After the legendary rock and new wave band The Police agreed to go on a reunion tour more than eight years ago, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner hinted that he was pretty much done with rock and roll.
Sting entered his 60s by recording a couple of albums focused on traditional chants, religious hymns and classical music. He then composed a Broadway musical play about his childhood life in a shipbuilding town. Just when it seemed as if his intention to exit rock and roll was permanent, Sting released a pleasant surprise for his fans.
The title of Sting’s new album, 57th and 9th, refers to the Manhattan studio where recording took place. Most of the songs follow the beloved structure of The Police: guitar, bass and drums driving a sharp beat with touches of Celtic music and jazz. Sting recorded this album with two longtime collaborators, and the effect is somewhat reminiscent of The Police, but not enough. Sting is globally known as one of the best bassists of all-time due to his work with that band.
57th and 9th has a ready-made hit: “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” sounds as if it could have been on the B-side of a 1980s single by The Police. This is a straight verse-chorus-verse song with a layered sound; the lyrics are a bit too poetic but the performance is tight and youthful. Sting certainly sounds great at the age of 65, but his vocals are even better when he slows down the pace and delivers an acoustic guitar and vocal number.
The themes tackled by Sting for this album range from love songs to climate change and from mortality to growing older. One of the most touching songs is “Inshallah,” which is Arabic for “God willing.” This song is dedicated to the lives of the migrants escaping conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, and it brings attention to the desperate conditions that make them risk their lives by escaping their homelands.
Fans of The Police will certainly appreciate Sting’s decision to revisit that era; however, they will likely be hungry for more. In mid-November, Sting performed these new rock songs live at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris a year after the abominable terrorist attack that left 89 music fans dead. Reviews of that concert indicate that Sting injected a lot of energy while playing material from his new album; if anything, 57th and 9th will move fans to dust off their old records by The Police.