57th & 9th

Sting

A&M, 2016

http://www.sting.com

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/16/2016

It’s been 13 years since Sting last delivered a pop album; while Brand New Day brought him commercial and critical success, its follow-up Sacred Love did neither of those things, and the former Police singer/songwriter/bassist turned to other forms of music (including a Police reunion) in the interim.

But there are no signs of rust on the new effort, which delivers 10 pop-rock songs tailor-made for adult contemporary radio. As he always has, Sting combines love songs and political songs, set to midtempo, somewhat benign melodies, resulting in mature, slightly downcast music for middle-aged grownups. To his credit, the man seems to have lost some ego with age; there’s nothing embarrassing about Russians loving their children or blue turtles or anything, and the lyrics sound sincere, as does the music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Much like latter-day Paul Simon and Paul McCartney records, 57th & 9th is more interested in reaffirmation and the joy of music instead of breaking new ground or challenging things, the way they did when they were young men. Those expecting anything like the Police will not find it here; those who loved Brand New Day, however, will love this too. If anything, Sting’s voice has become richer and deeper with age, lending a gravity to the tunes.

And while there may not be many songs worthy of hitting “repeat” all that often, the best songs are invested with care and flair and the occasional nifty melodic line, as on the exciting pop-rocker “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” and the lush “Down, Down, Down” one of the best songs Sting has written since at least 1983. The lone exception to the Police rule is “Petrol Head,” which works up a head of nervy steam concerning its snarling guitars and well-worn road trip lyrics. It’s fun.

When the album isn’t working its way into your head, though, it tends to plod along, as on “50,000” and “One Fine Day,” while the mundane “Pretty Young Soldier” doesn’t hit like it should, given the subject matter. Better is the simple folk cadence of “Heading South On The Great North Road” and the jittery “If You Can’t Love Me,” while Sting’s world-music leanings and social conscience lead him to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis on “Inshallah.” Far from being preachy, the lyrics are simply concerned commentary, and that’s a welcome sight.

In fact, much of the disc is rather unassuming, concerned with being meaningful but approachable, thoughtful yet relatable, and it’s a good look on the veteran. 57th & 9th may not have immediate rewards or break the mold in any way, but it’s as good a solo record as Sting has ever recorded, and it’s worth checking out for fans of a certain age.

Rating: B

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