Brand New Day
A & M Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Alison Bellach
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/06/1999
Things I think about when I think of Sting: romance, depth, love, loss, thermometers, bad French, sailing, and generally mystical settings.
Things I do NOT think about when I think of Sting: transvestite prostitutes, self-written techno songs, being a real life dog, psychotic lovers chasing down lying letters, and French rap.
Of course, I am open for new, Stingy experiences, and his new album Brand New Day definitely provides those. I first heard that the album was coming out when a local small venue advertised for his upcoming concert. I was astounded that such a popular performer would be playing such an intimate location (until, of course, I heard that tickets were starting at $125). I popped out and snatched the CD up on its release day, and was fairly floored when I listened to it.
Overall, the album is a definite move away from the jazzy feeling that marked Mercury Falling, leaning towards a much more eclectic mix of styles. It features guests such as Stevie Wonder (on harmonica), James Taylor, and Branford Marsalis (on clarinet), as well as a smattering of international artists like Cheb Mami.
The first track, "A Thousand Years," is classic Sting, reminiscent of "When We Dance." It is a simply gorgeous song, marked by lyrics such as: "But if there was a single truth, a single light / A single thought, a singular touch of grace / Then following this single point, this single flame / The single haunted memory of your face".
"Desert Rose" features Cheb Mami, and is one of the most musically interesting songs on the album. It is a highly erotic, dizzying song where Sting displays vocal acrobatics that are complimented by Middle-Eastern vocals. It is rich and rewarding (and almost reminds me of a really good coffee… hee hee), and I could easily see it as the first single from this album.
Of course, then there are the tracks that can be classified as nothing less than "weird." In "Big Lie Small World," a jazzy song whose tone doesn't necessarily match its message, the character has written a letter to his ex-lover, explaining that since she left, his life has been full of friends and laughter. After he has sent the letter, though, he regrets the fact that he has lied, and the rest of the song details his effort to get the letter back, culminating in his attack on the postman and subsequent arrest. Sounds a bit like "Seven Days" in a way…
But wait! Sting can get weirder! "Perfect Love… Gone Wrong" is about a dog who feels misplaced by his owner's new boyfriend. (Or, he's being metaphorical here; personally, I'd rather think that the dog is really having a serious jealousy issue.) The dog's lamenting is "complemented" by a female French rapper (yeah, you heard me right, a French rap artist) which makes me seriously wonder how much effort Sting put into thinking about musical composition. French rap does not do anything for this song, really.
Finally, for the track most likely to make you scratch your head and say, "What was he on?!", we have "Tomorrow We'll See." Check out some lyrics: "Headlights in the rainy street / I check, make sure it's not the heat / I wink, I smile, I wave my hand / He stops and seems to understand / The small transaction we must make / I tell him that my heart will break / If he's not a generous man / I step into his van / They say the first's the hardest trick / But after that it's just a matter of logic…" Want more? "A friend of mine he wound up dead / His dress is stained with colour red."
Okay, enough. My overall opinion of this album varies. Although I am excited that Sting has a new album out, I think this one is… well… boring and questionable at places. Many of the songs either are reminiscent of his old work or are weirdly composed and make little to no musical sense to me. (French rapping? I still don't get it.) I'd say that I like a little over half of the songs, and I sneer at the other half. (Sigh.) And to think, he's charging $125 to see him sing about being a transvestite prostitute. It almost makes it worth it.