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Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Question Of Faith...But What Is Sting's Answer?

Traditionally speaking, for the Sunday Jukebox, I tend to feature an artist, and have a huge write-up about their biography, how they got started in the business, what their first hit or most memorable hit was, and then wrap it all up in a nice pretty red bow.

Not this time.

One of the things that I feel make a great song is when they have a powerful meaning. And, today's song happens to have just that. But, what that meaning is? As it turns out, there's several that can be found. I'm going to open up the forum at the end of this blog entry so we can discuss the song at hand, and you can tell me what your thoughts are. Will they match my theory? Only one way to find out, and that's to go ahead with the subject.



I'm sure most of you know who Sting is. Sting (real name Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner), born October 2, 1951 in Wallsend, England, has had one phenomenal rise to fame. Forming the new wave band The Police with Stewart Copeland and Henry Padovani (who was later replaced by Andy Summers), the band won six Grammy Awards, released five albums, and had several hit singles before the band went their separate ways in 1983. While Copeland found success in composing soundtracks for film, television, and video games (including most of the early Spyro the Dragon games), and Summers recorded songs, and dabbled in writing and photography, Sting embarked on a solo career.

Just listen to some of the statistics and accolades that Sting has managed to achieve in his career.

  • Has recorded a variety of songs using a variety of musical genres including reggae, jazz, country, classical, new age, rhythm and blues, and worldbeat
  • Between his solo career and his work with The Police, Sting has won SIXTEEN Grammy Awards
  • Has won a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and was nominated for a few Academy Awards
  • Was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 (along with Copeland and Summers)
  • Was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002
  • Has had seven American solo Top 20 hits between 1985 and 2000 (in the UK, the number is a little more than double that amount)

That's not a bad list of accomplishments, don't you think?

So, with all those songs to choose from, which one would be the one that I would ultimately pick to feature in today's space?



I thought about it long and hard. I mean, Sting has quite the catalog of songs, each one beautifully written. I ended up choosing a song from his 1993 album, “Ten Summoner's Tales”. Not only is the album my favourite of Sting's solo efforts, but it also contains my two all-time favourite Sting songs. “Fields Of Gold” happens to be one of those two songs. And, this one happens to be the second.



ARTIST: Sting
SONG: If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
ALBUM: Ten Summoner's Tales
RELEASE DATE: February 1, 1993
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS: #17

There's a lot that we can say about this song, and just like many other songs out there, it can be subject to many interpretations and theories behind its meaning. I'm going to share with you what the song means to me, and then I'll turn it over to you.



I think one thing we should look at right off the bat is the articulate imagery that is shown during the course of the video. With images of suns, crosses, flames, and reenactments of historical and biblical events, it can be said that the song is filled with references to religion and faith. In some ways, I do believe this to be true, though, that's only a part of the rich tapestry that surrounds my own interpretation of this song.

I think that the real key to deciphering this song is through its carefully crafted lyrics. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that this song, like so many of Sting's other songs, is filled with powerful words and multiple meanings. Before Sting entered the world of rock music, he wanted to embark on a career in education and worked as an English teacher in the mid-1970s, so it's no surprise that he would be gifted in writing. And, one reason why I chose this particular song to do a case study on was solely for the different interpretations of the lyrics.

Let's start with the first verse, shall we?

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse but

Our narrator (assuming that we are talking about Sting here) talks about how many people seem to have the feeling that he has lost his faith in a lot of things. Certainly given what we're seeing in the news, I suppose that this could not be more true.



Take the first line about him losing faith in science and progress. In some ways, our lives have become a lot better with the inventions of such items as the automobile, modern-day kitchen appliances, and electronics. However, in other ways, science can cause a lot of damage and destruction. The images shown of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945 completely destroyed is one indicator of how a scientific discovery was used for harm, as the first atomic bombs were dropped in those two cities. Another argument supporting Sting's claim is the use of nuclear power plants. While nuclear power plants are widely considered to be a cleaner and less polluting power source than coal power plants, when something goes wrong, the effects can be devastating. It was a near nightmare in Three Mile Island, it WAS a horrible reality for the poor people around Chernobyl, and after the 2011 earthquakes that battered Japan, it's a miracle that there wasn't more nuclear destruction.

And, don't forget the cell phone addicted, iPod listening, text messaging people who take on the appearance of mindless zombies who can't spell a word without inserting a number in them.  Yeah, that's real progress there. 



And, the second line about him losing faith in the holy church. It's fairly easy to do these days. With religious organizations that seem to find every excuse in the book to hate people for flimsy reasoning (like Westboro), or the various sex scandals that have erupted in various church systems all over the world, it's a bit hard to follow the gospel taught in churches if many of the priests and nuns don't exactly practice what they preach, isn't it?

