Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis
Hypnotized by you if I should linger
Staring at the ring around your finger
I have only come here seeking knowledge
Things they would not teach me of in college
I can see that destiny you sold
Turned into a shining band of gold
Marked by a shift to a smoother, jazz influenced sound that would foreshadow the style of Sting's solo material, it went through a Troubled Production that bled heavily into the music. Sting had just divorced from his wife and songs like "King Of Pain", "Every Breath You Take" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" reflected his feelings at the time. More significantly, the band was on the verge of falling apart, having long been at each other's throats over Creative Differences that were finally spilling over: they recorded in separate rooms because they couldn't stand being in each other's presence. Copeland had to record his parts in the studio's dining room, Sting in the control room, and Summers recorded his parts in the actual studio, and overdubs had to be done with only one member in the studio at a time.
Tensions reached the peak with the recording of "Every Breath You Take": fights between Copeland and Sting were becoming increasingly common, and culminated when Sting and Copeland got into a full-on fist fight during the recording of this song. Hugh Padgham, the producer of the album, nearly walked out and cancelled the recording sessions completely, but a meeting with the band's manager Miles Copeland (Stewart's brother) helped the band continue recording the album. Nevertheless, the incident showed how quickly the band was falling apart, and after a brief hiatus following this album (during which Sting put out his first solo album, 1985's The Dream of the Blue Turtles), the band would split for good in 1986 following one final heated argument over—of all things—which drum machine to use for a re-recording of "Don't Stand So Close to Me".note
Despite the tense conditions the album was recorded under, it ended up becoming a massive critical and commercial success, topping the charts in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Italy, and New Zealand, selling over eight million copies in the United States alone, and going on to become the third highest-selling album of 1983 in the US & Canada, the eighth highest-selling album of 1984 in the US, and the 11th highest-selling album of 1983 in the UK. The record was later certified octuple-platinum in the United States, platinum in the UK, Canada, France, and New Zealand, and gold in Germany, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands. In both the US and the UK, the album stayed on the top of the charts for 17 non-consecutive weeks, breaking the American dominance of Michael Jackson's Thriller for a short period of time.
The creative process behind the making of the album was subject of an episode in the documentary series Classic Albums.
Synchronicity was supported by four singles: "Every Breath You Take", "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "Synchronicity II", and "King of Pain". Three were Top 10 in the US, and two were Top 10 in the UK; "Every Breath You Take", their fifth #1 single in the UK, would become their only #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2020, it also became the most popular song on the radio at over 15 million plays, beating out the previous record-holder, the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".
- "Synchronicity I" (3:23)
- "Walking in Your Footsteps" (3:36)
- "O My God" (4:02)
- "Mother" (3:05)
- "Miss Gradenko" (2:00)
- "Synchronicity II" (5:00)
- "Every Breath You Take" (4:13)
- "King Of Pain" (4:13)
- "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (5:13)
- "Tea In The Sahara" (4:11)
Bonus track on most CD and cassette releases
- "Murder By Numbers" (4:36)
- Stewart Copeland - drums, percussion, xylophone
- Sting - lead vocals, bass, keyboard, oboe, saxophone, drum machine
- Andy Summers - guitar, backing and lead vocals, keyboard
There's a little black trope on the sun today:
- Alternate Album Cover: Done to a more extreme degree than most cases: thirty-six different variations of the cover art exist, all with different configurations of the photographs and color stripes, some more subtle than others. CD and digital releases generally stick with the most common version of the cover; trying to comprehensively describe the other 35 would be wildly impractical.
- Alternate Music Video: The music video for "Every Breath You Take" came in four variations, all using the same footage. The first is in black and white, while the other three are tinted red, blue, and yellow in accordance with the stripes on most versions of the cover art. The black and white version is the one available on the band's YouTube channel.
- Anaphora: The choruses of "Every Breath You Take" begin almost every line with the word "every":Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you
- Anti-Love Song: "Every Breath You Take" is this, as it is about a possessive person stalking another person who just left him.
