The Police – Every Breath You Take

First Hit #1: July 9, 1983

Many cracks have been made about Every Breath You Take, a song about stalking, becoming a wedding staple. But honestly, after listening to the songs that have ascended to the top of the charts, it actually makes a great deal of sense. Love songs are often just a couple lines away from being songs that are about obsession instead, and if you only passively listen to Every Breath You Take it actually just sounds like a love song. Lots of lines about watching the other person, sure, but not too far off from many of the expressions of devotion found on the radio every day. It also actually sounds surprisingly soothing, making it difficult to associate it with the very negative situation actually happening in the lyrics.

If you’re passively listening to it, then it seems appropriate for a love song. It’s only when you pay close attention that you realize that it’s actually an obsessive and negative song. It starts out with dedication but then quickly descends, and lyrics start cropping up that indicate that it’s not about a nice guy singing about his lover. A song with “every vow you break” in the lyrics maybe shouldn’t be wedding material. As songs about abuse go, it’s a surprisingly nuanced depiction, starting out sounding not so bad, but then quickly descending as the song continues. Appropriate that the group calls itself the Police, it’s actually adept at understanding criminal behavior.

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One Response to The Police – Every Breath You Take

  1. Robert Berman says:

    Even apart from the stalking part: ‘”Since you’ve gone, I’ve been lost without a trace.” Like Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes,” this song is a threat to a faithless woman who fakes smiles and breaks vows. Not the weirdest wedding song ever, but it’s up there. A creepy lyric and a pedestrian chord progression (the old I-vi-IV-V from “Stand By Me” and a hundred other late 50s hits), elevated to hit level by a gorgeous B&W video, a strong vocal performance, and a tasteful arrangement, including Andy Summers’ signature echo-pedal add9 chords, cribbed from an Edvard Grieg classical piece he had been practicing. The same kind of chords show up in “Message in a Bottle,” though with a different four chord cycle. Weird to think that a few years earlier, this was a post-punk band known for its reggae stylings. Sting goes where his muse leads him — punk/reggae, adult contemporary, medieval madrigals, jazz, whatever. Sometimes his audience follows him. Sometimes it waits for him to circle back.

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