In his excellent biography of the Clash, Return of the Last Gang in Town, Marcus Gray calls the Police what they were (and I guess are, since they reunited or something): the “most obvious of opportunists.” Gray was giving so-called “third wave” punk bands a stern wag of his finger for being “inspired by punk records and media reports to either form from scratch or adapt their existing musical style to fit.” In other words, the Police were guilty of “turning rebellion into money” as Joe Strummer sang in “White Man at Hammersmith Palais” (the line wasn’t directly aimed at the Police, but if the shoe fits, I say throw it at Sting’s head).
I’ve never, ever understood the popularity of the Police. At all. “Banal” is too good a word for their music. And it’s mind-blowing to me that they were considered part of the third wave of punk (must have been a pretty shitty wave, which is basically Marcus Gray’s contention). The Police are about as punk as a loaf of Velveeta – and I’m not talking about sound here either. I’m talking about spirit. Few famous musicians have pumped more soulless crap into the universe than Sting. Maybe Bryan Adams. Maybe.
If the Police’s general popularity is a severe blow to my faith in humanity, then the “classic” status of “Every Breath You Take” is like kicking that waning faith in the nuts when it’s already down. Though one YouTube commenter claims that this song is not about stalking people (they offer not one shred of evidence to support this fact), it most certainly is the all-time stalker anthem. And I have to take issue with this song based really on two things – the dull melody and the insane lyrics. Because musically, there is less than nothing to this song.
Here’s where the sadness starts for me: a couple of weeks ago, I realized that you could substitute the word “shit” for “breath” in “Every Breath You Take” and you would change neither the meter nor the meaning of the song. That makes the song a lot creepier. And it’s already plenty creepy. Sting sings, in his repetitive way, about watching “every bond you break” and “every step you take” and “every smile you fake.” And the sad thing is that the bridge tries to pass off this classic stalker behavior as just typical “my baby left me and I feel so sad” heartache – “My poor heart aches/ with every
shit breath you take.” I’m not buying it, Sting. You fucking creep. By the way, did you know that practicing tantra, in some cases, just means that you can be boring for a really long time? That, my friends, is an Official Bollocks! Fact (Warning: Official Bollocks! Facts may contain up to 90% opinion. This is still 10% less opinion than Fox News facts).
But hey, let’s talk about that bridge for a second. The part that really pisses me off is “Oh can’t you see/ you belong to me.” Hard to imagine a girl would leave a guy who talks like that, am I right? So even if the song isn’t about stalking someone (and it fucking is), Sting still explicitly states that his ex (or rather, his stalking victim) is property, which is a totally shit-ass thing to do. It’s hard – nay, impossible – for me to sympathize with a dude whose “poor heart” aches because his property had the audacity to think she was a woman with thoughts, feelings, and goals of her own. I hope she left you for a Sex Pistol, you prick.
All this stalking and objectifying is delivered via one of the most dull and repetitive melodies in the history of (ahem) rock music. And musically, “Every Breath You Take” sounds like a hoax. In the video, Sting plays (and appears to have sex with) an upright bass, but I hear almost no bass at all in the song. I refuse to believe he played an upright bass on the recording and you can spare me your indignant comments to the contrary because I also just don’t give a shit. This is like the Coke Zero of songs. Except someone drank the Coke and replaced it with air. Stewart Copeland is venerated as some kind of great rock drummer, but I could play the drums for this song – and I am known, where I am known, as one fuck-terrible drummer. As for Andy Summers’ guitar “riff”, which is probably the most distinctive part of this absolute waste of four minutes, let me put it this way: if I was in a band and wrote something as insipid as what Summers plays on “Every Breath You Take,” I would expect nothing less than a severe ass-beating and a swift dismissal. Why even bother playing the electric guitar if you’re going to play it like that?
I have this vision of how the Police formed. Sting, Summers, and Copeland were sitting around their flat one day discussing market fluctuations when Sting suddenly asked, “You know how rock music, especially this punk movement that the kids seem to enjoy, is all exciting and stuff? I bet we could make a shitload of money by making it less exciting and tailoring our image to make it look like we’re vaguely punkish. What do you say, lads?”
Copeland asked, “Will you get a real name?”
To which Sting emphatically replied, “No. But you and Andy have to use real names.”
It is rumored (mostly by me) that this name conflict is what led to the breakup of the Police, one of the world’s best-loved bands (at least by the Police), in 1984. They would later be memorialized in the N.W.A. song, “Fuck the Police,” a certainly controversial tribute. Much of the controversy surrounded Ice Cube’s insinuation that Sting believes “he has the authority to kill a minority.” Cube would later clarify his meaning during an interview on the set of Are We There Yet Part 3: Eazy Does It, by patiently explaining, “I wanted to address Sting’s rampant cell0-fucking in the ‘Every Breath You Take’ video, but I just couldn’t work out a good rhyme. Still though, fuck the Police.”
Indeed, Mr. Cube. Fuck the Police, fuck “Every Breath You Take,” and fuck every band that does such a shitty job of ripping off the Clash.