The Bridge showcases Sting’s prolific and diverse songwriting prowess, with this new set of songs representing styles and genres explored throughout his unrivalled career. The lead track “If It’s Love” is available now on all digital platforms. The upbeat, breezy and infectious pop tune exhibits his undeniable gift for melody. In his signature voice, and taking a different approach to a straight-forward love song, Sting likens contemplating his romantic feelings to calling the doctor about his symptoms.
"I’m certainly not the first songwriter to equate falling in or out of love with an incurable sickness, nor will I be the last,” says Sting. “’If It’s Love’ is my addition to that canon where the tropes of metaphorical symptoms, diagnosis, and downright incapacity are all familiar enough to make each of us smile ruefully."
The Bridge was written in a year of global pandemic and finds Sting ruminating on personal loss, separation, disruption, lockdown, and extraordinary social and political turmoil.
Exploring a multitude of concepts and themes, a “bridge” represents the enduring and ever-evolving link between ideas, cultures, continents, and even the banks of a river. It’s also a route into the past, and so it was that Sting found himself considering the music and the places that have formed his own foundations, and that indeed are embedded in his very DNA.
He explains, “These songs are between one place and another, between one state of mind and another, between life and death, between relationships. Between pandemics, and between eras – politically, socially and psychologically, all of us are stuck in the middle of something. We need a bridge.”
Representing various stages and styles from throughout his career and drawing inspiration from genres including rock n’ roll, jazz, classical music and folk, the eclectic album features Sting’s quintessential sound on pop-rock tracks such as the album’s opening rock salvo “Rushing Water” and new indie-pop sounding “If It’s Love,” to the smoldering electronic ballad “Loving You” and the romantic “For Her Love” which evokes Sting’s trademark “Fields of Gold” period. “The Book of Numbers,” “Harmony Road” and “The Bells of St. Thomas” showcase Sting’s collaboration with his long-time guitarist/“right and left-hand,” Dominic Miller.
Written and recorded over the last year in lockdown, a coterie of trusted musicians beamed into Sting’s studio remotely including Dominic Miller (guitar), Josh Freese (drums), Branford Marsalis (saxophone), Manu Katché (drums), Martin Kierszenbaum (keyboards), Fred Renaudin (synthesizer) and backing vocalists Melissa Musique, Gene Noble, Jo Lawry and Laila Biali, The Bridge’s influences are vast; from grappling with the murky origins of the folk ballads in Cecil Sharp’s ‘Collection of English Folk Songs’, to J. Robert Oppenheimer, from the Roman history of Northumbria to Saint Thomas.
All songs on The Bridge are produced by Sting and Martin Kierszenbaum, except “Loving You” produced by Sting, Maya Jane Coles and Martin Kierszenbaum. The album was mixed by Robert Orton, engineered by Donal Hodgson and Tony Lake, and mastered by Gene Grimaldi at Oasis Mastering.
The Bridge will be released in multiple formats, including standard and deluxe CD and vinyl, Japanese Exclusive standard and deluxe albums, all digital streaming and download platforms, as well as a music cassette. The deluxe CD and vinyl will include bonus tracks “Waters of Tyne,” “Captain Bateman’s Basement,” and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.” Both Japanese exclusives will be on SHM-CD including the additional bonus track “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City,” while the deluxe version will also include a DVD with an interview and track by track discussion with Sting, as well as music videos for “If It’s Love” and “Rushing Water.”
Later this month, Sting will return to the live arena with a performance in Sicily on September 27 followed by concerts at the historic Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens on September 30 and October 1. Soon after, he will launch My Songs: The Las Vegas Residency beginning October 29 at the The Colosseum at Caesars Palace featuring a compendium of his most beloved songs with dynamic, visual references to some of his most iconic videos and inspirations.
Sting, The Bridge, review: pure, timeless pop class... 4/5
The former Police man's 14th solo album shows where Ed Sheeran and Adele might be in a few decades' time – if they're lucky.