- Bad Boss: "Synchronicity II"And every single meeting with his so-called superior is a humiliating kick in the crotch
- Black Comedy: "Murder By Numbers" takes a comedic, farcical approach to the beginnings of a Serial Killer. The comedic aspects of the song are played up further in Sting's performance of it with Frank Zappa on the latter's 1988 world tour, documented on the CD version of Broadway the Hard Way.
- Book Ends:
- Side One of the album opens with "Synchronicity I" and closes with "Synchronicity II".
- The video for "Every Breath You Take" opens with a zoom in on a smoldering ash tray with a Match Cut to the head of Stewart's drum, and wraps up by dissolving from the drum head back to the ash tray and zooming out the same way it came in.
- The album's teaser trailer begins and ends with snippets of "Synchronicity I". The intro opens the trailer, and the outro closes it.
- Break Up Song: "Every Breath You Take", "King Of Pain" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" were all recorded after Sting went through a divorce and reflect his emotions.
- Broken Record: The title word in "Synchronicity I" repeats ad infinitum during the song's outro.
- Careful with That Axe: "Mother", where the lyrics are screamed.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: "Synchronicity II" describes the narrator's grandmother as someone who's always "screaming at the wall."
- Color Wash: The alternate versions of the music video for "Every Breath You Take" apply color filters to the Deliberately Monochrome footage. One version uses a red filter, one uses a blue filter, and one uses a yellow filter, matching the stripes shown on most version of the album cover.
- Concept Album: Fitting for an album named after a theory by Carl Jung, Synchronicity covers themes of psychological anguish, manipulation, and exploration.
- Continuity Nod: Part of the lyrics from "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (from Ghost In The Machine) appear at the end of "O My God".Do I have to tell the story
Of a thousand rainy days?
Since we first met?
It's a big enough umbrella
But it's always me that ends up getting wet.
- Crapsack World: The performance video for "Synchronicity II" seems to take place in one.
- Crossing the Desert: "Tea In The Sahara", about three women who die in the desert.
- Day in the Life: "Synchronicity II" is a crapsack-y version of it, depicting the daily routine of a working man with a highly dysfunctional family and a horrible job in an abusive workplace.
- Darker and Edgier: The album is much dourer in tone than its four predecessors, influenced by Sting's divorce and the disintegration of the band members' working relationships. Levity is scarce on Synchronicity, whose most lighthearted song is a Black Comedy; the album revolves around themes of dysfunction and decay and features such cheery topics as stalking, religious disillusionment, the dystopian underbelly of suburbia, and nuclear war.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album's teaser trailer and the music video for "Every Breath You Take" are both shot in black and white.
- Distinct Double Album: A single-disc variant. The first side of the record focuses on more uptempo songs like the two Title Tracks, "O My God", and "Mother", whereas the second side features downtempo songs such as "Every Breath You Take" and and "Tea in the Sahara". The configuration was suggested by Andy Summers, who saw it as an ideal way to resolve the band's indecisiveness about what material to put on the final tracklist.
- Doowop Progression: "Every Breath You Take".
- Downer Ending: The original album ends with the melancholic "Tea in the Sahara." Re-releases end with the Black Comedy piece "Murder By Numbers".
- Face on the Cover: The band members can be seen on the album cover.
- Gratuitous Panning: The guitar riffs during the breakdown in "Synchronicity I" jump between the left and right channels.
- Groin Attack: Metaphorically (we hope) in "Synchronicity II"And every single meeting with his so-called superior is a humiliating kick in the crotch
- Henpecked Husband: "Synchronicity II" is about a man whose family, work, and general circumstances so dominate his life that he's either going to blow up or just collapse into hopelessness.
- Interrupted Suicide: "Synchronicity II"Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration
But we all know her suicides are fake
- In the Style of:
- According to songwriter Andy Summers, "Mother" was inspired by the work of Captain Beefheart, hence its atonal instrumentation and chaotic, screaming vocals.
- The guitar parts on "Every Breath You Take" were influenced by the music of Béla Bartók, who Summers was studying to prepare for his second collaborative album with Robert Fripp, Bewitched.
- It Gets Easier: The main idea behind "Murder By Numbers", in which continued killing will inevitably reduce the subject's sensitivity to the act.
