Friday, November 03, 2006

Songwriting that Stings

* Originally posted in LJ on November 1. *

At a pinoyexchange (a.k.a. Pex) thread I started a few days ago (we'll get to that in the next entry), dindi mentioned one of Sting's songs from his Brand New Day (1999) album. Back then, I confess that after a couple of listens, I declared the album a dud. I didn't like any other songs apart from After the Rain Has Fallen and A Thousand Years (which really, shame on you, Mr. Sumner, I thought of only as a cheap ploy to cash in and sell the millennium its theme song. But oh, wait, it should be two thousand years then, right, not only a thousand. Ah, I remember now, it was Brand New Day which I judged to be the sell-out song.). In any case, I had basically bought the cd for Desert Rose (which, needless to say, I lurve).

Anyway, chalk it up to ADD-ishness or the fact that I loved Ten Summoner's Tales too much or the possibility that I simply did not listen to it closely enough - Ghost Story passed right over my head. So then now, dindi mentions the song in the Pex forums, and I decide to go have a listen again. I must say, I appreciate it a whole lot more now, and I think I'm beginning to love it. Some of the most poignant, moving songs Sting has ever written are in fact, about his complicated relationship with his father (the senior Mr. Sumner passed on several years ago.).

With Ghost Story, the former English teacher's writing again demonstrates an elusive, poetical quality. You may know exactly what he's talking about, or you may only sense the emotions yet not fully grasp it. In my case, the song speaks. Underneath the lyrical monologues, the graceful, cadenced musings and introspection, Sting asks himself questions which echo my own. The second half of the song goes:

What is the force that binds the stars?
I wore this mask to hide my scars
What is the power that pulls the tide?
Never could find a place to hide

What moves the earth around the sun?
What could I do but run and run and run?
Afraid to love, afraid to fail
A mast without a sail

The moon's a fingernail
And slowly sinking
Another day begins
And now I'm thinking

That this indifference
Was my invention
When everything I did
Sought your attention

You were my compass star
You were my measure
You were a pirate's map
Of buried treasure

If this was all correct
The last thing I'd expect
The prosecution rests
It's time that I confessed
I must have loved you
I must have loved you

Listen to Ghost Story here.

As simple and compelling as all that, and still it does not top another song he wrote about his father, what I think to be one of his most beautiful songs ever: Why Should I Cry for You?. I will say nothing more, just read the lyrics for yourself, or listen to it here.

Why Should I Cry For You ?

Under the dog star sail
Over the reefs of moonshine
Under the skies of fall
North, north west, the Stones of Faroe

Under the Arctic fire
Over the seas of silence
Hauling on frozen ropes
For all my days remaining
But would north be true?

All colours bleed to red
Asleep on the ocean's bed
Drifting on empty seas
For all my days remaining

But would north be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Dark angels follow me
Over a godless sea
Mountains of endless falling,
For all my days remaining,
What would be true?

Sometimes I see your face,
The stars seem to lose their place
Why must I think of you?
Why must I?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?
Why would you want me to?
And what would it mean to say,
That, "I loved you in my fashion"?

What would be true?
Why should I?
Why should I cry for you?

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