Freddie Mercury sets his own demise to music on this final record with Queen, Made in Heaven (Hollywood). Initially recorded while the singer was suffering through the worst stages of AIDS (and completed in the four years since he succumbed), the album represents the last public words from a man approaching his last breath.
But fear not! Mercury — arguably rock’s campiest performer — would never let anything (even death) turn things dreary. Made in Heaven depicts an almost Disneyesque view of the End, opening with the sound of tweeting birds and winding through ballads beaming with gooey wonder. Given its halting construction, it also makes for a surprisingly organic work with no shortage of highlights, from the rock version of Mercury’s solo dance hit ”I Was Born to Love You,” to the wonderfully schmaltzy title song, to a fascinating jaw dropper of an unlisted finale. This last track, a 22-minute wash of celestial ahhs and twinkle, presents what could be rock’s first-ever depiction of the afterlife, with heaven presented as some flouncy Hollywood epic. It’s the perfect theatrical epitaph for a life dedicated to gorgeous artifice. B+