Decoding Sting’s Songs: From The Police to His Solo Career 

Discover the power of Sting’s lyrical storytelling and unravel the brilliance of the master wordsmith of classic rock.

By bonneville on September 14, 2023
black and white photo of Sting with chairs blurred in the foreground
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: (EDITOR’S NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Sting attends the rehearsal as Shaggy performs onstage during Shaggy’s New Album “Com Fly Wid Mi” Release Party Hosted by Sting at Blue Note Jazz Club on May 26, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Shaggy)

In the realm of classic rock, few artists have left as much of a mark as Sting, the enigmatic frontman of The Police and a prolific solo artist. While people celebrate his musical talents worldwide, his lyrical mastery has elevated him to one of the greatest musicians of our time. 

Sting’s songs are more than just verses and choruses; they tell vivid stories, cover thought-provoking themes, and have layers of metaphors waiting to be unraveled. In this exploration, we delve deep into the heart of Sting’s songwriting craftsmanship to help you get ready for his solo performance in Salt Lake CitySting 2023

Early Influences on Songwriting

Born Gordon Matthew Sumner on October 2, 1951, Sting hailed from a working-class family in the industrial city of Newcastle, England. In this setting, he discovered his passion for storytelling, drawing inspiration from the gritty tales of the shipyards and coal mines surrounding him. Yet, it wasn’t only the streets of Newcastle that fueled his creativity. 

Sting performed in jazz clubs during breaks from college and earned his nickname “Sting” by wearing black and yellow jumpers with striped hoops that resembled a wasp. His time as a jazz musician added a unique musical sensibility to his songwriting, as he blends genres into a signature sound that defies categorization. Sting’s songwriting journey began from these diverse influences, setting the stage for a career marked by poetic storytelling and musical innovation.

The Art of Storytelling in Sting’s Lyrics

Sting’s songs contain intricate narratives that transport listeners into captivating stories. This storytelling is perhaps most vividly exemplified in tracks like “Roxanne,” where the plight of a lovelorn sex worker is laid bare, or “Every Breath You Take,” with its unsettlingly possessive tone. His lyrics have the power to paint vivid mental landscapes and evoke profound emotions, making the characters and situations in his songs feel remarkably real. 

In recounting the tragic tale of “I Hung My Head” or the whimsical narrative in “An Englishman in New York,” Sting’s storytelling prowess shines, engaging the imagination and inviting listeners to actively participate in his lyrical worlds. Through meticulous attention to detail and a gift for crafting memorable characters, Sting has mastered the art of storytelling within the confines of a song, resonating with audiences of all generations. 

Themes and Motifs in Sting’s Lyrics

Love, in its various forms and complexities, is a central theme that weaves through many of Sting’s compositions, from the poignant reflections of “Fields of Gold” to the tumultuous passion of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Sting’s lyrics often explore the duality of human nature, juxtaposing light and darkness, as seen in “Message in a Bottle,” where loneliness is contrasted with hope. 

Nature and the environment also find their place in his repertoire, most notably in his 1994 release for “The Living Sea,” a soundtrack for the documentary of the same name that celebrates the beauty and power of the ocean. The film explores the human relationship with this complex and fragile environment. 

Sting’s songs explore the human condition, tackling themes of mortality, spirituality, and the passage of time, all while using metaphors and poetic devices that make his lyrics a treasure trove for interpretation and reflection. His work’s recurring themes and motifs showcase his lyrical and musical versatility and invite listeners to delve deeper into the layers of meaning woven into each song.

Social and Political Commentary

Sting’s lyrics are not only confined to matters of the heart; they also serve as a platform for poignant social and political commentary. Throughout his career, he has fearlessly addressed pressing global issues, often challenging the status quo with his words. Songs like “Russians” offered a powerful reflection on the tensions of the Cold War era, urging a reconsideration of the human cost of political ideologies.

In “Fragile,” he contemplated the fragility of human existence and the shared vulnerability of people across borders, offering a sobering commentary on the state of the world. (Fun fact for our listeners: He performed that song with Yo-Yo Ma and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.) Sting’s commitment to environmental causes has also found its way into his music, with tracks like “Island of Souls” painting vivid pictures of ecological devastation. 

Throughout Sting’s songs, he has acted as a musical conscience, prompting listeners to confront complex societal issues and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Sting’s willingness to use his platform to address pressing concerns adds depth to his lyrics, making them emotionally resonant and thought-provoking.

Collaborations and Co-Writing

Throughout his career, Sting has also shown a remarkable ability to harmonize with fellow musicians, resulting in some of the most memorable and genre-defying compositions. His partnership with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers in The Police produced timeless classics, but Sting’s collaborative spirit didn’t end there. 

His work with other legendary artists, such as Shaggy, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, and Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, demonstrates his versatility and adaptability as a songwriter and performer.

Beyond these high-profile collaborations, Sting has also co-wrote with lesser-known artists, showcasing his passion for nurturing emerging talent.  “Desert Rose,” featuring Algerian singer Cheb Mami, brought attention to his music on the world stage. Partnerships like these have led to songs that resonate with audiences worldwide, proving that Sting’s artistry thrives in collaboration as much as it does in solo endeavors.


Sting stands out among famous artists as an innovative storyteller and visionary artist. His ability to craft narratives that are at once intimate and universal, his talent for weaving intricate themes and metaphors, and his steadfast commitment to addressing pressing social issues make him a singular force in the realm of music. 

Sting’s songs are not just lyrics set to melodies; they are windows into the human soul, mirrors reflecting our joys, struggles, and ever-evolving world. As we decode the layers of his lyrical artistry, we unearth a treasure trove of stories that continue to resonate, inviting us to listen, reflect, and appreciate the enduring legacy of one of classic rock’s most remarkable songwriters. In every verse, chorus, and bridge, Sting reminds us that the power of music lies not only in the notes they carry but also in the stories they tell.

Related articles: 

Around the site