Thanks to its appearance in 1992’s Wayne’s World, it can be hard to take “Bohemian Rhapsody” seriously. But Queen’s six-minute song is a true work of art. It’s as if Freddie Mercury threw a bunch of music styles (a cappella ballad, hard-rock anthem and opera) into a blender and somehow, instead of coming up with musical mush, whipped up an exquisite dessert. When it came out, “Bohemian Rhapsody” soared to the top of the U.K. charts. (in the U.S. it stalled at No. 9). Critics, however, didn’t know what to make of the sound. The New York Times called the song “all flash and calculation,” while TIME thought the band “campy”. Yes, Mercury did often wear a satin cape. But he also possessed one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking voices in rock ‘n’ roll.
(Browse the All-TIME 100 Songs and more than 100 other pop culture lists on TIME’s Populist iPad app)