Since his first solo effort, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, released in 1985, Sting has been pumping out polished pop for 15 years. Many listeners miss the unpretentious, fun spunk of The Police, the trio he headed before embarking on his solo career; moreover, his new album, “Brand New Day,” is more of the same Sting we’ve come to know over the last 15 years, with some added polish and chrome, but still Sting.
Sting is as eclectic as ever before. The musical styles range from jazz to pop to French rap to even a country song—“Fill Her Up”—with guest musician James Taylor. If you want worldly music, you’ve come to the right place.
“Desert Rose” is a haunting track featuring the vocals of French-Albanian Cheb Mami and is by far my favorite song. Mami’s voice provides chilling and beautiful counterpoint to the clipped wings of Sting’s voice, which almost manages to soar, but finds itself left behind in the desert, overcome by the rose of Mami’s own pipes. This is true of most of the album—Sting no longer seems to have the energy he had when he was with The Police. His vocals are subtle and smart throughout the entirety of the album but only the poppy polish of “After the Rain has Fallen” truly hints at what he’s still capable of. Much of Brand New Day is full of light jazz punctuated by the flirtatious clarinet of Branford Marsalis. The song “Fill Her Up” starts out with country twangs and hick vocals and ends on a jazzy note. The album itself ends with the popular release, “Brand New Day,” a good pop song, but indicative of the album as a whole: many tracks break free of the jazzy/poppy formula that we’ve all come to expect from Sting, but most of them ultimately fail to break free from the trappings of his muted vocals and his carefully, meticulously constructed pop cage.
If you’re still a fan of Sting and have enjoyed the architecture of his past “adult-comtemporary” music, you’ll certainly find nothing to dislike about his newest offering. If, however, you miss his younger days, the carefree, simple days of The Police, you’ll find Brand New Day as full of energy and as vibrant as a Saint Bernard in the rain.
// Notes from the Road
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