Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Adult Contemporary, Where is thy Sting?

Today on the way into work, I flipped away from my usual radio diet of sports talk radio (usually Colin Cowherd on ESPN, followed by Jim Rome on AM 570) to listen to some actual music. You see, I've got a gift certificate for the iTunes store burning a hole in my electronic pocket, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with rock n roll.

So I'm listening to 93.1 Jack FM, which is probably my fave rock station in LA - not only because it shares the frequency of my favorite Chicago radio station (93.1 WXRT), but also because its fairly eclectic and diverse musical repertoire keeps me on my toes. Think Springsteen followed by Dexey's Midnight Runners followed by Four Non-Blondes followed by the Eagles.

Wow. That sounds awful. Take my word for it. They do it better than I would. I can hardly make a mix tape (or mix disc) to save my life.

So today, I'm listening to Jack, and "King of Pain" comes on by the Police, and it reminds me of one of the great tragedies of pop music over the past few decades. And no, not the tragedy that involves Kenny Chesney and Brooks & Dunn edging toward the mainstream. That's a tragedy for a different day.

No, it's this one. I'm listening to Sting and the boys. I'm digging on the lyrics. I'm being taken back to 6th grade when Synchronicity hit the record shops. And all I can think is, "Man, what happened to this guy?"

Because now Sting is selling Jaguars in TV commercials. He's doing the music for Disney cartoons, and, worse, faux Disney cartoons. His new music gets played almost exclusively on that blight of society - the adult contemporary station. The same kind of station that my mom listened to when I was growing up - the one that played the Carpenters AND Gloria Estefan.

But this is Sting, for God's sake! Think about how cool that guy was. The Police only made like five albums, and they all pretty much rock. Sting made teenagers think reading Nabokov was cool.

Think about how haunting the tune to "Message in a Bottle" is. Think of the lyrics, man! It was literate rock at its best - and it was at the top of the charts. Sting brooded like a teen (albeit a better-looking one annoyingly prone to quoting literature - but it was cool!).

Totally cheeses me off. I followed that guy through the solo albums, too. Seriously - the political rhetoric of Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun might be laid on a bit thick, but they've still got great songs. Songs that you wouldn't be ashamed to plug into the iPod. At the peak of my brooding - late in high school, with girl troubles, and having had a kid at my school die - I listened to "They Dance Alone" and "Fragile" practically every freaking night on the turntable in my room. Sure, they were about human rights violations in Central America, but I felt like the guy got me.

But now? It's embarrassing. You find yourself grooving to Sting's voice, digging his lyrics, the way he mixes in music from outside the mainstream . . . and then you realize that somebody's trying to sell you a car.

In fairness, I should point out that Sting's not alone in the drift from cool to tool. Don't even get me started on Phil Collins. You could hear the damn break when But Seriously was released back in the 90s. Now you hear him on the Tarzan soundtrack.

It's like, "Phil, what are you doing? You nailed the sadness and loss of a shattered romance in 'One More Night'. 'In the Air Tonight' summed up our collective need for vengeance over those who have wronged us! What's with the Tarzan bullcrap?"

And then there's Billy Joel. It's like Christie Brinkley took his cool when she got half his stuff. Sucked it right out of him.

Tragic, just tragic. How did Springsteen and U2 make it out of that era alive? They're not next are they? It's not like a plague, is it?

Brrrr . . . if there's an adult contemporary plague, let's try to find a vaccine. I'll raise money for that cause.

Till then, I'll just have to face facts. The Sting I knew died after Ten Summoner's Tales and Soul Cages. As a fan, I'll just have to carry on.

Remember "All For One" from the Three Musketeers soundtrack? That trio with (shudder) Rod Stewart and Bryan Adams?

Sting must have had a mortgage payment due on his castle or something.
Well, I had forgotten that, but thankfully now I not only remember it but have that godawful song (and the godawful video) running through my head.

And we're aaaaalllll for one . . . aaaaaalllll for love . . .

Hokey smokes.
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