It is a brave or foolish pop star who puts out their new album the same week as the return of Adele. The British chanteuse is set to sweep all before her, as her much-heralded new release arrives today to challenge Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and Abba for the all-important Christmas sales top spot. So spare a thought for former Police-man Sting, in danger of becoming the forgotten superstar as he unveils a 14th solo album of impeccable songcraft, sublime musicianship and soulfully sensual vocals to precious little fanfare.
The Bridge is business as usual for the well-preserved 70-year-old singer-songwriter, even if his old bass-playing fingers are no longer on the mainstream pop pulse. There are no hi-tech sonic twists, guest rappers or desperate attempts to co-opt contemporary trends. Recorded in a home studio during lockdown with long-distance contributions from backing musicians, it is still all about virtuoso playing of elegantly constructed songs whose literate lyrics reach for emotion and profundity. The sound is plush and luxurious, with Sting’s softly sandpapered vocals to the fore. It’s a fair bet that half of these tracks would have been inescapable had they been released in his commercial prime.
The opener, Rushing Water, is driven by a sharp Police-like guitar lick and snapping drum beat as Sting tangles with the creative power of the subconscious. If It’s Love is a slick ditty playing with the familiar songsmith trope of being diagnosed with a lethal dose of amour fou. For Her Love is sensual and moody, with Sting floating above atmospheric synthesizers and a hypnotic guitar motif. Loving You may be the album’s highlight, with a sinister bluesy pulse as Sting evokes a betrayed lover’s jealous testimonial to wounded devotion. “We made vows inside the church / To forgive each other’s sins / But there are things I have to endure / like the smell of another man’s skin / If that’s not loving you, I don’t know what is...”
As ever with Sting, there is a tendency to over-wordiness and clever-cleverness, with the complex time-signature of Harmony Road making his thoughtful sketch of economic injustice easier to appreciate than to love, although I can forgive a lot for the scintillating Branford Marsalis saxophone solo. About half of the album explores Sting’s fascination with narrative folk styles, crafting ambiguous stories of strange encounters with angels and devils to tones of acoustic guitars, fiddles and melodeons. The best of these, The Bells of St Thomas, is an extraordinary piece, a subtle meditation on betrayal based around a Dutch renaissance painting by Peter Paul Reubens. You won’t find anything like that on an Ed Sheeran album.
Sting last scored a number one album in 1991, with the Soul Cages. That he is still operating at the same creative pitch 30 years on should stand as a beacon to younger, headline-grabbing artists. This is where Adele and Sheeran might be in a few decades time, if they’re very lucky and remain committed to their art and craft. The Bridge is out of time yet timeless, pure pop class.
(c) The Daily Telegraph by Neil McCormick
Sting, Vivid Author of Spiritual Pop, Brings Vivid Characters to Life in Beautiful New Album, “The Bridge”.
We first met Sting, all of us, circa late 1978 with “Roxanne,” the story of a call girl the narrator was trying to rescue from her vocation. Roxanne, who could walk the street for money, she didn’t care if it was wrong or right. “Roxanne” was the first captivating fictional character in a long line of them now extending over 40 years in songs by Gordon Matthew Sumner.
Along the way, Sting wrote a poignant memoir, “Broken Music,” and a Broadway musical about his life growing up in Newcastle called “The Last Ship.”
What sustains all those songs though is that they are not just love songs, or musings on fame. Unlike the songwriters of today, Sting constructed plots and stories, characters with names and emotions and aspirations. It’s why we go back to them over and over. From Roxanne to the King of Pain to the romantics in those fields of gold, Sting paints an aural picture in every song and draws us in.
So, too, in his beautiful new layered album, “The Bridge.” He’s smart: the first three or four tracks are the singles, all very catchy, especially “If It’s Love,” which is deceptive the way “Every Breath You Take” was, but hidden depths. Listen to it a couple of times. It’s top 40 with a bite.
