meta-scriptWhy The Police’s 'Synchronicity' — Their Final, Fraught Masterpiece — Still Resonates After 40 Years |
The Police perform live 1994
Sting performs in 1984

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Why The Police’s 'Synchronicity' — Their Final, Fraught Masterpiece — Still Resonates After 40 Years

Released on June 17, 1983, 'Synchronicity' became the band’s biggest commercial success. It was also the Police's final album. Forty years since its release, the "dream-like musical tour" remains a culturally significant sonic exploration.

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2023 - 03:59 pm

Flash back to December 1982: A band on the brink of breakup arrives on the volcanic island of Montserrat for six weeks to record what would become their final album. 

This six-week sojourn was bittersweet for the Police, whose days and nights spent holed up in George Martin’s AIR Studios resulted in Synchronicity. The British rock trio's fifth album took its title from a word coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who speculated that paranormal events had a basis in physical nature; its themes nodded to Arthur Koestler’s 1972 book The Roots of Confidence.

This Caribbean retreat proved to be a reflective, if not fortuitous setting — while the volcano was inactive during their sessions, there certainly were a lot of eruptions and hot heads between members. By the time the band arrived on Montserrat, frontman and chief songwriter Sting had outgrown the Police in stature; the trio had also taken a sabbatical to pursue solo projects following the release of 1981's Ghost in the Machine. While recording "Every Breath You Take," Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland came to fisticuffs. No one doubted the end was nigh. 

This underlying tension shapes the mood of Synchronicity, and its songs are like a weed in your garden. Even after you pull it out, it always returns to remind you that the struggle is real. Despite these conflicts and the unraveling of the band in real-time, the resulting record was well-received by critics and the public.     

Released on June 17, 1983, Synchronicity became the band’s biggest commercial success. The record hit No. 1 on both the U.S. and the U.K. Billboard 200 charts and spent 17 nonconsecutive weeks in the top spot — selling more than eight million copies in the U.S. alone. At the 26th GRAMMY awards, Synchronicity received five nominations and took home three golden gramophones: Best Rock Performance by a Group or Duo with Vocal for "Synchronicity II"; Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Every Breath You Take"; Sting also took home a GRAMMY for Song of the Year for composing this megahit. 

This success vaulted the trio to "biggest band in the world" status. But, due to infighting, their domination did not last long. After a world tour throughout 1984 to promote Synchronicity, Sting officially left the band. 

Adding to the growing tension, both lead vocalist Sting and guitarist Andy Summers' marriages were collapsing during this period. Betrayal and suffering hang heavy throughout Synchronicity. This is best illustrated in "King of Pain," the final single released from the album, where the imagery of "a little black spot on the sun today" captures Sting’s temporal malaise but remains resonant.

Lyrically, Synchronicity is a final document, even a legacy, made amid creative conflicts and tumultuous times. Yet what makes the record still resonate after four decades is its dense sonic layers and the trio’s musical experimentation that influenced future artists and recordings. 

Synchronicity also endures for the way it stands apart from other 1980s modern rock albums. It mingles musical styles — new wave, post-punk, reggae, jazz-fusion, rock, and what, at the time, was labeled world music. The Police had a firm grasp on melodic theory, harmony and were well-versed in the history of the popular song book; these influences all appear and fuse on their collective coda. 

Synchronicity is a culmination of all the musical styles that the Police had previously experimented with, plus the addition of many new textures. While their first four studio records fused their reggae and jazz influences with a new wave sound, Synchronicity saw the band generally moving beyond these staccato rhythms, off-beats and improvisations. 

Side one opens with the title track and sets the tone for what follows: a musical journey marked by fractured friendships playing out in the atmospheric melodies and the diverse soundscapes that the album travels over a relatively tight 39.5 minutes. Drop the needle on side two, and the first song you hear is the wistful "Every Breath You Take" — one of the most played in radio history, with more than 15 million plays. Many still consider this Sting composition as one of the greatest pop songs ever written. 

Lyrically, Sting’s songs are the most cerebral; they are filled with rich imagery and references to literature from past and present. "Tea in the Sahara '' includes nods to American expat Paul Bowles’ "The Sheltering Sky" while "Wrapped Around Your Finger" alludes to Greek mythological creatures. Irish poet William Butler Yeats finds his way on the record too; "Synchronicity II" that closes Side One was inspired by his famous modernist poem "The Second Coming." The mood of the melodies in these tracks reflects the band’s sonic shift. In other songs, the influence of diverse musical styles from world regions beyond North America are also apparent — a territory Sting continued to explore in his career as a solo artist after the Police disbanded.  

Synchronicity was also one of the first to see the other two band members contribute a composition  — a parting gift of sorts from Sting to his bandmates; a chance to show their songwriting chops. 

