This morning the NBA announced that Sting will perform during halftime of next month’s All-Star Game. I guess I must have missed the part where it also announced that the game would be held in the cabin of Tina Brown’s Jaguar.
This was a dumb choice by the NBA. It’s the goddamn NBA All-Star Game for chrissakes! They could get anyone, and they picked the musical equivalent of David Stern’s dress code.
Sting sucks. For nearly 40 years he has made slickly-produced, clever, smarmy bullshit music congratulating boomers for thinking how nice it would be to be, like, citizens of the Earth, man. He has not made anything else, which is a way of saying he has not made anything of value, ever.
He did, however, make the worst thing ever produced. Here it is:
Listen. This is an amazing and rare thing, this music video. Seldom does a less-than-five-minute video express so perfectly the relationship an entire class of powerful people wish to have with the rest of the world, or their blinkered understanding of it.
Here we have Algerian singer Cheb Mami, singing beautifully in the style of his country’s raï folk music. Here we have the desert, vast and severe. Here we have a nightclub filled with vital, vibrant young people.
And here we have Sting, the aged English millionaire, riding in the backseat of a fucking chauffeured Jaguar, looking out the window through the viewfinder of a fucking digital camcorder, dozing off, and mewling across the three notes of his butt vocal range right the fuck over the infinitely superior singing of someone else. Mewling about what he’s dreaming about, inside himself, the rich white man. What does he dream about? The lady he wants to do.* Interrupting the world, mewling over it, to tell us he has blue balls.
He gets out of the car. Here he is, silhouetted against the desert skyline, holding the digital camcorder in front of himself so that he can see the world through the two-inch screen of shitty, transient technology. The screen flickers. Streaked neon lights. Truly, Sting is a citizen of the Earth, man; he goes to the desert to look at a gadget and dream of Las Vegas.
But wait! For now the Jaguar crawls down the boulevards of the neon-lit city (and now Sting is awake, sitting forward, engaged: ooh, no more of that boring desert! Now I can camcord such fascinating things as casino and motel facades!), and Sting is striding purposefully through the bowels of a building, and the music crescendos, and a gorgeous black-haired woman plays a violin with near-orgasmic intensity, and ...
That smirk. That fucking smirk. Not curiosity or fascination or humility, but amusement. Aw, it’s cute when they get all fired up like that. And now, grabbing the microphone, taking over. You see, this is what everyone came here for: to hear the dreams of a rich aged white man who watches the world through a camcorder from the backseat of a chauffeured Jaguar. All else was prelude. The whole world is accompaniment. It exists to enrich Sting. How nice of him to let it dither around for a while, before he showed up!
This is how he wants to be seen: as a rich, bored, incurious tourist, transforming the world around him, its richness and mystery and wonder, into a sonic paper towel to mop up the inconvenience of being awake during a car ride. Into an advertisement for a piece-of-shit British luxury sedan. Into what, at bottom, every single thing he has made has been: An advertisement for Being Sting. My presence graces the world; my desultory half-curiosity about it is the light of life.
*For seven hours, of course. What Sting wants you to know about Tantra, the Hindu tradition nearly 1,500 years old by the time Sting caught onto it, is that it made him into a real sex machine. He can hold his load for a really long time! Good job, Tantra.
This, my friends, is the essential Sting. He is, at bottom, a travel agent. He sells mental vacations, excursions to a fantasy in which liking the trappings of the world outside your Jaguar, or on the other side of your camcorder’s viewfinder—its rhythms, its gestures, the mechanical motions of its physical disciplines, the stupid fucking quasi-Jamaican accent he’s been copping for longer than I’ve been alive—is the same thing as engaging with it, participating in it, being more than a consumer of it. In which you bridge the geographic and cultural and sociopolitical distance between Las Vegas and North Africa by putting a jewel on the forehead of the blonde girl you fake-fuck in a music video. In which the rest of the world waits for you to show up and smirk at it. In which, in essence, being a rich person is an act of charity.
More importantly, though: His music sucks! Just as music, it sucks. It’s clever, bloodless bullshit, relentlessly midtempo, endlessly pleased with itself. His solo shit is intolerable, of course, a decades-long effort to assimilate all the world’s diverse musical styles into the Borg-like fold of tastefully neutered adult contempop, but the shit he made with The Police sucks, too. It’s sweaty, showoffy hogwash, a smug prick fake-casually dropping cherrypicked literary references into casual conversation to see who gets it (and, more importantly, who doesn’t get it but is insecure enough to find its obscurity impressive), set to melody and harmony and rhythm indifferently, as if out of strategy rather than any spontaneous human impulse to make music.
For chrissakes, have you ever really listened to “Synchonicity II”? No one can like that song. It is about the Loch Ness Monster—or it wants to delight in the stupidity of those who think it is only about the Loch Ness Monster and not about, like, the human condition, man—and it sounds like a sugar-addled reject from a fucking Yes album. The thing to like about it is the feeling of being clever enough, prog enough, to spurn songs about such base stuff as fuckin’ and fightin’ and listen instead to a song about the goddamn Loch Ness Monster.
Ditto “Roxanne.” Look at me! While the other apes rooted in their ears and humped each other’s legs, I, Proto-OK Cupid Man, read Cyrano de Bergerac. These are bad songs. They are some of Sting’s least-bad songs.
Look, goddammit. The whole entire bright promise of Apple’s late-’90s rebirth was supposed to be that its smarmy, overpriced computers and their signature startup chime would obviate the need for Sting music in the lives of bien pensant upper-middle-class assholes. Then they went and invented the fucking iPod, and it turned out the whole thing had just made it easier for those same people to groove to Sting’s music wherever they went—Starbucks, Pier One Imports, Restoration Hardware, everywhere they go. We were lied to! This, as much as anything else, is the reason to despise Steve Jobs.
In retrospect, it makes sense. What was Steve Jobs, after all—his fucking turtleneck and messianic pomp and the aspirational signaling his product existed to profit from—if not the Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner of Silicon Valley? I bet he had the lyrics to “It’s Probably Me” memorized. That motherfucker.
Listen. The NBA All-Star Game halftime show will be, what, like a half-hour long, tops? Turn off the TV. Put on Prince’s Dirty Mind. Maybe you will get laid. Even if you don’t, it will be better than watching Sting jerk off.
Top photo via Getty