The Police

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The Police are an English rock/new wave/post punk/white reggae trio formed in 1977. Sting had lead vocals and bass guitar, Andy Summers had guitar, and Stewart Copeland had drums, with both adding backing vocals and sometimes taking the lead. They were popular in the late 1970s and 1980s. After reaching international fame, they broke up in March 1984. They got back together to rerecord some singles. At the time Sting had no intention of rejoining them. They just kept ending up performing together again—at Sting's wedding, while being introduced into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003—and opening the 49th annual Grammy Awards, where they announced their return. Their reunion tour ended in August 2008.

They have sold 50 million albums worldwide. In 2008 they became the world's highest earning musicians, thanks to their reunion tour. Some of their most popular songs are "Roxanne", "Every Breath You Take", and "Message In A Bottle".

  • Outlandos d'Amour (1978)
  • Reggatta de Blanc (1979)
  • Zenyattà Mondatta (1980)
  • Ghost in the Machine (1981)
  • Synchronicity (1983)
The Police provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Adorkable: Pretty much all their music videos except for "Every Breath You Take."
  • Astroturf: After "Fall Out" was released, letters began appearing in some local London music magazines praising the band's drummer, Stewart Copeland. Later (much later), it was revealed that those letters were written by one Stewart Copeland.
  • Black Comedy: "Can't Stand Losing You", "Friends", "Murder By Numbers".
  • Black Sheep Hit: A lot of people seem to think of the Police as an '80s pop band because of Synchronicity, but it was actually quite a departure from the majority of their albums. (Granted, it does make up 20% of their collection). The distinctive Police sound was really an accelerated reggae rift that they called "white reggae" (hence the name of their second album).
    • Also, Ghost in the Machine was for the most part very funk-influenced, but notably the exceptions were the radio singles ("Spirits in the Material World", for all the synthtrickery, is essentially a reggae tune, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is a straightforward ballad, "Invisible Sun" is an ominous droney dirge).
  • Non Sequitur Episode:
    • "Mother" on Synchronicity.
    • To a lesser extent, the two instrumentals on Zenyattà Mondatta ("Behind My Camel" and "The Other Way of Stopping").
    • "Masoko Tanga" from Outlandos d'Amour.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Any of them—just ask the other two blond guys. Infighting reigned supreme during the band's original run, and has inevitably crept back in for each reunion.
    • Quite pronounced with Sting's acting in the music video for "Every Breath You Take". He was doing that on purpose in a vain attempt to remind people that it's not a love song.
  • Break Up Song: "Every Breath You Take," " Can't Stand Losing You," "The Bed's Too Big Without You," and "Someone To Talk To".
  • Breakup Breakout: Sting is one of the most famous, but the other two have also gone on to moderately successful solo careers (Stewart Copeland as a film and stage composer, Andy Summers as a jazz soloist).
  • Cannot Spit It Out: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Dead End Job."
  • Continuity Nod: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "O My God" and "Seven Days" (the latter a song from Sting's solo career) all include a verse about hilariously failing to invoke the Umbrella of Togetherness trope.

"Do I have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days since we first met?
It's a big enough umbrella but it's always me that ends up getting wet"

  • Cool Old Guy: All of them on the 2007 reunion tour.
  • A Day in The Life:
    • A really crapsacky life if "Synchronicity II" is anything to go by.
    • "On Any Other Day" from Regatta de Blanc is a more humorous example of this, and "Once Upon A Daydream" is a very dark version.
  • Darker and Edgier: The lyrical content on each album is progressively darker than the last. Curiously enough, the music is Lighter and Softer with each album, showing Sting's penchant for Lyrical Dissonance.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of them, Andy Summers especially.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "Message in a Bottle" is about trying to keep from crossing it, and finding out that everyone feels lonely sometimes, while the protagonist of "King of Pain" seems to have crossed it long ago.
  • Downer Ending: Ghost in the Machine and Synchronicity both end with very melancholy tracks.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: "Message in a Bottle"
  • Follow the Leader: The impetus for the band's formation was essentially this - Stewart Copeland's previous Progressive Rock band Curved Air had just combusted and he wanted to join the Punk Rock scene instead.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Reportedly, the band was named after something they knew would appear every single day in all newspapers. And what better than "police" to fit this?
  • Gainax Ending: Outland D'Amour ends with "Masoko Tanga", which is... a combination of an intricate funky bassline, Andy reggae-skanking away on rhythm guitar, Stewart holding a steady groove, and Sting singing Africanesque nonsense lyrics on top.
  • Gratuitous French:
    • The second album title, Reggatta de Blanc.
    • The lyrics of "Hungry for You (J'aurais toujours faim de toi)" are almost entirely in French, apart from an English chorus towards the end. Unsurprisingly, Sting trips over French grammar in the chorus, awkwardly singing Mais non pouvons faire ce que nous voulons instead of Mais ne pouvons pas faire ce que nous voulons ("but we cannot do what we want"). In all fairness, the original line already has to strain to roll of the tongue, and the correct negative would just wreck the whole rhythm. The title itself is also grammatically suspect. He almost certainly means "j'aurai" (I will), not "j'aurais" (I would).
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: A lot of the guitar solos on the reunion tour were clearly improvised by Andy Summers (who, being a self-taught jazz guitarist, is adept at making riffs up on the fly). It's about as close to jamming onstage as the meticulously rehearsed Police ever came.
  • I Am the Band: Enforced Trope by Sting, much to the chagrin of the other two. See Creator Backlash in the Trivia tab.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: "Friends" and "Hungry for You (j'aurais toujours faim de toi)". Though the latter could be interpreted as metaphorical instead of literal.
  • It's All About Me: There are so few songs written by the two non-Sting members of the band, because Sting would refuse to play on them. He famously buried Andy Summers' tape of "Behind My Camel" in the studio's backyard and Andy himself ultimately plays the bass on that track. Then it won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
    • The members of the band really hated "Behind My Camel", and even Andy suffered Creator Backlash about it.
  • Last-Note Nightmare: "Be My Girl", "Masoko Tanga", and "Shadows In The Rain".
  • Lighter and Softer: There's a steady downward slope of edginess from the rough reggae punk of their first album to Sting's adult contemporary solo career.
  • Long Title: "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"; "When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around".
  • Love Makes You Crazy: "Next to You":

