Sting, always with a finger on the pulse of the latest music trends, has released his first truly rock album in 13 years. Sting’s new album, 57th & 9th, is a rocking tribute to musicians who passed on this year, including David Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, but overall the album is reminiscent of The Police.
One Direction’s Harry Styles is also believed to be taking a giant leap back to classic rock on his debut album. Styles’ new sound based on the old rock music is said to be unique and amazing, but not a note of Harry’s new work has been released or leaked to the public, so fans are holding their breath.
Harry Styles has collaborated with or at least consulted with dozens of classic rock artists including Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, Mick Jagger, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Is Harry on the right track?
Could Sting, Harry Styles, One Direction, and countless other rock musicians bring about a strong resurgence of rock in 2017? Sting and Harry Styles apparently both believe the time is right for an innovative new rock sound. Prince was searching for a new rock sound when he passed.
Sting believes that rock is coming back, and he wants to lead the way. Sting also explains in an interview with Rolling Stone, the difference between rock and pop.
“Pop music is supposed to be about girlfriends and cars and the color of your shoes.”
Sting, Zayn Malik, and One Direction’s Harry Styles are turning away from what Rolling Stone refers to as “banality” in pop music. Zayn Malik was never comfortable within the pop genre. Sting made a few faux pop, or perhaps mock pop songs.
『Englishman In New York』
????Whoa, I’m an alien
I’m a legal alien
I’m an Englishman in New York pic.twitter.com/uMVlUiMqiJ
— 勝手に今日の一曲♪ (@nomusicnolifew) December 3, 2016
— Sting (@OfficialSting) December 1, 2016
— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) November 30, 2016
Good Day Everyone! pic.twitter.com/oKSUBpWoXT
— Harry Styles France (@UpdatesHarrySFR) December 5, 2016
— One Direction ☆ PV集 (@1D_30_PV) December 5, 2016
Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” was a sort of wry joke on the casual listener. Hidden within the lyrics of what was on the surface a pop sounding love song, was a sort of obvious conundrum, that more astute listeners figured out. The song was really about a stalker and the real point of his ballad was pure horror, not love. That kind of theatrical twist though is not uncommon in rock. Rock lyrics can be about love, just as R&B can be, but both genres run deeper than pop.
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Zayn Malik’s music is R&B but the lyrics are certainly within the spirit of rock and roll. Zayn Malik listened to old Beatles songs like “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” while writing his album, Mind Of Mine. Malik’s “It’s You” its a beautiful love song with a melody that is as haunting as it is sweet, but the lyrics in “It’s You,” and also throughout the album are complex and cryptic. One has to think to listen to it.
One Direction’s Harry Styles has been concentrating on the overall sound, according to the many artists he has collaborated with. Will the new Styles album feature deep, dark, cryptic lyrics as well?
Sting has some definite shade to throw at pop, but for him, it is about the lyrics even more than the boring instrumentals. Sting told Rolling Stone that the safe nature of pop has made listeners less attentive. Sting must have had fun watching people enjoy “Every Breath You Take” for all the wrong reasons.
“People aren’t really used to songs being articulate anymore. They’re just kind of meaningless. They have the semblance of meaning, but it’s not connected. I don’t like that. I like songs that actually mean something.”
One Direction’s Harry Styles was all about classic rock before X-Factor entered his life. Styles and his band White Eskimo specialized in 1970s-era cover tunes. White Eskimo has gone on to be a very rocking and surprisingly reminiscent of Sting’s band The Police.
Sting, who not so long ago did a reunion tour with the Police, has moved on, feeling like that chapter of his life is finally over. Sting explains the meaning of a song off his new album, titled simply “50,000.” Sting was asked by the Columbus Dispatch if the song was autobiographical.
“Although it’s about a rock star, and, of course, I’ve been a rock star, ‘50,000’ is not really me. It’s a character that seems to be singing through me and looking back on his career and, in reflection, finding philosophy.”
Will Harry Styles discover the theatrical concept of singing as a character, in the way Sting is referring to it? How will One Direction fans react? Though many people who like pop were confused by songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil,” or Blue Oyster Cult’s “In The Presence of Another World,” or Queensryche’s Mind Crime album, or Alice Cooper’s… well all of Alice’s songs, these songs were theatrical and the singer takes on a character. They don’t speak as themselves. It is like a play. These songs have a meaning without the context of the singer’s own life, and often the story is a cover for an even deeper meaning.
Sting finds meaning in the heavier aspects of society. Many of his songs have political or societal overtones, as do the works of such diverse musicians as Megadeth and Neil Young. Not all rock musicians write about political and social issues, though. Some, like Rob Zombie and Blue Oyster Cult, found inspiration in horror movies. Lynyrd Skynyrd was inspired largely by the seedy bars they played in early on and their life on the road.
Will One Direction’s Harry Styles music take a darker more ominous tone in his debut solo album? Will he become political, or take on some social issue? What, or perhaps who, will the major influence be in One Direction when they reunite in 2017?
Sting, when talking about The Police, made a rather telling statement about band politics. Sting told Rolling Stone he felt Stewart was more in charge of The Police because he started the band. Sting moved to solo work for more creative freedom, but The Police never actually broke up. They are still friends but don’t perform together often anymore.
“A band is a democracy. Or the semblance of democracy. You have to pretend more in a band. It was a return back to that forced democracy and reminded me just why I’m not in the band. It was Stewart’s band. He started it, he named it, and it was his concept.”
One Direction was not formed by any of its members. Unlike Sting’s complaint about The Police, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik were all on equal footing. It was a Simon Cowell concept and management never let them forget that.
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The One Direction boys were highly censored in their music, according to Zayn Malik, who wanted to take that leap away from pop. Harry Styles only said that although One Direction was as famous as the Beatles, One Direction’s music did not compare well to the complexity of The Beatles.
Sting’s statements about band democracy vs. leadership do raise the question. Who will take the lead when Harry, Niall, Louis and Liam return? Recapping a bit. Harry Styles’ solo work is rock, Liam has gone R&B, Niall is going with folk, while Louis stuck by Simon Cowell, and thus will likely release a pop album.
One Direction will have to choose a direction when the band reunites. Will Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson or Niall Horan take the lead? Who will determine what One Direction sounds like once they have true creative freedom? Could Zayn Malik return since the band has the freedom to create?
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