Song 234: The Police, “So Lonely” (1978)

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The first Police album is amazing. While their later work is soft, reverb-filled and abstract, Outlandos d’Amour is fierce, lean, and funny. Just look at the track listing: “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Next to You,” “So Lonely.” Damn!

“So Lonely” is my favorite Police song, because it accomplishes so much with so little. The song has only three chords, but, as proved by countless other pop songs, it doesn’t matter. In many ways, that makes it much more impressive; just listen to what Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers do with just three chords. (See also: The Ramones.)

I love how young these guys sound, especially Sting. He’s years away from being Old Man Gordon Sumner, and his voice shows it. Listen to how he hams it up singing “one-man show.” In the hands of a lesser performer, this would sound ridiculous, but coming from Sting, it works. For me, anyway.

In an interview with Revolver in 2000, Sting claimed that “So Lonely” was a shameless rip-off of “No Woman No Cry.” I get what he’s saying, in that it’s the same chord structure, but I think he’s selling himself, and his bandmates, short. Countless pop songs use this chord structure, but very few of them sound this great. The next thing he says almost makes up for it: “What we invented was this thing of going back and forth between thrash punk and reggae. That was the little niche we created for ourselves.”

And what a niche it was.

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