Every Breath You Take
Writer(s): Sting (see lyrics here)
Released: May 13, 1983
First Charted: May 28, 1983
Peak: 18 US, 17 CB, 18 RR, 5 AC, 19 AR, 1 CO, 14 UK, 12 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 1.6 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 14.0 radio, 1095.5 video, 1301.67 streaming
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About the Song:
If there was an award for misunderstood songs, “Every Breath You Take” would clearly be vying for the prize. Police drummer Stewart Copeland explains, “People often choose this...as their wedding song. They think it’s a cheerful song. In fact...it’s a very dark song.’” KL Sting, the band’s singer and chief songwriter, confirmed that, telling Rolling Stone it is “a fairly nasty song…about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.’” FB Ah, nothing expresses wedded bliss like a tale of an obsessive stalker.
Sting penned his very un-romantic song in the wake of his breakup with Frances Tomelty. FB He said, “I do my best work when I’m in pain and turmoil.” TC He was dealing with more than the end of his seven-year marriage. The sessions for the Police’s Synchronicity album was “frought with conflict.” TC
Often mocked for pretentiousness, Sting whittled the lyrics for “Breath” down to bare essentials as well. The words are “pulled from the rock & roll cliche handbook” RS500 or “straight out of a rhyming dictionary.” TB The song came out of one of those few-minutes-of-writing sessions in the middle of the night and, according to various claims, was influenced by the Gene Pitney song “Every Breath I Take,” Leo Sayer’s “More Than I Can Say,” and the opening lines of Judith Merrill’s sci-fi short story “Whoever You Are.” WK Structurally, the song thrives on its simplicity. To avoid distracting from the song’s “hypnotic bass line,” RS500 the Police jettisoned an intricate synthesizer piece.
Regardless of where it came from, “Every Breath You Take” became the biggest pop song of 1983. WHC To continue the grand that-song-came-from-this-one tradition, it was memorably sampled in “I’ll Be Missing You,” the chart-topping 1997 tribute to slain rapper the Notorious B.I.G. helmed by Puff Daddy.
First posted 7/8/2012; last updated 11/12/2022.