Tag Archives: amplified

Amplified Observations: ‘Every Breath You Take’ encapsulated the good and sinister of love and loss

Link: http://www.thepostathens.com/article/2017/03/every-breath-you-take

The Police released no singles that matched the popularity and longevity of 1983’s “Every Breath You Take.” It marked a high-water mark in the group’s career, despite the circumstances surrounding it.

Accompanied by a solid b-side, “Murder by Numbers,” and a clean and ageless music video, the band’s four-minute signature song creates a tender atmosphere that dives straight through the chest and into a place of deep vulnerability reserved only for inner-monologues.

Sting’s ambiguous and heartfelt lyrics find safe haven behind Andy Summer’s steadily uncertain strumming, two components the song that would earn the band two Grammy awards and an endless flow of royalties.

But for all the acclaim placed on “Every Breath You Take,” the song’s meaning — or rather multiple meanings — is not typical of a record with such a level of popularity. Unlike the generally straightforward contemporary pop songs by artists like Adele or Ed Sheeran, Sting’s relaxed composition suggests multiple interpretations with a narrator who is either exceedingly devoted or exceedingly obsessive. And the only way to discern among the two possibilities is by the recipient of the song’s message.

Each time the “Every Breath You Take” plays on a classic rock radio station or in the background of a restaurant, without fail someone comments on the creepy, stalkerish undertones within Sting’s lyrics. In interviewers, Sting himself has called the song “sinister” and “ugly,” despite initially intending to write a love song.

However, this question is the entire draw. The narrator reaches into a gray area of love and loss that only makes itself known within the level of the subjective psyche. Is it worth trying to hold this together, is it no longer love but jealousy, and when is it time to let go?

Sting wrote the track in the Caribbean between a divorce with his ex-wife and a blooming relationship with his future wife. Writing in the same space that Bob Dylan did for 1975’s Blood On the Tracks, Sting inhabited a strange limbo of emotional loss and newfound affection. Knowing this position, it is difficult to decipher which person the song is more directed toward.

Perhaps the residue of the former relationship lingers in the narrator’s mind, stalking him with curiosity. But it’s also possible that the narrator simply wants to give his new lover the attention that he feels she deserves, giving notice to her every move out of pure affection.

The lyrics simultaneously contrast endearing love with what we mistake for love after it has left.

Additionally, the song might also apply to the sort of relationship between a government and its citizens. The government loves its citizens so much that it needs to monitor their every breath and every move, which adds to the “sinister” aspect of surveillance whether by authority or a former partner.

With the syntax of such simple statements, Sting manages to leave enough ambiguity in the song to keep people wondering about its real meaning, which is undoubtedly in human nature to do.

If anything, “Every Breath You Take” exemplifies that great works of art can arise during times shrouded with domestic unraveling general tension. It shows that, if harnessed correctly, energy from the lowest point can lead to success and recognition.

Certain truths and revelations can only be expressed by those engulfed by them, and the expression in “Every Breath You Take” is not one from a commonly explored space, but one that manages to encompass the full spectrum of loving and loathing.

Amplified Observations: Less accessible songs are sometimes worth the effort


Because music really has no definite limits other than being “sound arranged over time,” some music makers have decided to run with this definition and stray from conventional music structures and timbres.

And the result can end up being painfully confusing, sonically jarring or strangely pleasant. In many cases, it can be all three.

Although unconventional songs sometimes feel like a test to our patience or ears, oftentimes they offer unique emotional motifs not found in other music.

For example, not many music genres convey sadness, depression, misanthropy or terrestrial consciousness as well as black metal’s grinding, shrieking, hopeless aesthetics. Sure, it might be difficult to accept the stark abrasiveness or unsavory politics of its pioneering bands like Darkthrone or a more polished stylistic derivative like Wolves in the Throne Room, but sometimes the journey is worth the destination if you’re looking for a certain abstract place.

However, experimental music is not limited, as it rarely is, to the caustic extremes of lo-fi Scandinavian metal.

Other brash genres like hardcore punk, noise rock and experimental hip-hop frequently explore visceral concepts like chaos, anger and, a lot of the time, hate, which is a sentiment hardly brought up outside of breakup tunes.

Furthemore, some non-traditional acts in the above styles translate these emotions less through the framework of a particular genre and more around the context of abrasive textures and constant noisiness such as Big BlackClippingFugaziDeath Grips and, in the most extreme case, Merzbow (By the way, Pitchfork rated that Merzbow album of basically manipulated white noise an 8.7, not to say that I particularly agree with that).

Furthermore, musical experimentation is also not exclusive to the independent, obscure or avant-garde.

Many popular artists have released challenging songs that test listeners in their determination and intellect in figuring out the work’s significance. Compositions like The Beatles’ “Revolution No. 9,” The Velvet Underground’s “European Son” and Animal Collective’s “Brother Sport” all ask listeners to suspend their notion of how a song should play out and allow tape loops, feedback and noises of all sorts to build up to a fruition unparalleled by verse-chorus-verse structure.

With all that being said, I must concede that there is a line where some unconventional music becomes pretty much inaccessible. Yet, it’s hard to pinpoint that line since everyone has a subjective tolerance of what can be considered pleasant, redeeming or, conversely, headache-inducing.

What’s ultimately important is that if you keep an open mind, decipher patterns and themes and try to figure out what the artist had in mind, you might find yourself entranced by something you thought you could never like.

It’s happened to me a bunch, and I’m thankful to have added a few artists to my repertoire, even if some of them are not on Spotify.

Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Do you listen to any of the artists he mentioned? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at lf491413@ohio.edu.