Summers’ "Mother," — written in 7/4 time signature that is more common in classical music — is not a great song lyrically or musically, but the short and repetitive track somehow fits. Although the guitarist is singing about the troubled relationship he had with his mum, the song’s frenzied pace and his manic screams match the anger and growing animosity between him and Sting, while also alluding to the end of his marriage. Copeland’s "Miss Gradenko" is slightly better than Summers’ song. Lyrically, the two-minute track speaks to Russian repression during the Cold War; musically it features some fine guitar work.     

While Copeland and Summers' participation created a bit of inconsistency, particularly when compared to previous releases, their unique approaches and more direct lyrics make the album even more interesting.

Despite these two songs, which beyond adding to the music publishing coffers of Sting’s bandmates, are forgettable, the album is a reverie deserving of repeated listens to uncover all the subtle soundscapes. The National Recording Registry described Synchronicity as "a dream-like musical tour" and the band's sound as "represented, not a pastiche, but a stylistic ethos." 

The album was also musically groundbreaking in terms of the tools and toys used in the studio. Just like the addition of keyboards and horns on Ghost in the Machine, this time around it was the first time Sting had used a sequencer ("Walking in Your Footsteps" and "Synchronicity II"). In Stephen Holden’s 4.5 star Rolling Stone review of the album upon its release, the critic summarized the cohesiveness of the record and its songs like this, "each cut on Synchronicity is not simply a song but a miniature, discrete soundtrack," and "Synchronicity is work of dazzling surfaces and glacial shadows." In a RS reader poll later that same year of the greatest records of 1983, the album topped the list.

Synchronicity also captured the zeitgeist. In 1983, unemployment was at a record high and the Cold War lingered, causing global worries of what these superpowers might do next. For many Gen Xers, this LP was one of the first records they purchased at their local shop. And, for many musicians, it meant "everything." The record remains a masterwork and meaningful document.     

In 2009, Synchronicity was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. And, in 2023, the Library of Congress selected the album as one of the newest to be included in the United States National Recording Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Exclusive: Stewart Copeland Premieres First Single From 'Police Deranged For Orchestra'

Rihanna attends Marvel Studios' "Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever" Premiere on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California.

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10 Love Songs That Have Nothing to Do With Love: From "Every Breath You Take" To "Baby It's Cold Outside"

Don't let the song titles fool you. From misogynist attitudes to tales of coercion and even a secret pregnancy, many popular love songs aren't about love at all.

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2024 - 03:46 pm

Many studies on love have proven that it seems to be a trait present throughout species. Although it's undeniable that the capacity for love is universal, evidence suggests love manifests differently across individuals. That is why, for many people, love is undefinable, with the word meaning something for one and something else for another. 

This point has never been proven more true than in love songs. Numerous musicians and bands have sung about love, but their definition or meaning of the word and yours might be wholly different. You would be surprised to learn how many love songs have absolutely nothing to do with emotional or physical love.

When you delve beneath the surface, "love" songs are sometimes twisted, uncomfortable, sadistic, and unsavory. So, let's look at 10 love songs with nothing to do with love and everything to do with what they shouldn’t. 

"Every Breath You Take" - the Police 

When the Police released "Every Breath You Take" in 1983, it immediately became a huge hit, reaching No.1 on U.S., UK, Canadian, Irish, and South African charts. On the surface, this song seems romantic, which is why it made its way into numerous movie scenes and weddings, but the lyrics are uncomfortable and prove the song is not actually about love. 

Frontman Sting sings, "I'll be watching you," and, "Oh, can't you see, you belong to me?" about the song's object of affection. Rather than lyrics about a lover, it's believed that the song is about a stalker. At the time Sting was suffering a mental breakdown, making the verses infinitely more evil.

In fact, Sting himself said: "I think it's a nasty little song, really rather evil. It's about jealousy and surveillance and ownership."

"Rollercoaster of Love" - Ohio Players 

On the surface, the lyrics "It's a rollercoaster ride/we're on top for the moment/ and then we'll take that dive" seem to describe a relationship's exhilarating ups and downs. However, there has been much debate over the years about the true meaning behind the Ohio Players' staple. 

The most popular theory is that the song is about life's ups and downs, not love, but we'll never know. According to late frontman Leroy Bronner who wrote the tune, "To this day, I don't know what I wrote." He continued, "The words didn't make sense to me. But it was a hit."

The song also has a much darker recording humor, which further alienates it from the genre of love songs. According to the rumor to which the band responded "No comment," the scream on the track was the sound of a woman being murdered in the recording studio. 

The woman's death is an urban legend, but the band decided to leave it in as a joke and as a way to create buzz for the song, with the actual scream belonging to keyboard player Billy Beck. 

"Can't Feel My Face" - the Weeknd  

The Weeknd is well known for penning lyrics that have multiple meanings, so it's not surprising that his hit track "Can't Feel My Face" isn't really about love. 

