If you had told me at the beginning of the year that a musical highlight of 2018 would be jamming a reggae record from Sting and Shaggy, I would have said you were nuts.
I’m a casual radio listener of these artists. I know the big hits from Sting and the Police. I’ve laughed at jokes about “It Wasn’t Me” (and, let’s be honest, the song is pretty funny too).
It turns out that Sting and Shaggy have more in common than just this album. In reading the press materials, I learned that Sting actually penned some of his most famous tunes while hanging out in Jamaica. In an age where conversation about cultural appropriation is everywhere (and important, I might add), a white British dude taking influence from reggae could be seen as risky. But Shaggy and Sting have decided to seize the moment to make a feel-good record about unity.
The chemistry between Sting and Shaggy is palpable. Their voices are complimentary: Sting’s trademark smooth tenor matched with the deep, traditional reggae vocal stylings of Shaggy. This is evident right off the bat with “Morning Is Coming,” a hopeful track in which the pair encourage us to “wake up, it’s a beautiful day” because “morning is coming.” I read that this song was appropriately performed on Good Morning America earlier this spring. In a country that is in large part suffering from winter fatigue, I think we needed a record like this.
This record is enjoyable on headphones, but it begs to be blasted aloud. Playing this on my car stereo just hit the spot in all the right ways. The bass playing is off the charts, in terms of pure enjoyment. Even the balled “Sad Trombone” is more sensual than sad. “22nd Street” has a similar effect on the listener. Sting and Shaggy’s call and answer vocals here make me think of the warmer days that (I hope) are coming in Ohio and make me fantasize about how they would make a formidable headliner for Columbus hippie extravaganza Comfest. “Dreaming in the USA” is probably the most high energy song on the record, though it suffers a little bit from the arrangement. The depth and intricacy of the groove feel a little bit buried in the mix, but the fun factor outweighs this fairly minor misstep.
All in all, I’ve found a record to carry me through spring and into summer. Although let’s be honest—I live in Ohio. It’s probably going to snow one more time and then go straight 80 degrees for the next four months. Luckily for me, Sting and Shaggy will have me prepped for an early summer.