Top Ten Songs by Sting

  1. Roxanne (Outlandos d’Amour (The Police), 1978). It’s impossible to make a compilation of Sting’s greatest songs without reaching back into his past with The Police. And though it’s unfair to the musical genius of Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers’ to call Roxanne “A Sting Song,” no review of his work would be complete without it. Roxanne is a song that came out of the of the late-’70s British punk scene, but in retrospect, neither Sting, nor the Police were ever really punk. Strange chord changes, and strained anguish crooning mark this classic. The song demands so much of sting’s voice that he has had to perform this song at a lower octave now that he’s aged. But the song itself has aged well, and the opening notes remain among the most distinctively recognizable sequences in modern music history.
  2. Can’t Stand Losing You (Outlandos d’Amour (The Police), 1978). Sting and The Police took their supposed punk roots and expanded them with several innovations which would help launch alternative pop. One of those innovations was to infuse rock with the rhythms of reggae, which is evident in Can’t Stand Losing You.
  3. Every Breath You Take (Synchronicity (The Police), 1983). With the release of Synchronicity, the police would reach the final evolution of their sound. It would be the last full-length studio recording of the group, and also their biggest success. Every Breath You Take retains the minimalist musical feel, even if it has more of an over-produced quality than earlier songs, but Sting’s lyrics go for broke. Every Breath You Take takes the obsessive quality first hinted at in Roxanne, and ratchets it up a notch into a full-blown stalker song. Creepy, intense, and always memorable, Every Breath You Take remains one of Sting’s finest songs.
  4. The King of Pain (Synchronicity (The Police), 1983). “There’s a little black spot on the sun today,” Sting sings in King of Pain. And it only gets darker from there. On a VH-1 Storyteller’s series, Sting reflected upon this hit with amusement. Good humored about his angsty past, Sting self-deprecatingly revealed that he had once been whining to a girlfriend who sarcastically told him, “Well aren’t you just the King of Pain?” He decided to write a song about it, and when viewed in that context, the King of Pain is a much smarter song than it seemed when first released.
  5. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free (The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985). Sting’s first solo album was a commercial success, and a departure from his musical past. If You Love Somebody Set Them Free especially set a new tone. Breaking from his reggae-punkesque roots, Sting launched into jazz pop. This song rocks with a gospel choir background and wild saxaphone riffs. It’s also is the antidote to obsessive love songs like Roxanne and Every Breath You Take, and one has to wonder if that was not intentional.
  6. Be Still My Beating Heart (Nothing Like the Sun, 1987). The release of Nothing Like the Sun marked Sting’s move from jazz pop into an exploration of world music, and his transition into adult contemporary music. The experiment proved to be a success, especially on this album which contained so many political songs. Be Still My Beating Heart is an intense song that plays gently with an exotic baseline and some world beats. It also showcases Sting’s oh-so-distinctive voice.
  7. Why Should I Cry For You (Soul Cages, 1991). Writing again for the first time after the death of his father, Sting released Soul Cages in 1991 to critical acclaim. Soul Cages is dark, wintry, and by far the saddest album of music that Sting ever wrote. None of the songs on this album went on to become the iconic hits that marked Sting’s earlier career, but almost every song on the album is a masterpiece. And the heartbreaking Why Should I Cry For You is no exception. It tells a tale of missed opportunities as Sting almost whispers, “Dark angels follow me, over the godless sea, mountains of endless falling, for all my days remaining.” The poetic lyrics show Sting reaching deeper than before, and establishing himself as one of the world’s finest musical storytellers.
  8. Fields of Gold (Ten Summoner’s Tales, 1993). While Ten Summoner’s Tales is sometimes said to be Sting’s least serious albums, it was a commercial success anyway, largely due to the beautiful song, Fields of Gold. You may have heard it at weddings, a more serious, lyrical celebration of love than most, with a hint of sadness that life must inevitably draw to a close. It is the strongest love ballad Sting has yet written, with an uncharacteristic tenderness. His voice is backed with strings and woodwinds.
  9. Desert Rose (Brand New Day, 1999). By the time Sting released Brand New Day, he was widely regarded to be a master of his craft with eclectic musical tastes; unafraid to experiment and to introduce fans to new sounds. In short, listeners trusted Sting, even if he ventured into strange directions, like his brief sting with country music in I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying. Thus it was, that Sting was able to produce they hypnotic duet Desert Rose, which featured Arab vocalist Cheb Mambi. The song is an odd combination of lullaby and dance mix, introducing sounds of the Middle East into mainstream music. The song is positively inspired.
  10. Brand New Day (Brand New Day, 1999). Sting’s anger, sadness, and obsessiveness seems to have given way, over the years, to a sense of contentedness, and Brand New Day is a song that reflects that. The harmonica-infused song has a celebratory quality to it, and is catchy as all get out. Unfortunately, it was so catchy that it was picked up as a theme song by morning talk shows, which somewhat tarnishes Sting’s artistry. But one gets the impression that he no longer cares, since he has become an excellent songwriter for movies, as noted by his Windmills of Your Mind for the Thomas Crown Affair. Sting surrounds himself with artists of unsurpassed talents, and explores any genre that tickles his fancy. Brand New Day isn’t a bad note to end on if he so chose.

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