With the lyrics: "I can't feel my face when I'm with you/But I love it" and "And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb/And she'll always get the best of me; the worst is yet to come." It sounds like a dark love song about a man who is so in love that he loses all control, which is plausible, but it's more likely the song is about cocaine. 

According to Billboard, the song is about drug dependency, and the Weeknd is crooning about cocaine and likening it to a bad relationship. The Weeknd had hinted at the song being about drugs when he commented: "I just won a new award for a kids' show, Talking 'bout a face numbing off a bag of blow." Unfortunately, it's not very romantic. 

"Umbrella" - Rihanna

Most believe that one of Rihanna's most famous songs is about a woman comforting her partner and explaining that she will be there for him through the good and bad times. "Baby 'cause in the dark you can't see shiny cars/And that's when you need me there. With you, I'll always share," she sings.

However, a few people believe "Umbrella" is about the corruption of a person's soul – Rhianna's in this case. Some believe that the 2007 hit is about Rhianna welcoming the devil into her heart, body, and soul. While this is more of a conspiracy theory than anything else,  a pastor recently posted on TikTok that he came back from hell, and "Umbrella" was one of the songs being used to torture individuals. 

"All I Wanna Do is Make Love To You" -  Heart

If you listen carefully to the lyrics in "All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You," it's clear that the 1990 song actually about deceit. 

Nancy and Ann Wilson are singing about being in love with another man who cannot provide her with children because he is impotent — so she finds a willing one-night stand. She sings, "I didn't ask him his name, this lonely boy in the rain." When morning comes, the protagonist says "All I left him was a note/ I told him I am the flower; you are the seed. We walked in the garden; we planted a tree."

After some time has passed, she's unnerved to come across his path, presumably pregnant: "You can imagine his surprise when he saw his own eyes/I said please, please understand/I'm in love with another man/And what he couldn't give me was the one little thing that you can."

"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga

"Bad Romance" was developed as an experimental pop record featuring elements of German techno and house. With more than 184 million YouTube streams, the 2008 track quickly became one of Lady Gaga's best songs. 

On the surface, "Bad Romance" centers on the pull of a love that's bad for you: "I want your ugly, I want your disease/I want your everything as long as it's free/I want your love." However, it's not so straightforward. 

Gaga said she drew inspiration from the paranoia she experienced while on tour. She also stated the song is about her attraction to unhealthy romantic romances that are not always about love. 

"Young Girl" - Gary Puckett and the Union Gap

Not all love is appropriate, as the song "Young Girl" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap proves. This 1968 single is wholly inappropriate and creepy (and illegal), but it still managed to become one of the band's best-known songs. In fact, despite the lyrics being more about unsavory infatuation than love, it still reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 (just behind "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"). 

Initially, this song doesn't appear inappropriate with lyrics  "Young girl, get out of my mind" possibly referencing the romance of a slight age gap. But the group doubles down: "My love for you is way out of line/ Better run, girl/You're much too young, girl."

If these words aren't enough to prove the song is about being infatuated with an underage girl, you might be convinced by lead singer Gary Puckett singing, "Beneath your perfume and make-up you're just a baby in disguise" and "Get out of here before I have the time to change my mind." 

"Under My Thumb" - by the Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones have had their share of controversy over the years, and it's not hard to see why when you consider the meaning behind many of their big hits. "Under My Thumb" might have been marketed as a love song, but it's about a relationship rooted in hate and control. 

With lyrics such as "Under my thumb/It's a squirmin' dog who's just had her day/Under my thumb/

A girl who has just changed her ways," it's apparent that Mick Jagger is singing less about heartbreak and more about power. The misogyny is so clear in this song that it made it into the book Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women That Love Them.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" - Dean Martin 

One of the most popular holiday season love songs, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" was written by Frank Loessser and performed by Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald. It's difficult to say if these musicians knew the song's sinister and controversial underbelly. 

"Baby It's Cold Outside" is about a man who pressures a woman to stay at his home by any means necessary. The woman in the song tries to give reasons why she cannot stay with lyrics like "My mother will start to worry" and "My father will be pacing the floor." Yet, her concerns are shot down at every turn, with the man using the bad weather outside to keep her captive. Fortunately, the song has been remade with consensual lyrics, thanks to Kelly Clarkson and John Legend

"You're Gorgeous" - Babybird

This song may have a happy rhythm, but if you pay attention to the lyrics, there is much more to this song than meets the eye. Although the song appears to be about a man who would do anything for his lady love, it is about exploitation. 

This song — the British group's biggest hit, from 1996 — is about a sleazy photographer who takes advantage of a young and naive model and photographs her for men's magazines. The lyrics "You got me to hitch my knees up/And pulled my legs apart" details the true nature of this song.

"People should never be told how to interpret a song," Babybird told the blog Essentially Pop. "So, if they thought it was romantic, then fine." He continued, "Sadly, very few people got the true meaning, which is about male predatory behavior, but in popular music, most critics are a little blind to correct interpretation."

