There is only one word to sum up Sting’s My Songs.
It’s not the album is bad…it’s hard to ruin songs that are already brilliant, hard as Sting might try in some cases, it’s just that there’s no reason for this album. Every song on here already exists, and the addition of a drum machine and the stripping of the elaborate instrumentations that made songs like “Brand New Day” good in the first place does very little to warrant this album’s existence. You cannot improve “Message in a Bottle” and there is no need to even try. It’s perfect.
In Sting’s own words: Wait a minute, wait a minute, baby, wait a minute.
At least “Roxanne” – outdated as it is – is a live version, applause and all. Variations there are acceptable; they’re a little more raw and we accept that they might be a slower tempo or lack the harmonies present in a studio full of musicians and producers doing take after take, but even the studio versions have the raspiness of an end-tour live version, only made small and squished. Was this rushed, out-of-breath rendition of “Brand New Day” the best take you could come up with?
He fucked with “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You.” I take that as a personal insult. And for some reason he pronounces “progress” as “po-gress.” Is this code? Do you need help, Sting? What can we do to rescue you?
“Desert Rose” is the song that could use the most remixing for a modern reissue – getting someone other than the monstrous Cheb Mami to sing backing vocals, Shaggy, perhaps – but instead, we get a vocal-forward remix that would not have sounded out of place on your mom’s friend Debra’s well-worn Pure Moods CD, barely distinguishable from the original except for some slight tweaking on the mix.
Holy shit, the disco remix of “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free.” It’s different, at least, so points for creativity, but by the tenth time you hear the background singers chirp “Free free, set them free” over the first verse, you want to set yourself free of this nightmare. I’m honestly surprised he didn’t include a solo version of “Sending Our Love Down the Well” from The Simpsons.
The chronically misunderstood stalker anthem “Every Breath You Take” gets a decent treatment, just Sting, sounding a little more awake, that iconic guitar line a little muted into the mix. It’s surprisingly intimate, almost like Sting is inside your living room, singing to you while you discreetly text the cops.
On the whole, My Songs is a hysterical act of unfiltered hubris. If you are a fan of Sting—yes, even his album with Shaggy—then you’re just going to be confused and irritated. If this is your first Sting album, you might be disappointed when you go back and listen to the originals. As variants, they would be interesting to listen to as a piece of a box set, but there is absolutely no reason to listen to these on their own, with the possible exception of “Roxanne.” If you want to listen to “Walking On the Moon,” go listen to it on Regatta de Blanc. It’s that simple.