Sting Mercury Falling

10 Worst Sting Lyrics

In 2007 Blender named Sting as the worst lyricist in pop music, accusing the former Police frontman of “mountainous pomposity (and) cloying spirituality”. I enjoy much of Sting’s music – The Police had a terrific run of singles and Sting records such as …Nothing Like The Sun and The Soul Cages are strong, I draw the line, however, with Sting’s 21st century releases like Sacred Love and his lute album. But there’s justification for labelling Sting as a bad lyricist – he has a tendency to drop incongruous literary references and forced rhymes into his songs.

It’s debatable what’s worse – Sting’s efforts to spice up his songs with references to Scylla, Charybdis, Mephistopheles, and a copious amount of dog metaphors? Or rote lyrics about moons, Junes, and partying? But Sting’s literary clangers make for entertaining reading. Here are ten of his most awkward lines, ranked:

#10 Walking in Your Footsteps

Hey mighty brontosaurus
Don’t you have a lesson for us?
You thought your rule would always last
There were no lessons in your past
You were built three stories high
They say you would not hurt a fly
If we explode the atom bomb
Would they say that we were dumb?

from The Police album Synchronicity, 1983

#9 De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da

And when their eloquence escapes me
Their logic ties me up and rapes me

from The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980

#8 Russians

In Europe and America
There’s a growing feeling of hysteria
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets

from The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985

Sting the Dream of the Blue Turtles

#7 We Work the Black Seam

Our blood has stained the coal
We tunneled deep inside the nations soul
We matter more than pounds and pence
Your economic theory makes no sense
One day in a nuclear age
They may understand our rage
They build machines that they can’t control
And bury the waste in a great big hole
Power was to become cheap and clean
Grimy faces were never seen
Deadly for 12,000 years
Is carbon 14

from The Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1985

#6 Don’t Stand So Close To Me

It’s no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabokov

from The Police album Zenyatta Mondatta, 1980

#5 44/876

I’m trying to free my mind, and live a life stress free
But the politics of this country are getting to me
I have a dream that I’m swimming in the Caribbean Sea
And then my good friend Shaggy says
“Come spend some time, family”

from the Shaggy and Sting album 44/876, 2018

#4 Send Your Love

Finding the world in the smallness of a grain of sand
And holding infinities in the palm of your hand
And Heaven’s realms in the seedlings of this tiny flower
And eternities in the space of a single hour

from Sacred Love, 2003

#3 Conversation With A Dog

I asked my dog what he thought the best in man
He said, “The love you dispense to me twice daily from a can.”

non-album b-side, 1987

#2 Perfect Love…Gone Wrong

This doghouse never was the place for me,
Runner up and second best just ain’t my pedigree
I was so happy, just the two of us
Until this alpha male
Turned up in the January sale

He won’t love you
Like I love you,
It won’t be long now before that puppy goes astray
And what I like about this guy the most?……….
He’d be my favourite lamppost
Devil take the hindmost

from Brand New Day, 1999

Sting Ten Summoners Tales

#1 Love is Stronger Than Justice

Of blood we lost a dozen litres
A small price to pay for las senoritas

from Ten Summoners Tales, 1993

Do you have some least favourite lines from Mr Gordon Sumner? Or some favourites? Please share!

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25 Comments

  1. Da doo do do is bad, but not just the lyric you happened to choose.

    Actuality there are some bad l lyrics all over “Zenyatta”.

    BUT I don’t agree with your number 6. “Don’t stand” is a mesmerizing song (ya it’s insanely creepy!) but the song is not the same without the Nabokov line.

    • The Nabakov line is interesting – it does fit the song, but Nabakov/cough is a pretty awkward line. I remember a critic saying that he slipped it in to show he’d read some clever books.

  2. “So I see you sent my letters back, and my LP records, and they’re all scratched…”.

    Q. Who else has that ?

    A. – nobody.

    So we need to take the good with that bad in life, and also music.

  3. Yeah they’re bad , but are they really worse than most lyrics by all the other big “serious” stars with their “important” songs? I don’t know. ha ha

    • Neil Peart is kind of in the same boat, I think – trying to express big ideas in short songs and sometimes coming across a bit pretentious.

    • He definitely has some very good lyrics too. I love King of Pain – there’s a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall.

  4. I like 8, 7, 6, but the rest are crappy, I agree. Some of his song lyrics I do like are on Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing like the Son. I love “Fortress Around Your Heart.” I also love, “The Secret Marriage.” I also love the lyrics in “Soul Cages.” I’m sure there are more.

    • I really like …Nothing Like the Sun and Soul Cages – lots of great songs, and nothing from those albums made the bad lyrics list (except a b-side from the era).

  5. I like much of Sting’s music. When I look at some of these lyrics you called out, I guess I’m glad I generally don’t pay much attention to them. 🙂

    I know it’s probably somewhat ignorant. My lame excuse is I started listening to English language music long before I ever spoke or understood a word of English. When it comes to most music, to me, it’s first and foremost about melody, vocals, sound and groove.

    It also depends on the type of music. If it’s a political or protest song where the lyrics are key I pay attention to the words.

    • Interesting points! I think Brit pop/rock was instrumental in exporting the English language long after the British Navy controlled the seas.

      One funny story is of a Beatles fan in another country who thought “Can’t Buy Me Love” was “Ken/Barbie Love”

      • “Ken/Barbie Love”, that’s great!😆

        I can see how a non-native English speaker could hear this.

        In my early days of listening to English language, I would phonetically sing songs I liked. As I started to study English in school, suddenly, some of that phonetic gibberish would start to make sense!😀

    • I often don’t catch lyrics in songs, but Sting’s voice is often up pretty high in the mix. Does ‘Russians’ count as a political song?

      • I suppose it does. At the time this came out, there was lots of debate about nuclear missiles in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, and whether Europe/NATO needed more midrange missiles to balance the Russian arsenal, even though each side already had the capability to kill each other multiple times over!

  6. I just realized that my favorite song by The Police only has four words in the entire song, other than repeating the title Voices in my Head over and over. I think that song is the greatest thing he ever did. He should have done more like that one.

    • Early in his career, Sting figured out that once you had a great song and hooked everyone, you could put it to bed with the same simple lyric over and over again: “sending out an SOS” and “Roxanne, put on the red light”.

      Each line appears 20/30 times at the end of each song.

      It’s legendary!

      Maybe he lost track of his own lesson in the end,

      I can’t say either way.

  7. I do like some of his music but man…one word comes to mind… pretentious.
    There are many awkward lines… he seems to go out of his way to write them.

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