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Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams

Photo: Todd Owyoung / NBC via Getty Images


10 Fascinating Facts About Bryan Adams: From Writing For KISS To His Serious Side Hustle

The GRAMMY-winning singer and guitarist has sold over 75 million albums and is about to share his songs on the world stage. Ahead of his So Happy It Hurts tour, read on for 10 lesser-known facts about the raspy-voiced rocker.

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2024 - 02:54 pm

One of Canada's biggest rock stars, Bryan Adams has had a massively successful and sonically diverse career that spans 45 years. With one win and 16 GRAMMY nominations under his belt, Adams' prolific output includes numerous chart-topping albums and big-name collaborations.

Yet, for a man who has sold over 75 million albums and wants his music to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Bryan Adams doesn't seem to seek the limelight. 

He’s not tabloid fodder, doesn’t date celebrities, and does not court controversy. While he certainly will promote his latest album or tour — and will begin his international tour on Jan. 20 in Montana —  but Adams is an intensely private individual who is selective with the interviews that he gives and in what he speaks about. He is also not a flamboyantly dressed performer, preferring the jeans and t-shirt that he has carried over from his very beginnings. Appropriately enough, he often calls his band the Dudes Of Leisure.

Adams’ most recent studio album is called So Happy It Hurts and recently released a 3-CD box set of live recordings of three classic albums performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall: Cuts Like A Knife, Into The Fire, and Waking Up The Neighbors.

Ahead of his So Happy It Hurts Tour — which will certainly see Adams perform hits "Summer Of ‘69," "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You," "Can’t Stop This Thing We Started" — read on for 10 lesser-known facts about the raspy-voiced rocker.

who has befriended and collaborated with an impressive range of artists across numerous media.

He Signed His First Contract For $1

Back in 1978, when was just 18 years old, Adams signed a recording contract with A&M Records who decided to take a chance on the fledgling rocker with a "wait and see" attitude. 

They signed him for the paltry sum of $1 which Adams insisted on receiving so he could frame it. 

While his first two albums, Bryan Adams (1980) and You Want It You Got It (1981) didn’t exactly set the world on fire, his third release Cuts Like A Knife (1983) went platinum in America and triple platinum in his native Canada, selling at least 1.5 million copies worldwide. Seems like A&M got a great return on their investment.

His Breakthrough Hit Was Written For Someone Else

In January 1983, producer Bruce Fairbairn asked Adams and songwriting partner Jim Vallance  to come up with a song for Blue Öyster Cult. Their original version of "Run To You" did not impress the band (or Adams) and they passed — so did .38 Special and other groups. 

When Adams needed one more song for 1984’s Reckless, he pulled out "Run" and taught it to his band. This time, everyone including album producer Bob Clearmountain was impressed. It became the album's lead single and Adams' biggest hit, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. 

Although the previous Cuts Like A Knife had three hits singles and went platinum, Reckless spawned six hits ("Heaven" went No. 1) and turned Adams into a superstar, selling 5 million copies in America and reportedly 7 million more globally.

He’s Penned Dozens Of Songs For Others

Adams has co-written songs for numerous other artists, many of them hard rockers. In 1982, he and Vallance co-wrote "Rock and Roll Hell" and "War Machine" with Gene Simmons for the KISS album Creatures Of The Night; and he worked with Paul Stanley and Mikel Japp on "Down On Your Knees" for KISS Killers

That led to credits on albums by Ted Nugent, Motley Crue and Krokus (who used a leftover from Reckless). But the recipients of Adams’ songs span a wide range of artists including Neil Diamond, Tina Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Loverboy, .38 Special, and Anne Murray.

He Loves A Good Duet

Bryan Adams' duets often appear on movie soundtracks and tend to do well. His Reckless collaboration with Tina Turner, "It’s Only Love," was a Top 20 hit, peaking at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. But things got bigger from there. 

"All For Love," his song with Sting and Rod Stewart for the Three Musketeers film soundtrack (1993) went No. 1 in at least a dozen countries, selling nearly 2 million copies globally. He’s also duetted with Bonnie Raitt ("Rock Steady"), Barbra Streisand ("I Finally Found Someone" which went Top 10), and Melanie C from Spice Girls ("When You’re Gone"). He’s also recorded with Chicane, Pamela Anderson, Emmanuelle Seigner, Loverush UK, and Michael Bublé.

In recent years, Adams has said that he would like to duet with Beyonce and Lady Gaga. And in case you missed it, Taylor Swift once brought him onstage to perform "Summer Of ‘69."

The Reckless Video Album Is A Story Of Unrequited Love

With its six videos slightly out of order from actual release, the Reckless video compilation (1984) charts a melancholy story. In "This Time" (the final video from Cuts Like A Knife), Adams is seeking out a woman in a desert town who's only shown with glimpses of her legs and heels. At the end, he finds her in the back of his van and they hook up — or is it just a mirage? 

