Release Date: 09.28.99
Record label: UNI / A&M
Nothing Special About This Day
by: mark feldman
The problem with Sting's new album isn't so much the music itself, but the way in which it's delivered. Somewhere along the way from "Roxanne" to its subtle reprise "Desert Rose," Sting let the concept of being concise escape him. No track on "Brand New Day" clocks in at under 4:46, and that is largely the result not of extra verses but of stretched out introductions, layer upon layer of production and sonic clutter, and Sting's usual need to make approximately 478 grand statements an hour, give or take a hundred. Additionally, one of the thrills of listening to Sting is his instantly recognizable voice, and he appears to be embarrassed about it here. Only on the title track and "After the Rain Has Fallen" does Sting even hint at the charismatic growl that was once his signature. On the rest of the album, his voice only contributes another element to the murky wash.
Sting's last couple discs have been no less spotty than this one, but at least amidst the murk there were scattered flashes of hummable brilliance. Again, only the title track and "After the Rain Has Fallen" deliver anything close to that on this one. The former, which closes the disc and thus requires 45 minutes of patience even to reach (thank heavens for digital technology and skip buttons), features some tasty harmonica licks from Stevie Wonder, a toe-tapping rhythm reminiscent of "Love is the Seventh Wave," and a reasonably creative use of the expression "fuddy duddy." The latter is a hip-hoppy anthem with a cheesy but uplifting message, with unexpected melodic turns that vaguely recall his still-superior 1993 hit "If I Ever Lose My Faith."
Elsewhere, you really have to fish for anything you haven't heard Sting already do better. The jazzy and sensuous "Tomorrow We'll See" isn't bad, neither is the desperate "Ghost Story," but after that there are some downright dogs - literally. "Perfect Love… Gone Wrong," though you wouldn't know it from the title, is a ridiculous attempt to cram every canine-related metaphor into a love song ("it's a dog's life loving you baby," "it's a shaggy kind of story," "Second best just ain't my pedigree" - you get the idea). But even that sounds as deep as "Children's Crusade" once you get to "Fill Her Up." Sting's longtime fans will definitely turn up their collective nose at the idea of him doing a country song, but the problem isn't that it's country music, the problem is that it's BAD. The mere idea of Sting as a gas station worker ogling a pretty redhead and stealing money from the cash box is enough to send us crawling back into our kennels and wishing he was a dog again. Some of the Police's albums way back when contained token off-the-wall pieces (like "Mother," for instance) just to keep the listeners on their toes, but this time the joke is on Sting. He can't even just leave it as a joke, either - "Fill Her Up" eventually sheds its country leanings and "progresses" into a gospel-tinged chant that owes more to '90s Elton John than it does to real gospel. Who would've thought that the man who once sang "We were the class they could not teach / 'cause we knew more" would be preaching "You gotta fill her up with Jesus" 20 years later?
Brand New Day isn't a complete disaster - Sting is still an important and influential figure in pop music, but if you're looking for a reason why that is, you had best avoid the 1999 edition. Sting has evolved into one of the very dinosaurs against whom he was originally rebelling.