I’ve already expressed my love for “Rushing Water,” which kicks off the album. Also a “hit” in the old sense that has a haunting undercurrent:
This is the sound of atmospheres
Three metric tonnes of pressure
This is the sum of all my fears
Something I just can’t measure
“Rushing Water” ties directly to the title track, “The Bridge,” the sneaky elegy for the songs that come in between. There are plenty of Roxanne like characters, from “Captain Bateman” (which has disarming harmonics) and the people who long to leave the violence on “Harmony Road.” “The Bridge” album is a collection of short stories.
There’s actually a whole movie in “The Bells of St. Thomas” with the main character waking up in Antwerp in the bed of a rich woman who thinks he’s dead. (This song deserves a Grammy and an Oscar.)
Don’t know how I got here
Or if I was led
But I know it’s a Sunday
For the bells in my head
And when you get to the actual “Bridge,” it’s a spiritual crossing:
We are but bags of blood and bone, yet we carry the weight of our sons and our daughters.
And now the fields are all but drowned, and we climb up to the ridge,
Some will seek the higher ground,
Some of us the bridge.
A friend of mine in music publishing who has nothing to do with Sting said to me today, “He’s done something very unusual with this album, very different and important.” We take our rock superstars for granted a lot because we’ve already had the hits, the legacy.
But my friend is right. “The Bridge” is a moment, and after 15 solo albums (plus all of the Police) it’s a remarkable achievement. It hearkens back to “The Soul Cages.” And still is very accessible. The compositions are so rich and textured, put on real headphones if you can and listen to Branford Marsalis and Dominic Miller and all the other players. “The Bridge” is a treat.
(c) Showbiz411 by Roger Friedman
Sting - THE BRIDGE (Universal) ★★★½
Sting’s boyish voice was, like the catchy tunes, reggae beats, restrained guitar and effusive drumming, a hallmark of The Police, and that youthfulness has never quite deserted him. Now 70 – an age when most voices deepen, darken, grow huskier, become wobblier or all four – Sting still sounds like he’s just embarking on a career. How does he do that?
The Bridge has him bundling up his established interests in pop, R&B, folk and a dash of jazz – which could also be described as treading musical water. Lyrically, meanwhile, the lockdown has seen him create contemplative characters often weighing up choices, with the bridge of the title being the ineradicable link between us all. Primarily playing bass, Sting is surrounded by a classy band including guitarist Dominic Miller, keyboards player Martin Kierszenbaum and drummers Manu Katche and Josh Freese.
After the surging pop-rock of Rushing Water, the breezy If It’s Love likens falling in love to falling sick, while The Book of Numbers is more haunting and wouldn’t have been out of place on The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Even better is Loving You, with Maya Jane Coles (who shares the composing credit) creating the soundscape for a song about jealousy and infidelity. Harmony Road, penned from the perspective of someone keen to escape the wrong side of the tracks, is leavened with a glorious little soprano sax solo from Branford Marsalis.
For Her Love exemplifies Sting’s prettiest songwriting, and then there are three folksy ballads: The Hills on the Border, Captain Bateman (about a jailer’s daughter visiting a captive naval officer) and Waters of Tyne. The Bells of St Thomas has his double bass teamed with Katche’s brushes and the merest sighs from Miller’s guitars, all lilting on a beautifully crafted morning-after song, the lyrics touching upon a Rubens painting and the fruits of sin. The understated gem of a title track has him delving into his voice’s lower reaches, and Captain Bateman’s Basement is huge fun: a jazzier Captain Bateman, with Sting singing wordlessly in tandem with his bass and the brilliant Katche stretching out a little. Finally, and surprisingly, comes a charming cover of Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. If excessive earnestness has sometimes compromised Sting, it’s shrugged aside here by an artist who still sounds in his prime.
(c) The Age by John Shand