"Summer Of ‘69" intercuts black and white footage of Adams and a young woman during their teen years with color images of their separate lives today. At the end, his old flame drives by with her current boyfriend who sees her eyeing the rocker, gets angry, and violently stops the car. In "Somebody," she escapes the car as he screams at her, and then she and Adams wander in different locations as they recollect one another. 

In "Kids Wanna Rock," Adams jumps onstage for a high energy performance, while in "Heaven," his old flame’s new guy has been pulled over for drunk driving, so she ditches him to see the Bryan Adams show conveniently happening across the street. He is unaware she is there, mesmerized by him. 

After he races off the stage he finds himself locked inside the venue with snow coming down outside. In "Run To You," actually the album’s first single, Adams performs in wind and snow-swept environs and fantasizes about the same woman who finally walks up to him at the end. But they never embrace or kiss.

He’s An Acclaimed Photographer

Adams has been taking photos for most of his life, but it’s no longer a hobby. — he has photographed everyone from rock stars to royalty, and even himself for his own album covers. He got a lot of good pointers about photography and darkroom work when the famed Anton Corbijn shot the cover for 1987’s Into The Fire.

While Adams’ memorable portraits of people like Pink, Mick Jagger, Amy Winehouse, Rammstein, and yes, Queen Elizabeth II, he has also published books of portraits of homeless people, wounded war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, images of sand from the Island Of Mustique, and American women dressed in Calvin Klein. He uses proceeds from these books to benefit various charitable causes. He also shot the 2022 calendar for the Pirelli Tire Company to help them celebrate their 150th anniversary. 

These days, Adams told Louder Sound that he is "a photographer moonlighting as a singer."

He’s A Longtime Vegan & Animal Rights Advocate

The singer first became vegetarian at age 28 and later turned vegan, citing animal cruelty in the face of human food consumption. Adams has said that he gets an abundance of energy from his plant-based diet, noting he no longer gets sick. 

Adams has promoted his lifestyle to fans through positive posts, and he joins other famous musicians who are also vegan including Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, and Stevie Wonder.

He Is Staunchly Committed To Humanitarian & Charitable Causes

Adams has lent his voice and face to a variety of causes. It all started with his appearance at the Live Aid Festival in 1985, which raised many for Ethiopian famine relief. That was followed by the two-week Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope tour in 1986, the 1988 Peace Concert in East Berlin, and many others. From earthquake and tsunami relief to climate change to the Mideast peace process, he has been involved in many causes, and he is an LGBTQ ally as well.

In 2006, he co-founded the Bryan Adams Foundation with the goal of improving quality of life around the world via financial grants. Funds "support specific projects that are committed to bettering the lives of other people. The Foundation seeks to protect the most vulnerable or disadvantaged individuals in society." A big goal is "to advance education and learning opportunities for children and young people worldwide."

He Co-Wrote A Broadway Musical

Adams is known for having hit songs from movies including Don Juan DeMarco, The Three Musketeers, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves. Some people might not know that he and Jim Vallance co-wrote the score to the Broadway adaptation of "Pretty Woman," which ran for 420 performances over a year starting in August 2018. It is currently touring the UK and U.S. 

None of the movie’s pop songs were used; the score was entirely theirs. And it turns out he and Vallance had to audition their work to producers. Adams told Billboard in 2016 that the duo crafted three songs and presented them to the producers, who responded with a "don’t call us, we’ll call you" approach. Thirty minutes later, Adams got the call.

He Tours Places Other Western Artists Don't Visit

Bryan Adams has performed in places other Western artists don't often visit. He has toured India several times; Adams first played Mumbai in the early ‘90s and was impressed with the loyalty of Indian audiences. He was reportedly the first Western artist to play Karachi, Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, and toured in Syria and Lebanon in December 2010. He said Syria had a great audience and had never hosted a Western artist before. 

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Photo of Stewart Copeland sitting on a chair
Stewart Copeland

Photo: Jessica Lehrman


Exclusive: Stewart Copeland Premieres First Single From 'Police Deranged For Orchestra'

The Police founder and drummer Stewart Copeland exclusively shares “Every Breath You Take,” the first single from his forthcoming orchestral re-arrangement of Police songs. The album, 'Police Deranged for Orchestra,' is out June 23.

GRAMMYs/Apr 14, 2023 - 05:00 pm

In November of 1978, the Police made an emphatic statement with their debut album,  Outlandos d'Amour, which featured now-classic singles"Roxanne" and "Can’t Stand Losing You." Drawing from the subliminal talents of vocalist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland, the London-based band created a distinctive sound drawing reggae, pop, and punk. Their songs and sound have become classics.

In 2006, Copeland released Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out, a film he created out of Super 8 footage of the band’s early days. The film employed rearranged, or "deranged", versions of the band’s songs to score the film. More than 15 years later, the work evolved into Police Deranged for Orchestra. Copelan's forthcoming album, out June 23, combines his rearrangements with a symphony orchestra and all-star rock band. 

