Sting, ‘The Bridge': Album Review
The past decade has pretty much found Sting in a nostalgic and reflective mood, releasing albums about his childhood home (2013's stage musical The Last Ship), reworked versions of tracks from both the Police and solo catalogs (2019's My Songs) and, um, an entire collaboration record with Shaggy (2018's 44/876).
Extend that period to the past 15 years and you'll also discover LPs of lute music and winter-themed tunes, and records featuring more reinterpretations from his past. Only one album from this period, and only the second of this century, 2016's 57th & 9th, came without a high-concept descriptor and could be called a straightforward rock offering.
You can add his 15th LP, The Bridge, to the list of refreshingly genre-defying works that don't require knowledge of 17th-century Renaissance music or appreciation of mid-'90s and early-'00s dancehall-pop stars. Sting is still in a ruminative mood – personal loss, the pandemic and politics all figure into The Bridge's songs – but he gets there via routes that are familiar to followers of the Police and his early solo work.
The bridge here refers to links to Sting's past - the music and memories that shaped him along the way, as well as his connections to various types of songs from across the globe. Opener "Rushing Water" recalls the multifaceted music he made on Synchronicity and The Dream of the Blue Turtles; "If It's Love" takes a more pop-oriented approach to similar territory.
This travelogue spreads across The Bridge's 10 songs, spanning continents and genres, from folk and classical to jazz and world. Sting even brushes against the Police's classic stalker anthem "Every Breath You Take" in "Loving You," a deceiving valentine to an ex: "We made vows inside the church to forgive each other's sins, but there are things I have to endure, like the smell of another man's skin/If that's not loving you, I don't know what is."
Conceived and recorded during lockdown, The Bridge doesn't so much present a sense of urgency in the times as it does a feeling of not overthinking matters. Even when he gets tangled up in lyrics (see "Captain Bateman"), the melodies easily flow, especially during the LP's first half. All of it adds up to Sting's least fussy and most satisfying album in years.