I sold my house, I sold my motor too
All I want is to be next to you
I'd rob a bank, maybe steal a plane
You took me over, think I'm going insane

  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Every Breath You Take" is often mistaken for a love ballad. Oh, how wrong they are.
    • "Roxanne" is actually about a prostitute, strange for such an upbeat song.
      • Interestingly, Sting seems to have realized this, and in later years tends to play a more downbeat version of it, including the one he did with Gil Evans.
    • "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" is a cheery little number about the lies of media and politicians, or about how the girlfriend would always twist the meaning of everything he said, so he was left only with nonsensical words that could not be interpreted.
    • "On Any Other Day" is a really cheerful-sounding tune about a guy who's having a really bad day.
    • "Once Upon a Daydream" begins as a love story about a young couple: "Once upon a daydream/ Doesn't happen anymore/ Once upon a moonbeam/ Is this no place for tenderness?" Once the couple discovers that they are pregnant, the girl's father beats his daughter and kills her unborn baby. It gets worse. Very romantic, dreamy, and ethereal music that suits the first verse beautifully continues to play as the boy sings about shooting his girlfriend's father in the head and spending the rest of his life in prison.
    • "Can't Stand Losing You" is an upbeat song about a woman breaking up with her boyfriend, and at the end, her boyfriend threatens to kill himself (no word on whether he actually did it).
    • "So Lonely" has a nice tune considering the subject matter.
    • "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is about the relationship between a dominatrix and her submissive.
  • Memetic Outfit: The bleached blonde hair. Among the fandom, Stewart Copeland's short shorts and tube socks qualify.
  • Foreign Service Brat: Stewart grew up in Lebanon because his dad was a CIA officer stationed there, which influenced his drumming style and his music in general.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Ghost In the Machine and its accompanying single, Invisible Sun.
  • Mommy Issues: "Mother" from Synchronicity:

Every girl I go out with
Becomes my mother in the end
Well, I hear my mother calling
But I don't need her as a friend

    • It is more Played for Laughs. In Andy Summers' autobiography he mentions being worried that his mother would hear the song and be offended, but she found it hilarious.
  • Mondegreen: "Message in a Bottle" has the line "A year has passed since I wrote my note". To many listeners it sounds like "A year has passed since I broke my nose" which some say is an explanation for his weird singing style.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Or more accurately, new wave post-punk reggae rock with strong jazz influences.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Wrapped Around Your Finger".
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Executives wanted to release Andy Summers' "Omegaman" as a single for Ghost in the Machine, but Sting wouldn't let them. It's one of the best songs on the album.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience:
  • Precision F-Strike: "Someone To Talk To". Additionally, "Rehumanize Yourself" has one instance of "cunts", as does "Dead End Job" (it's hidden under repeating sound effects and other dialogue regarding help wanted ads), and "On Any Other Day" starts with Studio Chatter where Stewart says "... the other ones are complete bullshit".
  • Rated "M" for Manly: Quite a few of their songs, but "Demolition Man" probably tops the list.
    • Manager Miles Copeland's initial plan for their first album was to exploit this by calling it Police Brutality, until he heard "Roxanne" and decided to shift to a different group image.
  • Robinsonade: "Message in a Bottle".
  • Rock Trio
  • Sampling:
    • The riff and main verse structure from "Every Breath You Take" was sampled by Puff Daddy and made into the song "I'll Be Missing You" in commemoration of Biggie Smalls' death.
    • "Behind My Camel" has been sampled in "S.H.E. (Seductive Human Erotica)" by Tech N9ne.
  • Sanity Slippage Song:
    • Implied by the final verse of "Synchronicity II".
    • "Can't Stand Losing You" is another example.
  • Sell Out: The band came under attack from the Punk Rock scene they were trying to bandwagon on by appearing in an unaired commercial for Wrigley's Spearmint Gum due to being desperately broke. This commercial did provide them with their distinctive bleached-blond appearance.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Don't Stand So Close to Me", again:

