Sting

Sting

Brand New Day

A&M

Brand New Day is full of contradictions. It is Sting’s most musically adventurous disc in quite awhile, yet one of his dullest albums. Overproduced and over-arranged, it also sounds somehow less slick than recent efforts. The spacey synths and drum programs of opener “A Thousand Years” give notice that the middle-of-the-road pop of 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales and 1996’s commercially underperforming Mercury Falling are taking a rest this time out. Unfortunately, gone too are the more down to earth lyrical themes he addressed in songs like “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” on Mercury .

“Desert Rose” is a Middle Eastern-sounding duet with French-Algerian vocalist Cheb Mami. “Big Lie Small World” is a dull and repetitive Bossa Nova. But “After the Rain Has Fallen” showcases Sting’s upper vocal range to good effect. The verses sound a bit like “When the World is Running Down” from the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta , but the chorus sounds more like Soul Cages -era Sting. “Perfect Love…Gone Wrong,” however, is Sting at his most irritating. It includes a rap in French.

On “Tomorrow We’ll See,” Sting takes on the persona of a prostitute amid trite couplets like “They have the money/ I have the time/ Being pretty’s my only crime.” “Fill Her Up” starts as a somewhat contrived country shuffle (with guest James Taylor trying too hard to goose up the energy level) before morphing into a gospel chorus and finally resolving into a jazzy piano number. Ambitious, but not necessarily enjoyable.

The best number is the concluding title track, on which Sting gets an assist on harmonica from Stevie Wonder. It’s the kind of effortlessly swinging — if overly familiar — funky jazz-pop Sting does best. And perhaps what he might want to stick to in the future.

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