984)
  12. A Kind of Magic (1986)
  13. The Miracle (1989)
  14. Innuendo (1991)
  15. Made in Heaven (1995)

57 thoughts on “Queen – ‘Hot Space’ (1982) – Album Review (The Studio Album Series)

  1. “Body Language” and “Under Pressure” are the main reasons why I refused to buy ‘Hot Space.’ But since I bought all three volumes of their 40 box sets, I might as well give it a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, you’re lucky I forgave you for not liking “Drowse,” Roger’s best song ever! LOL!!! The only highlight to “Under Pressure” is Roger’s backing vocals when performed live. But other than that, “Under Pressure” is overrated PERIOD!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a soft spot here although I’ll never think it’s one of Queen’s best. I sometimes have a need for that synthy pop stuff. And I love “Las Palabras De Amor”! I am shocked you don’t like it. First time I heard it was with Zucchero singing it at Wembley. I didn’t know it then but I committed it to memory!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t completely bash it as I did give it a 3, but not my favorite album. And that song “Las Palabras De Amor” didn’t sit with me right and I could never remember how it goes after hearing it…still can’t.

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                  1. For me, that was my first exposure to many of those songs. I guessed at most of the titles! I wrote down “39” as “Hear My Call” because I didn’t know. The live broadcast didn’t have the song titles on screen. It was as live as it gets, nobody knew what was coming.

                    I remember at the end, Liza Minnelli said “We love you Freddie — stay safe!” And my mom said, “Did she just tell Freddie to stay safe?” I said NO mom! She was telling the audience — because Freddie died of AIDS of course. Liza wasn’t telling Freddie to stay safe lol.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    1. Oh wow, that must’ve been an interesting time being exposed to those Queen songs (not sung by Freddie and during a time when there was no youtube). I guess, that’s part of the fun of not knowing the setlist, you enjoy what comes at you! And it’s not predictable.

                      Ah ok, I can see how your mom would’ve been confused by that. Didn’t Liza also say something about wanting to let Freddie know they were thinking about him? Your mom didn’t say anything about that?

                      Liked by 2 people

                    2. No I think it was one of those things where she was wandering in and out of the house. She hears the “stay safe” thing and was like, “What?”

                      She did the same thing one time when I was watching a Van Halen interview. Eddie said “who cares if you didn’t do it modernly? If it sounds good it is good.”

                      She said “modernly? That’s not a word!”

                      So I got out the dictionary and showed her that it was!

                      Liked by 2 people

          1. My favourites are:
            Innuendo/Kashmir with Robert Plant
            Crazy Little Thing with Robert Plant
            I Want It All with Roger Daltrey

            Each singer was TOTALLY suited to the songs. Especially plant. Innuendo sounds like Zeppelin, and Crazy Little Thing is pretty much the same as The Honeydrippers!

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Yeah Robert’s personality suited “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Just like Roger’s voice suited “I Want It All.”

              The latter is one of my favorites from the show as well because Queen never played “I Want It All” live up until that point. My other favorite performances are “Tie Your Mother Down,” “We Will Rock You,” “Stone Cold Crazy,” and “Somebody to Love.”

              Freddie was so different and he sang different styles, so they needed multiple singers to sing the songs.

              Liked by 2 people

              1. True! Good point, Queen stopped touring after 1986 so it was never played live! Same with the Innuendo songs.

                Another great one you mentioned — Somebody to Love! I have that version of a Queen + George Michael EP.

                Liked by 2 people

                1. True! Can you imagine Freddie singing “These Are the Days of Our Lives” live? That would’ve been emotional! Same with “The Show Must Go On.” Chris Daughtry covered “Innuendo” and I thought he did a not bad job.

                  Not surprised they released it as an EP. I also love the lower key for some reason because I think it adds more emotion and emphasis to the backing vocals.

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m seeing a lot more green keepers here than I thought I would. I’ve never been fond of this one. It has been Under Pressure and the ho-hum rest for me. I think they got the sound they were looking for on later ’80s albums. But, you never know. I might go back to it one day and completely change my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do like Life Is Real…I expect over the top and some cheesy with them. I bought it when it came out…Put out the Fire is my favorite other than Under Pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was surprised by the score as I think anyone would really as this album has always gotten a bad rap but you made some valid points John so I’m cueing it up in my Amazon Music.
    Crazy to think that this was as u mentioned the last tour of N.A they ever did.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve had it for years, and it hold a special place. A lot of solid tracks in my opinion: Staying Power, Dancer, Action This Day, and best of all Put Out the Fire, some big rock moments if done in an electronic funk way. Body Language is hilarious and I cannot hate it, however you’re spot on regarding Las Palabras De Amor, a shocker.

    Liked by 2 people

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