Sting has flirted with sweet, innocuous music for years, and with
Brand New Day it's apparent that the singer/ songwriter has
finally plunged headlong into the meringue that is adult contemporary
music. The new album subjects listeners to a good number of trite
melodies and some worldbeat-type stuff that sounds tacked on. Though
there are nice moments, they're few and far between and will require
more than a little patience from all but the most diehard Sting fans.
While Sting's voice has always been on the raspy side, the vocals here
are so sibilant and relaxed as to render many lyrics indiscernible,
which might not be such a bad thing, actually. In fact, if one is
willing to put in some intimate speaker- or headphone-time
(or simply glances at the lyric booklet), it soon becomes evident that a
good two-thirds of these songs are filled with the standard
verging-on-mystical Stingisms: "I may be numberless/ I may be innocent/
I may know many things/ I may be ignorant/ Or I could ride with kings
and conquer many lands/ Or win this world at cards and let it slip my
hands ("A Thousand Years"). Sigh.
"A Thousand Years," the album-opener, is a treacly song in which Sting's
unusually flighty vocals are augmented by floating keyboard chords and
programmed drum tracks. Next is the vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding
"Desert Rose," in which Sting practices his otherworldly chanting over
roiling world beats. "Desert Rose" (RealAudio excerpt) is a good bet for a single because it
has all the easy-to-swallow, slightly exotic appeal labels look for in
an effort to
tap adult contemporary markets.
While most of Brand New Day is just
soothing-to-the-point-of-dullness, some of it is out-and-out annoying.
On "Perfect Love ... Gone Wrong" (RealAudio excerpt),
a songwriter once known for his wit
plays the cuckolded lover with this: "This doghouse never was the place
Runner-up and second-best just ain't my pedigree/ I was so happy, just
the two of us/ Until this alpha male / Turned up in the January sale."
Later in the song a couple of bland raps kick in, kick out and
ultimately wind up on the sofa sipping tea.
With "Fill Her Up" (RealAudio excerpt), Sting tries his hand at the kind of wry country
numbers artists such as Lyle Lovett pull off with aplomb. Run through
with pedal steel guitar lines, the song attempts to jump from sly
portrait to heavy-handed moral to gospel rave-up in under five minutes,
and fails to do much of anything except cover a lot of ground.
Sting is too accomplished a songwriter and too skilled a musician not to
deliver a few gems, and a number of the melodies here display the knack
for pop hooks that made the Police one of the best bands of the '80s.
Unfortunately, too much of Brand New Day sounds, well, just plain
tired. And it leaves this former Sting fan yawning and dreaming of the
good old days.