November 16, 2016 Sting – 57th & 9th (Album Review)
Since the disbandment of England’s The Police back in 1986, Lead Vocalist and primary Songwriter, Sting, has managed to create and maintain an incredibly successful career as a solo artist. Launching his solo career back in 1985 with the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles, Sting has experimented with styles and sounds ranging from Jazz, Celtic music, Blues, and Classical. Always looking to expand his horizons as a musician, his latest album, 57th & 9th, marks his return to a more Pop Rock format for the first time in over a decade. Released via A&M Records on November 11, 2016, 57th & 9th was inspired by the intersection that he had to cross to get to the studio in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. His twelfth overall solo record, 57th & 9th is pretty straightforward, but also delivers a ton of memorable moments over the course of ten new, original tracks.
Beginning with “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” it sounds like something that The Police would have come up with if they would have stuck together after all these years. Absolutely brilliant, the track itself has so much energy and force that it will make it hard for the listener to stay still. Moving on, “50,000” is a tribute for Sting’s fallen musical comrades in 2016; the most depressing year for music. It was written the week that Prince died and is said to be in memory of Prince, David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister, and Glenn Frey, among others. One of the slower songs of the album, its approach makes its emotional punch much more powerful. Picking up the tempo, “Down, Down, Down” is a song that manages to keep The Police vibe very much alive with the drummers off-time hi-hat, rim shot, and splash cymbal hits, mixed with the crystal clear guitar notes. This is all while Sting’s silky voice keeps things moving along for a perfectly executed attempt at Power Pop.
Next up, “One Fine Day” sounds like an insanely fun, danceable song, and that is credit to Sting because it really does sound like a loveable and innocent song. That is of course until the audience realize it is actually about something much more topical. The fun and almost adorable sense of the song is Sting’s interpretation of how blissfully ignorant people can be about climate change. Desperately trying to get people’s’ attention about climate change with lyrics like, “3 penguins and bear got drown, the ice they lived on disappeared, seems things are worse than some have feared.” That is pretty bleak for such a loveable song. There are a ton of animals mentioned in this song, because, nothing gets human’s attention better than animals these days, thanks YouTube. Up next, “Pretty Young Soldier” is a bluesy song about a young married couple being separated during a war. Starting out pretty tame in the beginning, that is until the wife makes a life-changing decision, which ultimately gets them back together during the war. A build up until that final moment where the couple is back together at last, Sting’s brilliant storytelling is what will keep listeners on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear what happens next.
Later, “Petrol Head,” or “Gear Head” to all American car aficionados, is a fast-paced driving song that would rival all driving songs, like AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell.” Starting off with a guitar/drum combo that literally shoots off as soon as Sting’s almost screaming voice takes over, from start to finish, it feels like a shot of adrenaline that one would get from a high-speed car chase. That is before “Heading South On the Great North Road,” which is cathartic in the sense that it gives Sting, accompanied only by a guitar, a chance to think back on the road he has paved for his musical career. It almost sounds like a British Folk song that has been passed down from generation to generation, proving a great sense of history. Then there is “If You Can’t Love Me,” which starts off as a menacing piece of music with piano and guitar. Sounding quite morbid, but effective, the song plays out as if Sting is losing his mind or spiraling out of control during a bad break up. There is a big build up until he catches himself, he gives himself some breathing room, but then again, he starts spiraling down as the build up gets stronger.
Taking a step back from Rock, along with all the other different elements within the album, “Inshallah,” the Arabic word for God wills, offers listeners a beautifully executed Arab/Jazz fusion. It is a composition based off a Middle Eastern refugee’s prayer. Again, it is an incredibly beautiful piece that will calm the nerves of anyone. In addition, Sting’s strong voice is accompanied by even more powerful lyrics, guitars, scattering notes at different points throughout, and in the chorus, both the guitars and Sting are accompanied by exotic percussion, augmenting the sincerity of the track. This leads to the finale, a deeply emotional song called “The Empty Chair.” Starting off with a slow acoustic guitar, Sting’s voice comes out of the shadows, and it is the slowest cut of the album. It is also the saddest, being an inspiration coming from the final thoughts and moments of American journalist James Foley, who was executed by ISIS, and how his family tries to move forward.
Though 57th & 9th ends on a bit of a downer, it is still a very enjoyable album with many great moments. It is a record that oozes different emotions and will take the listener on an emotional roller coaster. The truth is that Sting stepped out of his comfort zone for this album, but he pulls it off with such confidence that listeners would never suspect it. For this reason, CrypticRock gives 57th & 9th 4 out of 5 stars.