Fans looking for a handy compendium of the Police's top songs could do worse than picking up a copy of their 1986 compilation, Every Breath You Take: The Singles. In fact, a majority of the tracks on this Top 10 list appear on that album. But this British trio were more than just a collection of hits. To get a better overall picture of the Police, one must dig a little deeper than the five-times-platinum seller. With that in mind, we offer you our picks for the Top 10 Police Songs.
'So Lonely'From: 'Outlandos d'Amour' (1978)
The influence of reggae on the Police is pretty apparent to even casual fans, but few of the band's song are as overtly connected to the genre as "So Lonely," which singer-bassist Sting later admitted was based on a Bob Marley classic – with a little punk thrown in for good measure. "Let's be honest here, 'So Lonely' was unabashedly culled from 'No Woman No Cry' by Bob Marley," he told Revolver. "Same chorus. What we invented was this thing of going back and forth between thrash punk and reggae. That was the little niche we created for ourselves."
'Wrapped Around Your Finger'From: 'Synchronicity' (1983)
Synchronicity is the disc that made the band global superstars: The Police's 1983 swan song was their only album to top the charts in the U.S., where it eventually went eight-times platinum. "Wrapped Around Your Finger" was the second of no less than five hit singles. Supposedly about the dissolution of a doomed marriage, the tune meshes dark-edged New Wave and reggae flourishes to create a moody pop masterpiece.
'Can't Stand Losing You'From: 'Outlandos d'Amour' (1978)
The second single off the Police's first album, this catchy number nearly topped the UK singles chart despite the controversy that surrounded the cover art. The BBC "had a problem with [the cover] because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck, waiting for the ice to melt," said Sting, although he failed to mention that the song is indeed about suicide.
'Invisible Sun'From: 'Ghost in the Machine' (1981)
"Invisible Sun" found the Police exploring another rather dark realm, both in sound (thanks to the haunting synthesizer loop that runs through the track) and in the content of the lyrics, which make a veiled reference to the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The accompanying video, which featured clips taken from the conflict in Northern Ireland, was also banned by the BBC.
'Message in a Bottle'From: 'Reggatta de Blanc' (1979)
"Message in a Bottle" may come across as rather lightweight in tone. After all, the lyric focuses on a lonely island castaway who one day is surprised with "a hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore" after a year of despair over his unanswered message in a bottle. But something about this song certainly struck a chord with fans, who helped make the tune the Police's first No. 1 hit in the U.K. It's also Sting's personal favorite, he told BBC presenter Jools Holland.
'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'From: 'Ghost in the Machine' (1981)
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is a key step in the evolution of the Police. The choppy reggae guitars and ire-inflected beats of their early days are still there, but now they are adorned with sweetly subtle layers of pop piano and synth. It all ties together into a four-minute nugget of the kind of pop genius that would make their next LP, Synchronicity, such a massive worldwide hit.
'King of Pain' From: 'Synchronicity' (1983)
Most bands can't turn a song that references an obscure Hungarian novelist (Arthur Koestler) and the father of analytical psychology (Carl Jung) into an international hit. Then again, most bands don't have Sting writing their tunes. Add in odd tempos and eerie instrumentation on top of the esoteric lyrics, and "King of Pain" is pure pop brilliance as only the Police can do – and get away with.
'Don't Stand So Close to Me'From: 'Zenyatta Mondatta' (1980)
Before his foray into the world of rock 'n' roll stardom, Sting was a teacher. He later put to rest rumors that "Don't Stand So Close to Me" -- which tells the Lolita-esque tale of a young student with a crush on her instructor – was based on any sort of real-world experience. The track earned the Police their first non-instrumental Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
'Every Breath You Take'From: 'Synchronicity' (1983)
"Every Breath You Take" may be one of the Police's biggest hits, but Sting himself has gone on record to call the song itself "generic." He also set the record straight concerning its decidedly un-romantic subject matter, despite often being interpreted as a love song. It's "an aggregate of hundreds of others," Sting once admitted, "but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is."
'Roxanne'From: 'Outlandos d'Amour' (1978)
"Every Breath You Take" may have been the bigger radio hit but "Roxanne" is now easily the trio's best-known jam – despite barely cracking the U.S. Top 40 when it dropped in '78. One thing it's not is a reggae song – a point which Sting obviously has strong feelings about. “People always tell me that ‘Roxanne’ is a reggae song,” he once told Q. “It’s actually a tango, it’s not a fucking reggae song.”