The derangements on Police Deranged are far from a paint by numbers revisit of the songs. Rather, Copeland channels his classical and jazz roots in an experimental tweaking of the Police's classics. The resulting songs arrive at  exciting sonic destinations with new elements, yet never totally lose sight of the originals. 

"I've been mostly erring on the side of pushing it over the edge," Stewart told Indeed, "Message in a Bottle," for example, arrives with a more cinematic atmospheric vibe; its tangents freely wander. 

"The hooks of those songs are so strong that I can take wild liberties with every other aspect," he continues. "People are sometimes afraid to look backwards, and that's only a valid fear if you're not going forwards."

In addition to performing with bands, Copeland has a long history of film and compositional work, including the film score for 1987’s Wall Street and the 1983 Francis Coppola directed Rumble Fish. He calls Police Deranged a reflection of his orchestral and arranging work, which has also been an "inevitable byproduct product of scoring for film." He’ll continue the Police theme later this year in the form of Stewart Copeland’s Police Diaries, a new book featuring diary entries from 1976-79.

The seven-time GRAMMY-winning composer discusses his journey revisiting the Police’s music, how he adjusts to playing drums for orchestra, and why he thinks he can push the songs to their limits. Today, premieres "Every Breath You Take," the first single from Police Deranged for Orchestra.

Today you're releasing the album's first single, "Every Breath You Take." What was your journey like revisiting the song?

That one I turned over to [conductor and composer] Eímear Noone and Craig Stuart Garfinkel. I had already orchestrated all of the other music and I finally realized, wait a minute, "Every Breath" was never my most fun song to play live. So, at that point, I just handed that one off to professionals. The journey of that one was egging them on and pushing them to get further and further away from the original, which wasn't broke, but that doesn't mean we can't fix it.

And the orchestral interlude was actually conceived of for a stage moment that actually didn't really work. They were going to start playing ["Every Breath"] and then I walk out, but that looks stupid. So, [the song’s prelude’s] just there as an artifact, but it's actually darned beautiful.

So, they were able to find a pretty nice balance between the core of the original and giving it a new spin?

Actually, I haven't been too concerned about that balance. I've been mostly erring on the side of pushing it over the edge because the hooks of those songs are so strong that I can take wild liberties with every other aspect.

What did you learn about the songs while revisiting them?

That Sting is a darn good songwriter. I missed that back in the day. I was at the back of the stage banging s— and all I ever saw was the back of his head. 

Doing these derangements really woke me up to the quality of his music. I already knew that, but the lyrics as well. Man, he had a way with words. Don't tell him I said that.

While working on Police Deranged for Orchestra and digging into the band's recordings, it sounds like you gained a deeper appreciation for what made the Police special, from the small details to what each person brought to the band.

Very much so. Both of them, with Andy as well as Sting. Sting turns out to have been a darn good songwriter. But Andy, the colors, the harmonic textures that he brought. He was a one-man orchestra, that guy. And a lot of the orchestrations that I've done are all built on his harmonic voicing and his arpeggiated guitar figures and so on and does sound great in the orchestra.

There were big moments where we just came up with stuff onstage that were very Police-ish because it came from the three of us, but didn’t exist on any record until now.

In what ways did pairing with an orchestra bring out new things from the songs?

The orchestra has its own vocabulary in those swirls and cool swooshes and wangs and bangs. I introduced some elements that are strictly orchestral, just so that you can utilize all of the diverse forms of expression that an orchestra is capable of. 

They were all inspired by Andy and Sting. But I also did add a few new ingredients of my own, mostly to do with the orchestration.

Sometimes when artists put songs in a new light, you gain even more appreciation for the song.

Oh yeah, a bunch of stuff. And I want to call those guys back and say, "Hey, guys, all is forgiven." Well, actually, I have called them back and all is forgiven. We actually get along really great now. 

Sting is actually very supportive of this mission. He loves to hear his songs performed by other artists, even when they change it up. It makes him feel like Rodgers and Hammerstein, and indeed is of that stature when it comes to songwriting. But yes, getting deep into these songs definitely gave me much more insight into what those guys came up with.

The album features a pretty impressive all-star cast of musicians and vocalists. Can you talk a little bit about some of the players and why you brought them on?

Armand Sabal-Lecco on bass, has been my bass groove for something like 30 years, and he's played with Paul Simon, Seal, Peter Gabriel, just about everybody. He just has that African lilt, which just works for me, and we're real very close friends. But mainly on the bass, he really lights me up, gives me something to work with.

On guitar, Rusty Anderson played in Animal Logic, a band that I had with Stanley Clarke decades ago, and that's where I met him. And we've been chuckle buddies ever since. He's a guitarist who I called when I was doing film scores. When I knew exactly what I wanted, I could play it myself. But when I was stumped, when I didn't know exactly what I wanted, I'd call Rusty and he would come up with something that I never would've dreamed of. He has incredible technique, a really wide vocabulary of style and sound. I guess that's why Paul McCartney likes him so much too.

