Top 10 Sting Solo Songs
As if his achievements at the helm of the Police weren’t hall-of-fame-worthy enough, Sting then had to break out on his own and spend the next few decades achieving just as much popular acclaim as a solo artist. Classic-rock fans may not rate these wildly eclectic solo works on the same level as some of those older rock-and-reggae Police masterpieces, but we still need to give it up for the former Gordon Sumner with this list of the Top 10 Sting Solo Songs.
Sting’s difficult third album was four years in the making, delayed by his participation in 1988’s world-spanning Amnesty Tour and an unusual case of writer’s block following the death of his father. But he rebounded and secured a Top 5 hit with this touching and rather upbeat tribute.
Sting was so eager to get away from the Police's sound on his solo debut that he saved this relatively rocking, big-chorus number for the very last spot on ‘The Dream of the Blue Turtles.’ While it delves into the painful aftermath of his divorce, ‘Fortress Around Your Heart’ is ultimately about reconciliation, helped along by Branford Marsalis’ tasteful saxophone.
Back in the time before individual song downloads, when greatest-hits packages meant something, it was common practice for artists to lure diehard fans (who already owned all the other LPs) into record stores with a new throwaway song or two. But Sting didn’t rest on his laurels for his best-of. Instead, he crafted this beautiful love song for 1994’s ‘Fields of Gold’ collection.
On the autumnal ‘Mercury Falling’ album, Sting adds country music to his repertoire, primarily via the bittersweet twang of ‘I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying’ and, more subtly, in the tragic western-noir lyrics of ‘I Hung My Head.’ Despite being recorded in challenging 9/8 time, the song was later covered by Johnny Cash in what may be its definitive version ... and a measure of respect for Sting’s songwriting abilities.
Like most every artist of the post-World War II generation, Sting grew up under, to quote Queen, the “shadow of a mushroom cloud.” So when he decided to voice his worst Cold War fears on ‘Russians’ (inspired by Soviet TV childrens’ programming glimpsed via satellite), the musical backing offered its own peace offering of sorts, by borrowing the song’s main theme from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.
‘Desert Rose’ features Sting striking up a duet with Algerian singer Cheb Mami to evoke ancient North African vistas. So it’s somewhat ironic that the song's accompanying music video shows Sting racing across the Mojave Desert toward Las Vegas in the modern-day comfort of a Jaguar S-Type, in what pretty much amounts to an early example of brand endorsement in music videos.
Sting spoke for countless British exiles trying to adjust to life in the Big Apple with ‘... Nothing Like the Sun’'s typically meticulous and articulate ‘Englishman in New York.’ While it failed to do all that well on the charts in the U.S. and U.K., the song’s video, set in a snowy New York City, provides a memorable postcard of Sting’s genre-straddling ‘80s solo work.
With the positively sublime ‘Fields of Gold,’ Sting achieves perhaps the purest meld of romance and melancholy of his lengthy career, universally melting hearts with the song’s sparse arrangements and sheer sensuality. In the process, he also surely helped out countless suitors seeking to upgrade their bad poetry in order to win their love’s affections.
While it’s hard not to laugh at Sting’s questionable dance moves and wardrobe choices in the video backing his first solo hit (that’s the ‘80s for ya), we still feel there's a spot on our list of the Top 10 Sting Solo Songs for ‘If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.’ Just as it spoke to Sting’s emancipation from the Police at the time of its release, the song still holds up today as a joyous anthem of liberation.
This Grammy winner from the ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’ album seems to represent the best balance of Sting's eclectic talents and pure pop songcraft. On top of that, its visually stunning music video (fusing religious imagery with fantasy scenarios right out of a Terry Gilliam movie) reminds us of Sting’s pivotal contributions to the music-video era, and how he's successfully maintained his status as a global superstar over the better part of five decades.