Was Freddie Mercury a better singer than Pavarotti?

A study of the late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury’s vocal ability has revealed the tricks behind his “eccentric and flamboyant” style of singing, according to researchers in Vienna.

Was Freddie Mercury a better singer than Pavarotti?
Youtube screenshot.

Led by Dr Christian Herbs from the University of Vienna, the study – described by the authors as “fan-science” – wanted to prove the long-held belief among Queen fans that Mercury’s voice “is a force of nature”.

By analysing songs from ‘Freddie Mercury: The Solo Collection’ and even using an endoscopic camera to film inside the throat of a rock singer as he impersonated the singer, the researchers found the frontman’s vocal cords vibrated at an unusually fast rate.

Whereas average singers have a vibrato rate of between 5.4 Hz to 6.9 Hz, Mercury’s averaged at 7.04 Hz. His vocal cords even vibrated more and moved faster than opera singer Luciano Pavarotti’s, who had a vibrato rate of around 5.7 Hz.

Although he had a normal vocal range, this technique of “subharmonic vibration” was used by Mercury to help create “the impression of a sound production system driven to its limits”.

According to the study, this irregular and faster vibrato – considered a hallmark of his vocal style – is most noticeable in songs such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or ‘We Are the Champions’.

These traits “might have helped create Freddie Mercury’s eccentric and flamboyant stage persona,” the researchers conclude in the study published online this week with Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology.

Hear the singer’s remarkable technique in full in this acapella version of Queen’s 1977 hit ‘We Are the Champions’:

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World’s first vaccine for toxic shock syndrome in Vienna

The world’s first vaccine for toxic shock syndrome that can occur in women from using tampons has been developed by researchers at a Vienna university.

World's first vaccine for toxic shock syndrome in Vienna

After testing the vaccine on 46 young men and women, scientists from MedUni Vienna's Department of Clinical Pharmacology found it was safe and effective and had practically no side effects, according to a report in Science Daily.

Toxic Shock Syndrome is the name for organ and circulatory failure caused by toxins in the body, first described in the 1980s.

Having occurred in women who used certain types of tampons, the syndrome became known as tampon disease and its discovery led to regulations being placed on super-absorbent tampons.

Around fifty percent of cases are associated with menstruation in young women but it can also affect those whose immune systems are already compromised, including dialysis patients, the chronically sick, and those recovering after heart operations.

In the UK, the family of a 14-year-old girl who died from Toxic Shock Syndrome after using a tampon for the first time started a campaign in 2013 to raise awareness of the issue. Natasha Scott-Falber died suddenly five days after she fell ill with what was thought to be the norovirus. Only afterwards did her family find out it was Toxic Shock was the cause.

The toxins are usually triggered by bacteria from the Staphylococcus group. The new vaccine was developed by the Vienna researchers from a detoxified Staphylococcus toxin and was tested in a clinical Phase I trial, the first stage of human testing.

The results of the trial were published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Immunisation with the vaccine, which is injected, lasts about five years.

“We are well on the way to having a vaccine that prevents this series disease. However, it will still take some years before it is in clinical use,” explains Martha Eibl, director of Biomedizinische Forschungsgesellscaft mbH, who are collaborating with the university on the project.