We've been conditioned that religion and science are two separate entities. Creationism versus evolution. But, if our narrator has lost faith in both, what's left for him then? What path does he follow?

Hence the loss in direction.

It gets even more descriptive in the second verse of the song.

Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in the people on TV
You could say I'd lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me

This verse certainly offers up a lot more as we delve into the psyche of Sting. I'd definitely say that Sting was correct when he said that he was a lost man in a lost world. All you would have to do is revisit what he was saying in the first verse to confirm that.

The second line is quite interesting. Losing his faith in the people on TV. But, what exactly does he mean? Considering that Sting likely wrote this song in late '92 or early '93, I suppose Sting could be talking about a number of possible topics in relation to this. He could be referring to news anchors. He could be referring to television talk show hosts. He could even be referring to celebrities who take on political activism for causes that may or may not be legit, and who end up doing crazy (sometimes illegal) things to get their message out. I suppose the same could be applied to the current television landscape, with the plethora of bubbleheaded reality television stars. Granted, reality television is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine, but I would never take the word of these “stars” to be gospel.



And, in regards to Sting comparing politicians to game show hosts? Can you say 2012 Republican Primaries? I mean, just watching Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum in action, I honestly think that comparing them to game show hosts is actually an insult to Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, Wink Martindale, and Drew Carey. And, I'm not even American! Mind you, I'm also undecided as to whether Barack Obama deserves another four years in office, but when given the alternative, it's not an easy choice to make. As far as Canadian politics go, I pretty much lost my faith in them when a certain Liberal leader took office. The less said about that matter, the better.

The point I'm trying to make is that the song talks about all of these instances and scenarios of events that people used to look up to for guidance and direction. And now, it seems as though they are all shadows of what they used to be. In some cases, they've almost become a farce. The belief and faith that may once have been so strong before is now shattered.

So, here's the question. Is there anything left for us to have any faith in?

According to Sting, the answer is yes.

The name of the song is “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You”. By listening to the song, we can see that Sting still has a little bit of optimism buried beneath his pessimistic thoughts. As long as he still has faith in something or someone, then it'll all be worth it.

But, of course, this leads to another question. And, this is where I open the floodgates to you readers out there.

Who do you think Sting has faith in?

And, this is where the multiple meanings come into play here, because there really are quite a few possibilities to consider here. I'll list a trio of them right now.

Theory number one is that Sting is talking about himself. Think about it for a second. When the whole world around you suddenly stops making sense, who's the one person who knows you best? I'd hope that in a lot of cases, it would be the person who is staring back at you when you look at a mirror. In many ways, we all look at ourselves, and tell ourselves that everything will turn out right. By doing this, we have to have a little bit of faith, don't you think? It makes sense. We have to believe in ourselves. If we stop having faith in ourselves, then the world suddenly becomes a much more frustrating and scary place.

Theory number two is that Sting is talking about someone very close to him, like a loved one or a lover. And, in a lot of cases, it makes sense too. I could easily see a newly wedded husband and wife choosing this song as one to dance to at their wedding reception. It is a lovely song, and if you take the lyrics at face value, it really is a moving sentiment to display to your spouse. Just picture it...you may have been lost in direction and felt like nothing made sense. And then you meet the love of your life, and it all makes sense.

Of course, there's the third theory. The theory that Sting is talking about God. It's hard to ignore. Sting is spinning a mobile of miniature crosses in a circle in several frames of the video. His face even appears in a cross. And, of course, there's the recreation of Moses parting the Red Sea. The religious imagery peppered throughout the video almost seems to make this theory a possibility. And, I know a lot of people who aren't overly religious, and who shun organized religion, but still manage to hold on to their faith in God.



So, what do you think the song means? I'm very interested in your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. I first heard this song when I was in Jr. High and is easily one of my favourite songs by Sting (Every Breath You Take by The Police is also another favourite). I attended a Catholic school and so of course, this song was used to exemplify one's faith in God. Plus, with all the religious imagery in the video of crosses, Moses,what looked like monks as well as Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of the Wheel I agree that it could probably be about God.

    But then if you look the images of kings, swords, knights etc. It could also be about what faith has done to the world as well. Lots of things have been done in the name of God in the past (right up to the present). The Crusades, kings believing they were God's chosen and so perhaps doings some not so great things in the name of Christianity.

    He also is seated in a chair with a quill, which to me says that a lot of stuff we believe in (faith based or not) is the creation of man. I mean, the Bible, the Quran and the Torah are all written by men. These men may have thought that God was talking through them but they still wrote things that can be easily twisted around.

    Having said all of the above, I also like to think it could be about a loved one or lover (just 'cause at heart I'm a romantic). Though I don't have much to argue for this, if you were to just listen to the song and not see the video, one could easily think that. I mean, when the world is going nuts we usually look to those we love to make sense of things.

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