- Laughing Mad: "Mother" ends with insane laughter.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Every Breath You Take" is one of the most (in)famous examples in popular music, being a major-key, quiet-voiced ballad sung from the perspective of a man obsessively stalking a woman he broke up with.
- Match Cut: The "Every Breath You Take" video opens with a dissolve from a circular ash tray to the circular head of Stewart's snare drum. The closing sequence adds a third element by dissolving from the window washer silhouetted in a circular window, to Stewart's drum head, and finally back to the ash tray before the camera zooms out.
- Mephistopheles: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is loosely based on Faust, revolving around a man who seeks forbidden knowledge from a mysterious teacher, who themself previously sold their destiny away in exchange for this knowledge (represented by a golden ring that they wear). The pupil explicitly compares the teacher to Mephistopheles as a result and aims to avoid meeting the same fate by becoming the teacher's master instead.
- Mommy Issues: "Mother", though it's Played for Laughs.Every girl I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end
Well, I hear my mother calling
But I don't need her as a friend
- Mood Whiplash: Done on purpose with "Mother", a yelled, dadaist song by Andy that is markedly different to the usual laid-back sound of the album. There is a large contingent of fans who wish the song wasn't on the album. The CD and cassette release of the same album also appends the creepy "Murder By Numbers" after the melancholy "Tea In The Sahara", but it works better because it remains jazzy.
- Multi-Part Episode: The two title tracks on the album are differentiated by Roman numerals, signifying the dichotomy of their shared themes and opposing approaches.
- New Sound Album: The album moved away from the reggae sound the band was famous for and showed influence of World Music in tracks such as "Tea In The Sahara", "King of Pain", and "Walking in Your Footsteps". The album's direction would also take on more direct influences from jazz, foreshadowing the brand of art pop that would define frontman Sting's first three solo albums and, from a broader perspective, his shift to slicker pop rock in 1993 and contemporary classical music in 2006. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Sting stated that the shift in sound was an attempt to break away from the amount of "clone groups" that were popping up.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Wrapped Around Your Finger", about a man dominated by a woman. The music video is serious Overcrank.
- Obsession Song: "Every Breath You Take", which is about a rejected lover chasing his beloved the way you would chase your stolen car.
- One-Woman Song: "Mother", "Miss Gradenko".
- One-Word Title: Synchronicity, "Mother".
- Overcrank: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" was one of the first music videos to use the technique.
- Production Throwback:
- The mention of "Spiritus Mundi" in "Synchronicity I" nods back to "Spirits in the Material World" off of the band's previous album.
- The line "they say the meek shall inherit the Earth" in "Walking in Your Footsteps", in addition to being a Shout-Out to the Beatitudes, recalls an identical line from the 1979 B-Side "Visions of the Night" (included on "Walking on the Moon" in the UK and "Bring On the Night" in the US).
- Product Placement: "Synchronicity II" namedrops the Rice Krispies brand of cereal.
- Properly Paranoid: The father in "Synchronicity II" is a Henpecked Husband on the edge of insanity about his meaningless life and dysfunctional family.
- Rage Breaking Point: "Synchronicity II" strongly implies this is what Daddy is building up to, and that years of his dysfunctional family, crappy job, and the grind of daily life slowly chipping away at his Mask of Sanity are going to end tonight, somehow. The song ends on a set of lines that parallel his car headlights pulling into the driveway with the shadow of the lake monster looming on the door of a lakeside cabin.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In an interview with Songfacts, Andy Summers stated that "Mother" was inspired by his tense relationship with his own mother, who he felt was pressuring him over his fame as a member of the Police.
- Sanity Slippage Song:
- "Mother", where Andy Summers shouts the lyrics more than he sings them.
- By the third verse of "Synchronicity II", "Daddy" has endured another hellish morning with his dysfunctional family, a more hellish day at work, and an even more hellish drive home in rush hour traffic, and "knows that something, somewhere, has to break". The juxtaposition of his breakdown with the Stock Ness Monster's shadow on the door of a Scottish lakeside cottage implies that, somehow, he will reach his breaking point tonight.
- Scylla and Charybdis: The narrator of "Wrapped Around Your Finger" describes himself as being caught between the two monsters as a metaphor for his situation.
