January 29, 2003




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Sting and the Police
The Very Best of Sting and the Police (UTV)

The Very Best of Sting and the Police was released in the fall of 2002, which makes this review a bit overdue. But I spent a few minutes with the morning paper, and the news was, well, old (war, racism, environmental holocaust), and I had to vent. Which brings me to Sting (and his former band, the Police, and how about that for a name – pretty clever, is it not?), a guy who did his level best to make pop music an unpleasant place during the past 20 years.

Sting's music is the aural equivalent of one of those houses in which the kitchen is scrubbed so clean, it's like no one has ever cooked there. Except it's worse, because if Sting polished his own kitchen, he'd just be an anal-compulsive, or at worst a phobic, personality, like one of those housewives in a film like Safe who washes her hands over and over again to get them perfectly clean. But Sting is too busy being smart – sharing his insights into Jung with a reporter from Rolling Stone or being a spokesperson for political prisoners about to be executed by fascists in a third-world hellhole. So Sting has to hire a maid to clean his kitchen for him, and you know she better do it exactly right or she'll be fired in a hurry, minimum wage or no minimum wage.

Did you ever listen to "Every Breath You Take"? That's Sting on vocals, and although he looked pretty cool in the video with a stand-up bass (jazz!), he's singing about stalking a woman. He says he knows "every move you make, every breath you take" and that "I'll be watching you." Stalking is ugly, even if the stalker is a rock star like Sting or a football player like O.J. But misogyny is nothing new in rock, and though "Breath" is an ugly little tune, it isn't in a class by itself. But pair "Breath" with "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free," from his solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles, and see what you come up with. She plays by his rules, or else, and he plays by his rules, too, or else. Beneath the pretense and posing, Sting is just another vile little hypocrite – and this is just another bad album. (J.H. Tompkins)