Thursday, September 21, 2006

Oh, That's Kind Of Harsh ...

So, yesterday, my pal Marc was feeding me URLs via IM. One, for the Muppet Matrix, amused me, but another, Blender's The 50 Worst Things Ever to Happen to Music, made me say, "Hey! Nuh uh!"

From the Anne Geddes-esque image at the top of the page, I knew I would be displeased, but there it was, at No. 38 on the 50 Worst Things list: "Sting." Just "Sting." With no explanation. I protested to Marc. "Sting minus The Police needs no explanation," he said. Wow. Harsh.

I've been a fan of Sting since high school. Yes, then he was part of The Police, but let's face it: The Police were only The Police because of Sting. He wrote the songs. He sang the songs. Where are Stuart Copeland and Andy Summers these days, huh? Yeah, they're doing some composing, but neither of them have had a post-Police career like Sting.

I didn't save the IM session with Marc, but I believe he made some crack to the effect of Sting's music being suitable for listening to in elevators if it weren't for his whiny voice. Sheesh. Where's the love, Marc? Where's the love?

I have a lot of Sting albums. Some of them are his commercial biggies and some of them are relatively obscure. "Last Session" with Sting and Gil Evans is an amazing album. It was recorded live in 1987 in Italy. And he also released "Bring On the Night," a live two-disc set.

Seeing Sting live is a big part of appreciating him. His arrangements of tunes during gigs differ from the recorded tracks. Maybe he plans for some improvisation, but I've never been to a Sting concert - and I've been to my fair share of Sting concerts - that sounded like a series of album cuts. He brings a lot to a live performance.

And speaking of which, you have to hand it to the guy: There doesn't seem to be an instrument he can't play. On the 2004 Oscar telecast, performing his Oscar-nominated song from "Cold Mountain," the man played a hurdy-gurdy. No one even knew what the hell is was, but he could play it. If it has strings, he can play it. His album of lute music - that's right, lute music - will be released October 10. I have no idea if I'll like Sting playing lute music, but the point is this: as a musician, he challenges himself.

Yes, he can write a pop song in his sleep and he knows it. When "Sacred Love" was released a couple years ago and he was using "Send Your Love" in the commercial he made, shilling for Jaguar and AOL at the same time, he cheekily wrote in his AIM window, "I smell Grammy!" Turned out, he won one for his duet with Mary J. Blige off that album instead.

But that just proves my point: I don't suspect he partnered up with Blige to score a "Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals" Grammy. I think he did it because he liked her voice and he thought they'd sound interesting together. And they do.

On "Mercury Falling" he does an entire song, with a rapper, in French. Sting singing "My Funny Valentine" with Chris Botti will break your heart it's so beautiful, especially when you see him singing it to Trudie. The love between them is palpable.

Can the man get formulaic and predictable with some of his releases? Yep. He knows what works, he knows what will land him on the charts, and he delivers. But like an actor known for indie flicks who takes on a high-profile project for the payday, I grant him that license. Because he doesn't rest on his pop laurels. He makes his regular contribution to the lackluster world of radio that we live in today, and then he makes the music that really interests him. And he doesn't seem to care if it sells or not. Because while he shares it with the rest of us, it's really just his.

So if Blender wants to include Sting on its list, well, that's its right. But I think a little qualification is in order.


Anonymous Ethan said...

"I've been a fan of Sting since high school. Yes, then he was part of The Police, but let's face it: The Police were only The Police because of Sting. He wrote the songs. He sang the songs. Where are Stuart Copeland and Andy Summers these days, huh?"

HEM HEM. The Police were *musically* The Police because of Stewart Copeland. Check out his Police-era solo stuff and you'll swear (musically) that they stayed together. Sting was a great front man.

Back in my HS days, I found an article titled "Stewart and Andy write the songs, but Sting won't sing." That factors in to the equation too, kinda like what George Harrison went through as a Beatle.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

So that means Stewart Copeland is a good songwriter, and that's cool. But Sting is a good songwriter and a good singer and a good performer. That's why Sting is "Sting" and Stewart Copeland is a composer.

9:09 PM  
Anonymous Ethan said...

Right, I'm not "downing" Sting, just responding to your blanket dismissal of the other guys.

(Great, now I have a medley of Police tunes stuck in my head.)

10:43 AM  

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