The ladies are from three different worlds; they're triple scale alpha vocalists here in Los Angeles. Backing singers generally have more technique and more exactitude in their performance than do star singers. So, these women are all really technically proficient, but I egged them on. I exhorted them to step forward, take the mic, grab the spotlight. And they really did. They really did put stuff beyond what you would get from session musicians and they really lit it up, all three women in very different ways.

Amy is the big, huge Earth mother voice. Ashley is a tinkly on top, very agile. In opera, we would call her a coloratura soprano. And Carmel and the alto range, she's the rock upon which all the others build, very solid and with a lot of unique personality. Carmel is into heavy metal and country, so she has a cultural makeup that is very interesting.

I should also mention our conductor, Edwin Outwater. He really brought a lot of extra X factor out of both the singers and the orchestra. When we developed the show originally for live performance, that's what this all came from and what we got organized for, he really worked with the singers to get them confident, because they're complicated arrangements. I'm reproducing Sting's quite exotic, rhythmic phrasing. And for them to learn it took a lot. What conductors do is they bring all the elements together into one thing. And similarly, Craig Stuart Garfinkel, who actually mixed and recorded it. These were people that I really relied on to make it become real. Now we can move on.

Stewart Copeland performing in the studio

*(L-R): Rusty Anderson, Armand Sabal-Lecco and Stewart Copeland performing in the studio | Photo: Jessica Lehrman*

What songs surprised and challenged you most?

"Tea in The Sahara," [from tk year's album] which was always an obscure favorite of mine, became my favorite piece of orchestration. The rolling waves of the sand dunes really inspired the use of the orchestra in that way.. 

"Message in a Bottle" was like a diamond and I could not mess with it; the form of it is what it has to be. I did mess with the orchestration, with the sound textures and so on, but the song itself resisted all of my attempts at de-arrangement. But I did orchestrate the heck out of it. 

Percussion and rhythm are things that overlap in a lot of styles of music. What’s it like playing drums with an orchestra and how do you adjust compared to other forms?

The orchestra sounds bigger and more majestic and has more presence. The actual volume is not so much;  the drum set is designed to compete with big amplification. I had to really adjust my technique and there were some unexpected benefits from that. One is that all kinds of techniques that I had learned as a kid, rudiments and so on, things that just don't read in a rock environment, have a place in an orchestral environment. 

So, there's all kinds of cool little stuff that I can do with the drums that would never exist in rock 'n' roll. And also, the drums sound better when I'm not trying to kill them. I guess nobody gets a headache with this quieter technique.

In the '80s, you focused more on your classical roots and, later, the film scores. How do you think that decision has made you a more well-rounded musician?

Well, the two informed each other. Like I say, the film music brought me back to orchestra. My daddy raised me to be a jazz musician, which was going fine until I heard Jimi Hendrix. Meanwhile, my mother was playing 20th century classical: Stravinsky, Revel, Debussy and such, and that really stuck emotionally. So that sound of the orchestra was always there in my heart.

But then when I was doing film music, I was pointed in various directions by my bosses, the directors, that I never would've gone voluntarily as an artist or never would've crossed my mind. But when Francis Coppola [whom I worked on the score for Rumble Fish] turns around and says, "I need strings," I went off and learned how to work with strings. And the rest is history, of working with orchestras, because I was told to. And so that's the benefit of going through a phase as a professional [hired gun]. I'm back to being an artist now, where it's my medium. I do what I want and I follow my own artistic instincts, but I learned all this cool stuff when I was an employee.

What do you recall of your first time hearing classical music?

The first time hearing classical music was kind of beyond memory. It was in the house before I remember, but I suppose the first conscious memory that I have is "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff and crawling around in our house in Beirut, Lebanon, my face in the Persian carpets that my mother bought in Isfahan. I'm looking at one of them right now.But those patterns, the combination on those Persian rugs of chaos and order, are pretty much exactly what my music is all about.

U2 had an interesting quote recently about their new album where they were revisiting their old classics, that a great song is indestructible. Do you agree with that?

A good song is a good song and there are many ways of slicing a really good song. And Sting really appreciates this too. And so, for U2 to go and go back to those great songs and reimagine them was probably very healthy for them artistically.

People are sometimes afraid to look backwards, and that's only a valid fear if you're not going forwards. If you're moving forwards with great velocity, it's fine to look over your shoulder and check out where you've been and put some of that to good use.

You’re going to be touring with the orchestra later this year.

It’s not so much a tour. I mean, I play 20, 25 shows, and they're all individual events. I fly to Atlanta, I play with the Atlanta Symphony, I fly to Cleveland, play with the Cleveland Orchestra, fly to Nashville. Rather than me hiring an orchestra and 50 hotel rooms, they hire me. And I just show up with my singers and guitarists and it's a much better business model.

