Queen were the first “non -Beatles” band I got into in the early 1980s, and when I first heard Hot Space I didn’t hate it. It just struck me as noticeably “funkier” than their 1970s work and more synth heavy. From my perception living in Scotland in the 1980s Queen were decidedly unfashionable in an era where kids listened to bands like Iron Maiden, U2, The Smiths and Simple Minds to acquire credibility among their peers. I myself just listened to whatever I liked, as not really belonging to any group, peer pressure meant nothing to me. So judging from the point of view of a fan, not as knee jerk detractor, I liked it…sort of.
I distinctly remember thinking at the time that if you didn’t know much about Queen and compared Queen II to Hot Space you might have a hard time beleiving this was the same band, both musically and physically. Queen II is grandiose, overblown and theatrical, very much as the royal connotation suggests. Hot Space sometimes sounds like The Human League, saving Mercury’s voice and occasional bursts of heavy guitar and guitar solos.
But I don’t believe Hot Space is a bad album, just the wrong experiment at the wrong time, In 1982 disco was already waning, and it made Queen seem passé for the time. And popular music is very much an area where people want to be associated with something cool. (Music doesn’t have to be “new” by the way, just cool!) And for many fans Hot Space was simply *too* different from their established signature sound. I myself think that there are some good melodies and hooks in the album. The production is good enough and there are some fine moments from Mercury and May. And the funky stuff is largely one Side 1 (hey the old vinyl LP’s still have an grip on me) Side 2 has a few songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on earlier Queen records, for example the heavy Put Out The Fire and the plaintiff Mercury ballad Life Is Real, a tribute to John Lennon.
Overall I think that this album isn’t as bad as people say (or pretend) it is, yet I can’t say that it’s Queen’s best work either. I should also say that I think there are *loads* of albums by other bands that get slammed mainly because they are in a different style, so it’s not like Hot Space is a unique phenomena either. It’s not the first album by Queen anyone should buy IMO, but I don’t think you should turn your nose up at it just because “some others do”