Released: October 3, 1980
Peak: 5 US, 14 UK, 2 CN, 11 AU
Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.3 UK, 10.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: new wave/alternative rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
Songs written by Sting unless noted otherwise.
Total Running Time: 38:16
4.136 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)
Quotable: “One of the finest rock albums of all time.” – Greg Prato, All Music Guide
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
The Police’s first two albums reached the top 30 in the U.S. and were platinum sellers, but one could be forgiven for thinking they might not do much better. From a singles standpoint, their only entries on the Billboard Hot 100 had been the top-40 hit “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle” which stalled all the way down at #74.
They were much more successful in their native UK where their debut album Outlandos D’Amour reached #6 and the follow-up, Reggatta De Blanc went to #1, thanks to two #1 singles with with “Message in a Bottle” and “Walking on the Moon.” The came Zenyatta Mondatta. The album title is comprised of two made-up words. Stewart Copeland said, “It’s not an attempt to be mysterious, just syllables that sound good together.” WK
The music must have sounded pretty good to UK and U.S. audiences. It was the band’s second consecutive #1 album in the UK and gave them another #1 single with Don’t Stand So Close to Me. This time, however, the Police were ready to break big in America as well.
The “haunting” AMG “Don’t Stand” single spun a tale of a teacher lusting after a student, a la Lolita (a book referenced in the lyrics). Despite its creepy theme, the beat was undeniable and the U.S. public sent the song into the top 10. The album followed suit, reaching #5. Come Grammy time, voters named the song Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
“ While other tracks follow in the same spooky path (their second Grammy-winning instrumental Behind My Camel and Shadows in the Rain), most of the material is upbeat.” AMG That includes Canary in a Coalmine, Man in a Suitcase, and “the carefree De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” AMG The latter, the second single from the album, proved “Stand” wasn’t a fluke hit as it followed it into the top-10 in the U.S. There were even bigger hits to come with their next two albums.
Like its predecessors, Zenyatta showed the band’s reggae and punk influences. However, this was also Sting’s first foray into more “politically charged lyrics.” AMG Driven to Tears offered up commentary on poverty while Bombs Away referred to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. WK Those and When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around “all observe the declining state of the world.” AMG
The album was recorded in four weeks during the Police’s second tour. The band members were disappointed with the end result because of the time pressures. Sting expressed that the album was “not all it could have been.” AMG and Stewart Copeland said, “We had bitten off more than we could chew…we finished the album at 4 a.m. on the day we were starting our next world tour.” WK They even went so far as to re-record the two singles in 1986, releasing the new version of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” on their Every Breath You Take – The Singles compilation.
The Police may not have been satisfied, but the critics were. All Music Guide’s Greg Prato calls it “one of the finest rock albums of all time.” AMG Rolling Stone’s David Fricke called it “near-perfect pop by a band that bends all the rules and sometimes makes musical mountains out of molehill-size ideas.” WK
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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 8/23/2021.