Song of the Day #407: ‘Every Breath You Take’ – The Police

police20 Best Songs of the 80’s – #1

This is an odd pick because it breaks the pattern I’ve set up through the other 19 songs. While The Police were very much an early-80’s band, Sting went on to have a celebrated solo career, making him one of the only artists on the list who had more success outside the 80’s than in them.

So an argument could be made that this isn’t really an ’80’s song’ so much as a Sting song (the same argument I’ve used in excluding artists such as Michael Jackson, R.E.M. and U2 from the lineup).

But that argument doesn’t fly for me. I’ve chosen ‘Every Breath You Take’ as #1 because more than any other song on the list, the opening notes of this one work on me like a time machine. Not to a specific time or place, but to a feeling and a mindset that is rooted in my 80’s self. Honestly, is there a better opening lick than this one in all of pop music?

Synchronicity, of course, is a classic album apart from this song. The stretch toward the middle of the record — ‘Synchronicity II,’ ‘Every Breath You Take,’ ‘King of Pain’ and ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ — sounds like a greatest hits lineup (and makes up for the Andy Summers monstrosity ‘Mother’).

Sting has often expressed his surprise at ‘Every Breath You Take’ being read and enjoyed as a love song when it’s really a song about unhealthy obsession. I suppose it’s so passionate and sexy that people look past the subtext (and even the text) and thrill to the idea of a lover who pays attention to every breath you take. Never mind that his promise is to always “watch” the object of his affection — through her bedroom window, no doubt.

So that concludes my trip down memory lane. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, even though I left out about a hundred songs that could have easily made this list. So now it’s your turn. Use the comments section to post your own favorite 80s songs. I’ll be watching you…

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

Oh, can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please…

Oh, can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches
With every breath you take

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I’ll be watching you

Every move you make
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

I’ll be watching you
I’ll be watching you…

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #407: ‘Every Breath You Take’ – The Police

  1. Amy says:

    I have no problem with this song being on the list, and I completely understand what you mean about the opening notes working on you like a time machine. That is the exact rationale I use to include songs by Madonna and Michael Jackson on my (still brewing in my mind) list. I happen to have far more associations with Sting than with the Police, but many of those still fall in the 80’s. His “Dream of the Blue Turtle” tour stopped in Gainesville in the fall of 1985, the year I arrived there.

    So… it’s odd that he never once popped into my mind over the course of reading these past 19 entries. I guess he does fall more into the more sophisticated sounds that I associate with being timeless.

  2. Kerrie says:

    I completely agree with this song being part of the list as it represents The Police and not Sting. By the way, it also works for the rationale through which I would include MJ, Madonna, etc. But that’s not important.

    As to the meaning of the song, I think it’s interesting you mention it. I’ve always found it interesting, too, that people latched onto this is sort of the quintessential love song when it’s really about a stalker. The same is true of “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston, take your pick). It’s actually a break up song but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people ask to dedicate it to the love of their life on radio call in shows. People, listen to the lyrics!! 🙂

    Anyway, I think your countdown was an interesting and sometimes surprising walk down memory lane. I will need to take a day or two to come up with my list and will post it later. Thanks for a great theme!

  3. Amy says:

    In no particular order…

    “Don’t Your Forget about Me” – Simple Minds
    “When Doves Cry” – Prince
    “Dancing in the Dark” – Bruce Springsteen
    “Take On Me” – Aha
    “Need You Tonight” – INXS
    “Borderline” – Madonna
    “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson
    “Can’t Fight This Feeling” – REO Speedwagon
    “Footloose” – Kenny Loggins
    “If This is It” – Huey Lewis and the News

    with “The Way It Is” – Bruce Hornsby, “Something About You” – Level 42, “We Got the Beat” – the GoGo’s, “Walk of Life” – Dire Straits, “Against All Odds” – Phil Collins, “Love Shack” – B-52’s, “Jack and Diane” – John Cougar Mellencamp, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel and “Manic Monday” – The Bangles as a close 11-20.

  4. Clay says:

    Good list. A few of those would have been on my own list but I’ve already featured them on the blog (namely, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me,’ ‘Take on Me’ and ‘Need You Tonight’).

  5. Dana says:

    A very interesting pick for the number 1 song. I don’t find the song as quintessential 80’s in sound as others you have featured and it doesn’t necessarily transport me to that decade as it does for you. On the other hand, in the first 1/2 of the 80’s, there was no bigger band on the planet than the Police. They were actually huge even before they released Synchronicity. That success started building in the late 70’s with Outlandos d’Amour (how’s that for a pretentious album title right out of the gate, Sting!) and the truly classic “Roxanne.” Next came Regatta de Blanc (thank goodness Sting didn’t continue with the pretentious album titles:)) and the excellent song “Message in a Bottle.:The popular groundswell continued with Zenyatta Mendatta (no pretentiousness there either:)) and that MTV fave “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” featuring sexy teacher Mr. Sting. By the time Ghost in the Machine and the hit “Every Little Thing She Do is Magic” came out, I remember critics (and my nerdy frieds in junior high) debating whether the Police were bigger and better than the Beatles. So all that took place by 1981 before the smash “Every Breath You Take” hit the radio and MTV. So, anyway, I guess my point is that while Sting certainly went on post 1985 to have a decent solo career, he never did, nor could he, achieve the raging success of the Police.

    I will have to think about my 80’s top 20, but I do think that many of the songs I would list are subsumed in Clay’s and Amy’s list.

  6. Clay says:

    I wasn’t very aware of The Police during those early years (I was 7-10 years old) so I can’t really comment on the atmosphere around them. In terms of sales, though, Sting’s solo records outsold all of the Police albums other than Synchronicity.

    His albums have sold about 14 million copies vs. 15 million for The Police, but 8 million of those Police sales came from Synchronicity alone.

    Conclusion: This guy is loaded!

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