With his new album "57th & 9th," Sting, who turned 65 in October, goes back to his roots: good old rock and roll reminiscent of his Police days. Meanwhile, his voice has matured.
"For me, the most important element in music - any music - is surprise," says Sting. The onetime bassist of the group Police has surprised once again.
His latest album, "57th & 9th," has more rock in it than most of what he's produced in a long time. It's his first really new work in 13 years.
The album is named after the intersection in Manhattan that he crosses everyday on his way to the recording studio. He was supported there by music legends, including drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (who's also played for Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, and Chaka Khan) and guitarist Dominic Miller, who's collaborated with Sting for many years.
The songs are powerful, loud and unpolished; the texts are contemplative and deep. At times, the folk songwriter comes through, though that's balanced out with rock numbers that are more impulsive and danceable, like the pre-release single "I Can't Stop Thinking About You." "Petrol Head," on the other hand, brings in a raspy garage band sound.
It's not just about the rhythm, however, but also about the message. "One Fine Day" tackles the issue of climate change, while "Inshallah" is written from the perspective of a refugee in Europe.
A tribute to lost musicians
In the rather gloomy song "50,000," Sting recalls the many musicians who have passed away this year. He wrote the song the week Prince died in late April. It touches on the feeling that overcomes anyone learning of the death of a cultural icon, he told the magazine "Rolling Stone" - be it Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey or Lemmy - and continued, "When they die, we automatically wonder about our own immortality."
In the past few years, as Sting tried out various genres, fans grew suspicious, and enthusiasm for his music ebbed. His experiment with 16th century sounds on the lute album "Songs from the Labyrinth" pleased only his hardcore fans. His Broadway musical "The Last Ship" was praised by fans but flopped at the box office.
Sting's 12th studio album puts him back on track. His voice has "aged like wine," says Sting, who adds that he can still hit high C but can also sing lower now. He feels his voice is better now than it used to be.
Concert in Paris' Bataclan
"57th & 9th" will also be presented on November 12 in Paris, where Sting is performing the first concert to take place in the Bataclan hall since the 2015 terror attacks. One year ago, on November 13, 2015, 90 people were murdered by terrorists during a concert by rock group Eagles of Death Metal. Since then, the venue has remained closed.
The 1,000 available tickets for the reopening concert sold out within 30 minutes. Sting will donate the proceeds to two organizations supporting the victims' families.
"Fragile" will undoubteably be on his playlist Saturday night. Hitting the right notes at the right time without moralizing is something Sting has always been good at.