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Music / Sting

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That's not Sting! That's a picture of Sti—
—wait, wrong Sting.
"Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it. But the fact that he's making it, I respect that."
Hansel, Zoolander

Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE (born 2 October 1951), better known as Sting, is an English singer-songwriter and sometime actor who launched a successful solo career after a short but spectacular run fronting The Police. Without Stewart Copeland's influence his sound became mellower, and he became a staple of Adult Contemporary radio stations, while still dabbling in a variety of genres.

Some of his most popular songs include "Fields of Gold", "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free", "Fortress Around Your Heart", "We'll Be Together", "All This Time", and "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You". "Desert Rose", released as a single in 2000, was his last hit in the U.S., though he's enjoyed somewhat greater longevity in Europe.

His son, Joe Sumner, followed in his footsteps, becoming the lead vocalist and bassist for the group Fiction Plane.


Not to be confused with the wrestler or with the other kind of Musical Sting.

Studio Discography:

  • The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)
  • ...Nothing Like the Sun (1987)
  • The Soul Cages (1991)
  • Ten Summoner's Tales (1993)
  • Mercury Falling (1996)
  • Brand New Day (1999)
  • Sacred Love (2003)
  • Songs from the Labyrinth (2006)
  • If on a Winter's Night... (2009)
  • Symphonicities (2010)
  • The Last Ship (2013)
  • 57th & 9th (2016)
  • My Songs (2019)


Live Discography:

  • Bring On the Night (1986)
  • Acoustic Live in Newcastle (1991)
  • ...All This Time (2001)
  • The Journey and the Labyrinth (2007)
  • Live in Berlin (2010)
  • Live at the Olympia Paris (2017)


Other acting work:

Desert Tropes:

