Sting's 4 Douchiest Moments, And How He Made Up For Them
Photo illustration by John Seaborn Gray
This article was originally simply supposed to be "Sting's 4 Douchiest Moments," but while researching it, a funny thing happened. Rocks Off started to notice that, for every time Sting did something that made us cringe, he'd also done something that made us like him again.
We were torn; we can't just rag on him like he's Chad Kroeger, Scott Stapp, Fergie, or someone else with absolutely no artistic merits. It seems unfair to pretend like the guy who wrote the terrible adult-contemporary techno classic "Desert Rose" didn't also write post-punk rippers like "So Lonely."
So yes, we're going to look at some of the times Sting was a bit of a prick. But hold off on those angry comments until the end, Sting fans, because we're also going to look at Sting being a badass.
Douche Chill: Sting Creates "Bard" Character; Fails Charisma Roll
Please excuse the Dungeons & Dragons humor in the header, we'll clarify that in English for those of you who don't speak Dork. A few years ago, Sting decided he wanted to release an album full of songs based on the writings of John Downland, who died 400 years ago.
A lute player delicately plinks at his instrument while Sting croons in a ridiculously affected Ye Olde Englishmanne voice that makes his old fake Jamaican accent sound like something Meryl Streep spent six years working on. If that kind of music is your thing, fine (not really, but whatever), but we always had to wonder: When Sting toured behind that album, were ticket prices lowered? Were fans warned ahead of time that they would only be getting one Police song ("Message In a Bottle") and one solo Sting song ("Fields of Gold") among the medieval dreck, both of which were barely recognizable?
Oh yes, it's true, he re-worked both of those classics to gel with the rest of the set. A fine idea, if the rest of the set wasn't goofy, boring horseshit.
How He Made Up For It: Police Reunion
Of course, very few people remember this freak of an album because less than six months later, Sting reconciled with Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland and took the Police on an extensive international tour. We're pretty positive that, all over the world, when the opening riff of "Message In a Bottle" - played properly this time - blared out into the audience, all lingering ill feelings regarding Sting's Middle Earth experimentation were utterly forgotten.
Douche Chill: The Collaborations
We lumped them all together into one big moment so this list wouldn't be 12 entries long. Okay, so Sting's first big collab was with Dire Straits. Fine, that's not bad. For his next team-up, he jumped down a rung by working with the notoriously hit-and-miss Phil Collins, but it was on a Collins song we actually like ("Take Me Home") so we'll grant him a pass on that one, too.
The next big collaboration he had was "All For Love" with Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams, an almost sadistically overwrought Disney love anthem. It was the theme song for Disney's "The Three Musketeers" - you know, the one where Charlie Sheen, Keifer Sutherland, and Chris O'Donnell played musketeers from California.
Listen to "All For Love" again, or at least as much of it as you can bear; it sounds like Sting is singing a completely different song while Bryan and Rod try to out-rasp one another. Even so, it's cheesy, it's sappy, it's thunderously overproduced, yes, but there is a melody underneath and you can tell it may have, at one time, been a good song. A similar yet infinitely more perverse problem plagued his next pair of team-ups: His song "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" didn't score on the charts like Sting would have liked, so he re-recorded it as a duet with the execrable Toby Keith, permanently ruining it.
Shortly thereafter, Sting allowed Puff Daddy to haphazardly throw a couple of rapped verses on top of his beloved Police classic "Every Breath You Take," transforming it into a tribute to the recently murdered Notorious B.I.G. that we suspect would have made Biggie want to quietly take his onetime protégé Sean Combs aside and have a long, serious talk with him. Sting sold Puffy the rights and appeared in the video, so he shares the blame for letting it happen.
Finally, Sting's most recent collaboration was with the Black Eyed Peas, who for the last ten years or so, have been employing scientists and alchemists to see if they can produce the single worst song of all time. It sounds like they're pretty close.
How He Made Up For It: Live Aid and Other Charities
Oh yeah, there was one collaboration we forgot about. Sting was one of the first to jump on board with Midge Ure and Bob Geldof's Live Aid project, first recording the hit charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?" with a cast of fellow rock stars, then taking part in the all-star Live Aid concerts that followed.
Those concerts raised 150 million English pounds for the plague-ravaged nation of Ethiopia. He's also done extensive charity work with Amnesty International, as well as participating in benefit concerts for the Walden Woods Project (a conservation group); the island of Montserrat which was devastated by a volcano in the mid-1990s; the post 9/11 "America: A Tribute to Heroes" concert for the families of those killed in the attacks, Live 8; Live Earth; and Hope for Haiti Now.
Sting, his wife and tribe leader Raoni Metuktire founded the Rainforest Foundation Fund to help conserve the rainforest as well as defend the rights of the indigenous tribe dwelling therein. What has he gotten by way of thanks? Well, they did name a tree frog after him.
We don't know how much money Sting has raised or how many lives he's had a small part in saving through his charity work, but safe to say it's more than Rocks Off has through writing our smartassed little blog items.
Douche Chill: He's a Bit Pretentious
Not really a "moment," but bear with us. What proof do we have of Sting's pretension? Well, even his fellow Englishmen find him a bit stuffy, which should tell you something. We already covered the bit with the 17th-century lute-fiddling, and that only just scratches the surface. Here are some Sting facts:
• First of all: he goes by "Sting"! Strike one. Oh, there's some myth about how he got the name from a yellow-and-black striped sweater, but we're not buying it. We've read Lord of the Rings and have seen the movies multiple times, we know damn well he's named after the Baggins family sword. We know this because:
• He once owned a white Icelandic steed named Hrímnir, which, in The Simarillion, is the noise Legolas the Elf makes whenever he queefs.
• Started off as a jazz musician. With the sole exception of Frank Zappa, all rock stars who start off as jazz musicians are fucking insufferable.
• Included the lyric "Their logic ties me up and rapes me" in the silly, upbeat pop song "De Doo Doo Doo, De Da Da Da." Forcible rape imagery is not exactly appropriate for what's otherwise a goofy love song, Sting.
• That's not his only lyrical crime, by far. Although sometimes tolerable, his lyrics tend to be heavy-handed to the point of embarrassment, even when they aren't name-dropping famous writers of yore. It's fine when a song cleverly alludes to literary tropes or characters. It's not fine when a song slaps you about the face with them, yelling "Hey! Check out all this smart shit I know! Look! Look!" You know, like in that book by Nabokov.
• The whole tantric-sex thing. The entire world thought he was a supernatural sex god for more than a decade before he finally admitted it was all bullshit.
How He Makes Up For It: Likes All That Timeless Artsy-Fartsy Stuff Because He Knows Disposable Crap When He Sees It
Here's Sting sounding off on The X-Factor, England's American Idol equivalent:
"I am sorry but none of those kids are going to go anywhere, and I say that sadly. How appalling for a young person to feel that rejection. It is a soap opera which has nothing to do with music. In fact, it has put music back decades. Television is very cynical. They are either Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston or Boyzone and are not encouraged to create any real unique signature or fingerprint.
"That cannot come from TV. The X Factor is a preposterous show and you have judges who have no recognizable talent apart from self-promotion, advising them what to wear and how to look. It is appalling. The real shop floor for musical talent is pubs and clubs, that is where the original work is. But they are being closed down on a daily basis."
Right on, Sting.
Douche Chill: This
How He Made Up For It: This
This was the most footage we could find of Sting in this film; he's at the 1:03 mark.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.