By Brian Ives
Back in May, Sting joined Pearl Jam on stage at Madison Square Garden for the Police classic “Driven to Tears.” Is it a coincidence that a half year later, he’s returned with his most rocking album in over a decade? Maybe; regardless of whatever led to 57th and 9th, it’s fun to hear him having a good time over ringing guitars (at least on some of the songs). Here’s our favorite songs on the record, which in stores today (November 11).
“I Can’t Stop Thinking About You”
You may have heard this one by now; it’s a straight ahead rock song, or as “straight ahead” as Sting ever gets. Well, it seems straight ahead at first: the twist is, the “you” in the song isn’t about a woman, it’s about the songwriting muse.
This one is a bit more chilling today than it would have been had the album been released twenty-four hours earlier. A rousing arena rock song in which Sting looks at the masses reacting to the death of a rock star, inspired by the passings of Prince, David Bowie, Lemmy and Glenn Frey. Today, that list also includes Leonard Cohen. “Rock Stars don’t ever die, they only fade away,” he sings. We’ll argue that point; some artists’ music will never fade away.
“The Pretty Young Soldier”
It sounds like a song that he could have recorded for his 2006 lute album, Songs from the Layrinth. In the narrative, a young couple break up when the guy leaves to enlist in the army. After that, the girl “dressed herself up all in man’s array, with a sword and a musket she took the King’s shilling, and to fight in some foreign war.” Her commanding officer has feelings that he can’t quite describe. She reveals that she is, in fact, a woman, but is also still in love with the guy who left her to enlist.
“Petrol Head” Former AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson guested on Sting’s last album, The Last Ship, and on this song, it sounds like his influence may have rubbed off — just a bit — on Sting. He starts off by singing “Stretch your body across my bed/Just close your eyes, I’ll take you there,” over wild guitars. Later on he says, “300 horse in my V8/Close to one hundred MPH/And all the meters up in the red,/Now don’t you worry your pretty little petrol head!” It’s not quite a “she was a fast machine, she kept the motor clean,” but it’s fun to listen to Sting compare himself to a car.
“Empty Chair” A quiet, acoustic song , it’s quite simply one of the best things Sting has ever written. He wrote it for Jim: The James Foley Story, a HBO documentary about American journalist James Foley, who was killed by ISIS terrorists in 2014. With that in mind, try to listen to these lyrics and not weep: “If I should close my eyes, that my soul can see/And there’s a place at the table that you saved for me/So many thousand miles over land and sea/I hope to dare, that you hear my prayer/And somehow I’ll be there.”
To hear songs from his new album, check out Sting in concert on New Year’s Eve, one of his only US dates this year, at The Chelsea in the The Cosmopolitan Hotel Las Vegas. Get your tickets here.