I'm going down to Cannes to be a judge at the Cannes Series Festival. And then I'm going to play a show in London at the Coliseum in London and then come back. Then this summer, I'm playing an Italian tour and then a one-off date in Luxem.

I imagine each orchestra has their own unique personality.

Yes, they do. In spite of the diligence, they play exactly what I put on the page. And the more detail that I put on the page, the more detail is their performance, and that shapes what they do. They don't just play the notes. And their philosophy, their reason for living is to faithfully execute what they see on the page. 

Nevertheless, the Cleveland Orchestra has a different personality from the Atlanta Symphony or the Chicago. They swing together as one thing, and that one thing has a personality. Sometimes the brass are really crisp in this one here and the other one, it's the strings that shine and so on. 

You have a few other projects coming up this year, including a reissue on Record Store Day.

Yeah, that's going to be a deluxe version of my [1980 album as] Klark Kent, comprised of the original tracks, plus the demos that I did at home in my home recording studio and various other pieces to go with that. 

Ricky Kej — my buddy with whom I won a GRAMMY this year [for Best Immersive Audio Album] and another one last year — is  doing a version of the album, which tentatively titled Police: Deranged for Paradise, with the Soweto Gospel Choir and other ethnic artists from around the world. [It is a] completely alternate version of the album, using all of the Derangettes, my American singers and American players, and the Irish Orchestra, but adding these otherworld elements. That's going to be a cool record.

Yeah, it'll be neat to hear those songs in that context as well.

Yeah, absolutely. In Zulu, in Hausa, in Mandarin, in Tamil. That'll be interesting. And Armenian.

This fall you’re releasing a new book, Stewart Copeland’s Police Diaries.

Yes. That's based on my diaries of the starving years of the Police. I've got every day, what concert we played, how much we got paid, how many people were there. I gave myself reviews, but also I've got the receipts for the trucks that I hired. For some reason, I don't throw stuff away and I've still got all this stuff. And they tell an interesting story. 

And the main surprise of that story was how we stuck together before we had any idea what music to play. We were playing crap punk songs that I wrote with yelling, because that's what we had to play to get by and get hired and play those clubs. But we bonded musically and starved until Andy joined and he starved with us. And then it was like a year or two into the Police mission that Sting started coming up with those amazing songs that turned everything around for us. So, we bonded musically before we had any idea of what to play.

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(L-R) Chrissy Metz, Shaggy, Sting


Up Close & Personal: Shaggy And Sting Discuss Their Musical Beginnings, Songwriting Processes And GRAMMY-Winning Collaboration

Two GRAMMY-winning musical legends joined together in this Nashville Chapter member-exclusive program, which was filmed at Nashville's Ocean Way and moderated by Chrissy Metz.

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2022 - 05:16 pm

Friends and collaborators Shaggy and Sting came together for a conversation at Nashville's Ocean Way Studio recently — and the result was a lengthy discussion about the way they write songs, the backstories behind some of their biggest hits, and of course, their GRAMMY-winning work together.

In an in-depth installment of Up Close & Personal, presented by the Recording Academy's Nashville Chapter and moderated by "This Is Us" star Chrissy Metz, the member-exclusive program presented an informal conversation that took fans through both artists' careers to date.

The two stars hail from very different parts of the world — Sting grew up in England, and became the frontman for legendary rock group the Police, while Shaggy was born in Kingston, Jamaica. but over the years, they've found layers of commonalities in their work.

In speaking about his songwriting process, Sting — who has written classic-rock hits like "Roxanne" and "Every Breath You Take" — notes that he mostly writes solo, a rarity in the famed songwriting collaboration hub of Music City.

"I've always been envious of people who have a writing partner," Sting says. "Lennon and McCartney, they were constantly playing off each other, competing with each other, and that was one of the engines of their success."

"But I never actually found that person, and I'm still alone," he adds, with a joke: "Isn't it sad?"

But he found an unlikely but fruitful creative partner in Shaggy for the two collaborative albums they've released together. One of them is 44/876, which won Best Reggae Album at the 2019 GRAMMYs — and includes a number of songs that the two artists co-wrote.

Shaggy explains that one of the reasons their songwriting partnership was so successful was because of their friendship: Where songwriting can be a tedious, solitary struggle, the two artists found that heading into the writer's room together broke some tension.

"I write a lot of songs, I'm pretty successful at it, but I don't particularly love it," Shaggy notes. "I like the live aspects of it. That's why I like working with him, because it's not as intense. It's more [like] we laugh, and out of that laughter comes something that works, that we hopefully both like."

To learn more about the two artists' creative processes — plus Shaggy's stint on The Masked Singer, and why they think the original James Bond might have been Jamaican — press play on the video above to watch the full episode of Up Close & Personal.

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