  • As Himself: He's appeared as himself in a number of TV shows, including The Simpsons, The Larry Sanders Show, Ally McBeal and The Vicar of Dibley. His recent movie appearances have been this also, with varying degrees of fictionalization (Zoolander 2 gave him a son that he doesn't actually have).
  • Award-Bait Song: "All For Love," a collaboration with Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart for The Three Musketeers (1993), as well as "My Funny Friend and Me" for The Emperor's New Groove. The latter was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song.
  • Book Worm: Sting loves to read, and his lyrics are packed with literary references. "Moon Over Bourbon Street," for example, is based on Interview with the Vampire, and "The Soul Cages" is based on a story in William Butler Yeats' collection of Irish folk tales. Also see Shout-Out to Shakespeare below.
  • Call-Back:
    • The outro of "Seven Days" quotes the second verse of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic".
    • Sting includes a brief, joking nod to "Every Breath You Take" in the fade-out of "Love Is The Seventh Wave", where he sings "Every breath you take, every move you make, every cake you bake, every leg you break".
    • At the end of "We'll Be Together", Sting briefly reprises the lyrics of "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free".
  • Christmas Songs: If on a Winter's Night... is a Christmas album, though it avoids the glurgey standards in favor of older folk songs and hymns.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: The DC Comics character John Constantine was originally designed with Sting's appearance "purely to get [him] into the story", according to the character's co-creator Alan Moore.
  • Cover Version: ...Nothing Like the Sun features a cover of "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix as the penultimate track.
  • Disco Dan: Sting admitted in his memoir that the bands he played with before The Police were almost defiantly behind the times, playing jazz and show tunes while glam rock and heavy metal were climbing the charts. It was Stewart Copeland who dragged him somewhere in the vicinity of coolness by bringing punk and reggae beats to his songs. After he went solo, Sting started sounding lighter and jazzier again, and in 2006 left pop music entirely (see Genre Shift below).
  • Evolving Music: Symphonicities is an album of Sting's songs rearranged for a symphony orchestra. Separately he re-recorded some of his other songs with different arrangements, including "Shadows in the Rain", "Roxanne" and "Fragile."
  • Genre Shift: After 20 years of making pop albums, in 2006 Sting dove into Elizabethan music with Songs from the Labyrinth. He stayed in the classical groove for a while, not putting out a new pop album until 2016.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984-1994 compiled his hits up to that point along with a new single, "When We Dance." The 2011 collection 25 Years, comprised of 31 tracks, necessarily included some non-hits. There was also a compilation of his solo and Police hits released in 1997.
  • Grief Song: The Soul Cages was basically a whole grief album, written after his father died.
    • Several of the songs on ...Nothing Like the Sun were influenced by the passing of Sting's mother the year prior; in particular, the opening track "The Lazarus Heart" was his dedication to her.
  • Insistent Terminology: The liner notes for The Dream of the Blue Turtles feature a brief blurb where Sting lambasts the labeling of it as a "solo album," stating that the name falsely attributes all the work behind it to him alone.
  • Let's Duet: An increasingly common practice in the later part of his career. Duet partners have included Mary J. Blige, Dire Straits and Sheryl Crow. His duet with Toby Keith covering Sting's own song "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" outsold the original.
  • Literary Allusion Title: As noted, Sting's literary allusions could take up a page of their own, but here's a rundown of album titles:
  • Mr. Fanservice: Tall, blond and handsome, Sting did quite a few shirtless scenes in both his videos and his acting work.
    • Both him and David Lynch wanted his Space Speedo scene in Dune (1984) to be a nude scene, but the studio wouldn't hear it.
  • New Sound Album: Ten Summoner's Tales cut out the art pop and funk rock leanings of Sting's first three albums in favor of straight pop rock, Songs from the Labyrinth was a Genre Shift to contemporary classical music, and 57th & 9th brought Sting back into the pop rock sound.
  • Not Christian Rock: Several of Sting's songs feature allusions to Judeochristian figures and imagery; among other examples, "Rock Steady" is heavily based on the Noah's Ark myth, and both "Fill Her Up" and "Dead Man's Rope" explicitly mention Jesus as a benevolent figure. However, Sting himself is openly agnostic, calling the certainties of religion dangerous in a 2011 interview with Time magazine, and never made Christianity a central focus of his oeuvre.
  • One Mario Limit: Averted, though it's only a Two-Mario Limit with Steve Borden. Gordon Sumner actually pays Steve Borden for the rights to call himself Sting, though apparently it's only a nominal fee.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: According to him, everyone calls him Sting now, even his family.
  • Oop North: Sting was born and raised near Newcastle, which inspired his stage musical and album The Last Ship, about the decline of the shipbuilding industry there. Newcastle imagery also features prominently on The Soul Cages.
  • Playing Card Motifs: "Shape of My Heart," including this Double Entendre:
    He may play the jack of diamonds
    He may lay the queen of spades
  • Protest Song: A bunch of them, including "Russians," "Children's Crusade," "They Dance Alone," etc.
  • Rearrange the Song: Symphonicities and My Songs are both a collection of rearranged versions of Sting's previous hits; the first is in the style of symphonic orchestra music (hence the name), the second in the style of contemporary pop, presumably to act as a gateway album to the Millennial and Gen Z crowd.
  • Recycled Lyrics: He likes to put bits of previous hits into the fade-outs of songs. For instance, "Love is the Seventh Wave" ends with him riffing on "Every Breath You Take," "Seven Days" fades out with an excerpt of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," and "We'll Be Together" calls back to "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free."
  • Rockumentary: Bring On the Night documented the making of The Dream of the Blue Turtles and other songs Sting created right after leaving The Police.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: The Bard is quoted several times in Sting's lyrics. The album title ...Nothing Like the Sun comes from one of Shakespeare's sonnets, which is quoted more fully in the song "Sister Moon."
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Sting was a bit put out that his most famous song with The Police was an Obsession Song, "Every Breath You Take." So he wrote "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" as a direct negation of it. ("Fortress Around Your Heart," from the same album, echoes the theme.)
  • Stage Name: His was bestowed by a pre-Police bandmate, because of a black-and-yellow striped sweater that he wore. The nicknamer was also named Gordon, so this may also be an example of One Steve Limit.
  • Uncommon Time: Sting's jazzier numbers are often in oddball time signatures. "Straight To My Heart" is in 7/4, "Seven Days" is in 5/4, "St. Augustine in Hell" is in 7/8, among others.


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