Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Happy Sting Appreciation Day!

Today is what I call Sting Appreciation Day (a.k.a the birthday of Gordon Sumner). I, of course, grew up hearing his songs, but it wasn't until my senior year in high school that I finally attached the name with his work. "The same person wrote all those songs?" I said, "But they are so different and varied." Besides variety, here are some reasons I like Sting's music:
  • His music often defies stylist labels, borrowing from jazz, rock, reggae, folk, soul, electronic, and world music. He has even produced a few country songs, though the country stars that cover them often chart higher than he does (though I like Sting's versions).
  • His songs frequently expressively deviate from standard forms (try mapping out the form of "Every Breath You Take" sometime), and he's not afraid to employ (my favorite) asymmetrical meters.
  • His lyrics subvert popular conventions and challenge listeners with political commentary and literary references.
One example of that last feature is from "Fortress Around Your Heart," a fairly well-known song from Sting’s first solo album. The line "It took a day to build this city; we talked through its street in the afternoon" is a quote from Ewan MacColl's song "Ballad of Acounting." MacColl is a little-known English folk and protest singer (read: Socialist) from the 1960s, who was incidentally married to Peggy Seeger. I was in Ireland when I came upon Ewan MacColl's song and I might have got a little teary-eyed when I realized the connection.

Weird video, though. My favorite part is the little person saying "Mr. Sting, Mr. Sting!" Sting is not known for his good music videos as much as his B-movie acting, but the following video is weird and also very entertaining. It features a mermaid, several knights in armor, and Sting getting turned into a pig.

Seeing Sting perform this song, "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You," was definitely one of the best live music experiences I've had. And now I can consider myself an expert—I wrote the entry on Sting for the forthcoming second edition of Grove’s Dictionary of American Music from Oxford University Press.

What do you think of Sting? Are there artists whose birthdays you personally celebrate?

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