- Serial Killer: "Murder By Numbers" is a farcical guide on how to become one.
- The album was inspired by Arthur Koestler's "The Roots of Coincidence", a book about Carl Jung's theory of synchronicity. Sting is also reading Jung's Synchronicity (specifically the 1973 Bollingen Series edition) on the album cover.
- The first title track mentions "Spiritus Mundi", a line from "The Second Coming", a poem by W. B. Yeats.
- "Walking in Your Footsteps" quotes the line "the meek shall inherit the Earth" from the Beatitudes in The Bible.
- "Oh My God" contains the line, "Fat man in his garden, thin man at his gate." This may be a shoutout to the parable of Dives and Lazarus, and is certainly a shoutout to a now seldom-sung line of the hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful." The bassline quotes The Beatles' "Day Tripper".
- "Wrapped Around Your Finger" mentions the Scylla and Charybdis from Greek Mythology and Mephistopheles from the legend of Faust.
- "Tea In The Sahara" is inspired by Paul Bowles' novel The Sheltering Sky, even namedropping it at one point.
- "King Of Pain" makes a reference to the iconic ending of Oedipus Rex.There's a king on a throne with his eyes torn out.
- Andy Summers' guitar part during "Every Breath You Take" was inspired by Béla Bartók's "Violin Duos".
- The Show Must Go Wrong: During "Synchronicity II" guitarist Andy Summers was unable to hear what was going on in the other recording booth, so he just jammed a bit and waiting for the others to start playing. So, in short all the feedback on the track was a mistake.
- Song Style Shift: The first verse of "King of Pain" is sung as a Lonely Piano Piece, with Sting on piano and vocals, accompanied only by Stewart Copeland playing a mock-click track with a marimba. Right after, though, the song immediately shifts to a New Wave Music song more in the style of the rest of the album.
- Stalker with a Crush: "Every Breath You Take" is narrated by one.Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I'll be watching you.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Andy Summers sings lead vocals on "Mother".
- Stock Ness Monster: "Synchronicity II" name-drops the Monster of Loch Ness, which is a metaphor for the anger of a frustrated father. In the music video footage of Loch Ness is also seen.Many miles away
There's a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark
- Surpassed the Teacher: "Wrapped Around Your Finger", in the end.I will turn your face to alabaster
When you find your servant is your master.
- Take That!: The second verse of "Synchronicity II" attacks, in order, pollution caused by human industry, the rise in unemployment rates under Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister, and the scabs who work in place of strikers.
- Teacher/Student Romance: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" where a student is seduced and dominated by his teacher. In the end though, the tables get turned.
- Terminology Title: Synchronicity: in Jungian psychoanalysis, the possibility that two apparently coincident contemporaneous occurrences can hold some deeper meaning.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: The first verse of "Synchronicity II" notes how the father can only stare blankly into the distance in response to his highly dysfunctional family situation.
- Title Track: Two of them: "Synchronicity I" and "Synchronicity II".
- Trauma Conga Line:
- "Synchronicity II" describes the father's daily routine as this, being constantly plagued by his dysfunctional family and soul-sucking corporate job ad infinitum, to the point where by the time the song begins, he's already severely traumatized by the experience.
- "King of Pain" casts the narrator as suffering/having suffered from this, featuring a variety of bleak metaphors for his situation, among other things comparing himself to "a little black spot on the sun ... a black hat caught in a high tree top ... a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall..." etc. Exactly what he's gone through is never stated, but considering the nonstop chain of dour figurative imagery, it's enough to have trapped him in a seemingly permanent state of learned helplessness.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: There's actually two different scenarios going on in "Synchronicity II" (presumably they vaguely have something to do with each other): While the family drama as described above takes place, many miles away something is crawling to the surface of a dark Scottish lake. The family drama gets to the point that it disturbs the sleep of whatever's at the bottom of that lake. And it's none too pleased.
- Uncommon Time: "Murder by Numbers" is written in 12/8, and pairs a swing-rhythm melody with a percussion track that, in the verses, clicks on every eighth note, forming a 3:2 polyrhythm.