No one can ever replace Freddie Mercury. The late frontman of legendary rock band Queen was one of the greatest vocalists in rock history, and his death in 1991 left his band forever without its voice. Even though the surviving members of Queen have continued to perform with various collaborators in the decades since his death, they’ve never designated anyone as the new singer of Queen. Just a few months after Mercury’s death, in April 1992, Queen members Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor were joined onstage by a parade of stars, including George Michael, Axl Rose, Elton John, Roger Daltrey, David Bowie and many more, in a tribute to Mercury that drew 72,000 fans and was broadcast all over the world.

Although bassist Deacon retired soon after, guitarist May and drummer Taylor have dedicated themselves to enhancing the legacy of Queen since then. After various one-off performances and recordings with singers including Elton John and Robbie Williams, May and Taylor regrouped in 2004 to bring Queen back to full strength, recruiting Bad Company and Free vocalist Paul Rodgers for an album of new material and multiple world tours. Even with new songs and a well-known new singer, the band continued to honor Mercury, billing the collaboration as Queen + Paul Rodgers, rather than simply Queen.

The same goes for the band’s current incarnation, which followed their split with Rodgers in 2009. Queen + Adam Lambert began with a performance on American Idol in 2009. The chemistry was undeniable from the start, and after further one-off performances together, the group made things official with its first tour in 2012. Since then, Lambert has been the consistent frontman for the band, even while maintaining his own career as a pop singer.

While the combination might seem odd at first, a classic rock band and a flashy pop singer half their age brought together via a TV show, it turns out that Lambert and Queen could not fit together more perfectly. Like Mercury, Lambert has a powerful, resonant voice, one that helped him rise to the top of one of the biggest singing competitions in the world. Also like Mercury, Lambert has a mesmerizing and charismatic stage presence and isn’t afraid to let it all out in front of an audience, whether that means donning outrageous costumes or heading into the crowd to interact with fans.

There’s also a level of mutual musical respect that keeps the band together. That respect extends beyond Mercury and his lasting contributions, to May and Taylor, whose songwriting was an integral part of Queen’s success, and from the veteran musicians to Lambert, whose voice gives those songs new life. “I think that their songs are about the heart and the spirit and you can’t really go wrong when you write about that stuff, you know?” Lambert recently told UPI about Queen’s music. “It’s timeless and it’s universal.” From Mercury to Lambert, that music lives on.

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