There was a period from 1985 to 1993 where Sting could do no wrong in my eyes.
I was a fan of the Police, but I loved the ground Sting covered with his solo albums even more. The Police records were a breath of fresh air in the late 70's, but by 1983, they felt like pollution. I grew tired of Stewart Copeland showing off. Though he often thrilled me behind the kit, he just as often made me wince with fills and crashes that tried too hard to make the songs all about him. I got off the Police bus when "The Dream Of The Blue Turtles" was released.
The drummers on Sting's solo records, Omar Hakim, Manu Katche and my personal favorite Vinnie Colaiuta, could amaze in much more subtle ways. But Sting's solo records during that period offered more than good musicianship. The songs were both accessible and daring. There were jazz chords and pop harmonies, funky bass lines and extended soloing, danceable rhythms and gorgeous melodies. 1993's "Ten Summoner's Tales" remains one of my favorite records of all time. And though it was fashionable then and even more so now to hate Sting, I did not. Not at all.
Then, it began. Each record starting with "Mercury Falling" became less interesting and Sting became more pretentious with concept albums featuring lutes and boats and symphonies and dolphins, and of course that whole tantric sex type thing. I was beginning to feel for those haters and was even prompted to say so in a short piece I had written for The Huffington Post called "Sting, Where Is Thy Death?" The piece is nothing more than a poorly written vehicle to use that title. But nonetheless, the well had been poisoned and I couldn't listen to the Sting records or The Police records I had loved.
But then in 2016, Sting quietly returned to the pop world with "57th and 9th," and while it wasn't quite like the glory days of "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales," there were no lutes or Mary J. Blige duets in earshot. It was a solid record with some great playing and more than a few memorable songs. It renewed my interest and once again I felt a need to defend the man.
But, the rekindling of the love affair did not last long, as the five years that followed featured a so-so collaboration with Shaggy, another reworking of his old songs called "My Songs," which Sting explains "is my life in songs. Some of them reconstructed, some of them refitted, some of them reframed, but all of them with a contemporary focus," and then a live "My Songs" which is really just a live album, isn't it? I mean, don't you usually play your songs in concert? What's the point of specifically calling it "My Songs Live" unless it was designed to annoy me.
That brings us up to date and a new track from Sting's November release, "The Bridge."
"If It's Love," on first listen," seemed like a bit of nothing, with somewhat cringemaking lyrics and an arrangement that is just a bit too cute. But when I listened a second time, I minded it less. And by the third pass, I actually thought, "Sting could still write a pop song." And I think writing a good pop song will always keep me in your good graces.
Maybe a few of you are looking forward to "The Bridge" in November, while some of you are warming up in the bile pen. Either way, I am hoping "The Bridge" offers something to remind me why I was a fan back then and not more of what made me get off the bus.
Time to listen to "The Soul Cages" and "Ten Summoner's Tales."