Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury. There really was no one like him. As the front man of the iconic band Queen, he was the voice, the face, and the master showman, blazing a melodic trail of music and unity on a worldwide scale. Together with Queen, the late, great Mercury blessed us with songs that have become sporting anthems (“We Are the Champions”) and satirical riffs in films like “Wayne’s World” (“Bohemian Rhapsody”).
This week, Roger Taylor of Queen launched a North American talent search offering vocalists and musicians alike an opportunity to star in “The Queen Extravaganza” – a live touring band that will pay tribute to the songs and vision of the original band. Of course, tribute bands are a dime a dozen – you can find them in any bar on a Tuesday night across America – but rarely are they backed by the original group. Thus far, uploaded auditions have been sparse – as of this writing there were no more than 20 in all categories – lead vocals, drums, etc.
Some may see this as just the karaoke version of “America’s Got Talent.” That is, until they click on the audition of Marc Martel. To date, Martel’s audition video hovers around 476,000 views and here’s why: His voice is probably the closest thing to Freddie Mercury next to Freddie Mercury. Shot in his disheveled studio (which many readers have already commented on), the 34-year-old, newly married Martel (sorry, ladies) recorded his rendition of “Somebody to Love.” (Those auditioning have the choice of the aforementioned song, “Killer Queen,” “I Want to Break Free” or “Seven Seas of Rhye”)
His voice is that of a seasoned, trained, almost operatic professional but in reality, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. In a video shot two years ago, the singer – who originally hails from Canada but now lives in Tennessee — states that he has had no formal training, a knack for mimicry and is a fan of singers like Mercury, George Michael and Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block. Wait…what? “I’m not going to back down from that one, and I am fully aware of the stigma attached to it. Honestly 1989 I was 12 or 13 years old and primed for the new boy band thing. This guy Jordan Knight sounded like a chick, and I wanted to figure out how to do it, and I did.”
Over the years, Martel honed his inner Jordan Knight and later moved on to perfect his own voice with a dash of the iconic Freddie Mercury. “I’ve been in a band full-time over the past ten years (called Downhere) and it’s been a pretty great time with my best friends. But as far as 2012, our touring schedule is looking kind of sparse. A friend of mine emailed me the link to the Queen Extravaganza and I thought ‘I don’t know if I have the strength to not do this.’ As it stands right now, my schedule is pretty open – I don’t know if there’s money or not but my wife said ‘This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often.’”
With no expectations, Martel decided to sing the song simply and without theatrics. “’Bohemian Rhapsody’ is my all-time favorite,” says the singer, “But that wasn’t an option; ‘Somebody’…was my second. I thought lyrically, that song is so perfect for right now…it’s just a guy crying out that he’s tired and can’t get ahead, and most people in America can relate to that…I know I can.”
Martel’s band, by the way, is a Christian rock band. Will singing the songs of Queen help, or hurt him in the eyes of those with strong opinions about Mercury and his sexual proclivity? Martel feels this is a non-issue. “Freddie Mercury wrote songs that were real and true. Rock and roll reaches people because it’s honest, and doesn’t shy away from the issues. You can have a great voice, but people can spot a fake from a mile away. Our music may come from a biblical standpoint but we don’t shy away from true experiences – doubt, loss, pain, sorrow – we want to deal with all of that. Queen’s repertoire deals with those emotions and feelings too and I love singing their music because at the end of the day, it’s just true.”

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