Sting and Shaggy’s upcoming album 44/876, showcases the more obvious pop elements in both musicians’ work — but doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life, either. Sting and Shaggy spoke about the set, which drops on Friday (April 20th) and is named after the respective dialing codes for England and Jamaica. Sting, who made his bones in the Police playing a rock and jazz-infused version of reggae, talked about teaming up with a bonafide reggae artist for the new album, telling the BBC, “For me, reggae is something I respect and value, and take seriously. It’s something I’ve learned from. I owe a great deal to the whole reggae bass community. My spiritual, musical mentor was Bob Marley — who I knew — and I really feel that I’m doing something that feels authentic to me. Working with Shaggy gives it that extra edge. He’s an authentic reggae dancehall superstar. I dabble and I dibble, but that was the common ground we had.”
One of the album’s standout tracks is called “Dreaming In The U.S.A.,” which takes an unflinching look at the home of the free. The Jamaican-born, former U.S. Marine Shaggy explained why he’s more than capable of addressing American social concerns: “I fought for the U.S. government. I live in New York. I pay taxes in America. When you see what’s going on, these are dark times. America is a symbol of freedom, it’s a symbol of democracy, and if that is threatened, we have to take this platform and use it to be a voice for the voiceless. . . As much as we’re giving that message, there’s a lot of hope in the record. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You feel that things can change.”
Sting — who also lives part of the year in New York, added: “I actually take the citation on the Statue of Liberty very seriously — ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.’ So that song’s really a reminder to the Americans that we love to protect those very important values. It’s a love letter, but it also has a warning in it.”
Sting has always felt that it was his duty as a celebrity to lend a voice to people and causes that might otherwise be denied:
“I’ve always demanded citizens’ rights, but that means also that you have to have citizens’ responsibilities. And as a citizen of the world, if you have a platform to say something useful, than you, you should use that. And so, I’ve tried to do that. I’ve succeeded in some things that I tried to do — failed in others; but I think it was always a worthwhile thing to — as a citizen — to do.” as part of “The Queen’s Birthday Party” at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Sting’s next U.S. show is set for April 27th at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Photo Courtesy of Salvador Ochoa