It's no use
He sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the
Old man in
That book by Nabokov

    • Reportedly, Sting got the title for "Roxanne" from a poster of Cyrano De Bergerac he saw in a hotel in Paris.
    • The first verse of "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around" refers to "James Brown on the T.A.M.I. Show".
    • The head of their record label, Jerry Moss, later purchased a champion thoroughbred racehorse and named her Zenyatta, after the album Zenyattà Mondatta.
    • After three albums of Gratuitous Foreign Language or just plain nonsensical titles, the band's first English-language album title is a reference to Arthur Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine, which also inspired some of the lyrics.
    • A separate Koestler work, The Roots of Coincidence, inspired the title of Synchronicity through its mention of Jung's eponymous theory. The album's back cover collage includes a photo of Sting reading from said book, with a quotation from it superimposed on top of the image.
    • "Tea in the Sahara" was inspired by Paul Bowles' novel The Sheltering Sky.
  • Sibling Team: Stewart played the drums, and his older brother Miles Copeland III served as the band's manager.
  • Signature Song: "Roxanne," "Message In A Bottle," and "Every Breath You Take."
  • Sir Swearsalot: Stewart Copeland.
  • A Song in the Limelight: Apart from "Hole in My Life" and "Masoko Tanga" (with some piano work provided by Joe Sinclair in the background), the band largely recorded all their albums by themselves (Sting was credited for saxophone on Ghost in the Machine). The most notable exception is "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic": while the band was recording it at Le Studio in Quebec, session keyboardist Jean Roussel constantly pestered the band until they relented and let him play on the track.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Famously in the song "Every Breath You Take".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Andy on "Be My Girl - Sally" and "Mother" (as well as the B-sides "Friends" and "Someone to Talk to"), Stewart on "On Any Other Day" (together with Sting) and the start of "Does Everyone Stare?" Notably, the respective members wrote said songs.
  • Throw It In: Sting accidentally sat on a piano and laughed during the recording of "Roxanne". The group liked it so much they left it in there. Also, Stewart Copeland can make any song awesome with his improvised flourishes.
    • "Does Everyone Stare?" begins with Stewart Copeland's original demo for the song, where during recording his microphone picked up a freak radio signal that was broadcasting opera. The resulting opera bit was left in the song because it happened to be in the same key.
    • "Be My Girl - Sally" is more or less the product of this, stapling together a fragment of a song Sting hadn't finished, and Andy's silly spoken-word poem about the joys of having a sex doll.
  • Title-Only Chorus: The Police love this trope, particularly in their earlier stuff - "Roxanne," "So Lonely," "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Walking in Your Footsteps," "Can't Stand Losing You", "When the World is Running Down You Make the Best of What's Still Around," "Spirits in the Material World" (more or less), "The Bed's Too Big Without You," "It's Alright for You", "Hole in my Life," "Born in the '50s", "Truth Hits Everybody," "Driven to Tears," "Rehumanize Yourself", "Friends", "Someone to Talk to", and there are probably a few more.
  • Teacher-Student Romance: "Don't Stand So Close to Me".
  • Trauma Conga Line:

My wife has burned the scrambled eggs
The dog just bit my leg
My teenage daughter ran away
My fine young son has turned out gay

And it would be OK on any other day

And it would be OK on any other day

Another suburban family morning
Grandmother screaming at the wall
We have to shout above the din of our Rice Crispies
We can't hear anything at all
Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration
But we know all her suicides are fake
Daddy only stares into the distance
There's only so much heartache he can take

  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Whilst they're all good friends and not averse to reunions, to say The Police fought a bit in their heyday is a massive understatement. The band almost broke up after Copeland and Sting started a fight while recording "Every Breath You Take" and producer Hugh Padgham almost walked out - manager Miles Copeland had to call a band meeting to prevent a breakup.
    • There's plenty of footage out there of the band fighting each other during televised interviews.
    • Copeland re-arranged his drum kit so that the cymbals would block out Sting on stage. He also wrote "FUCK OFF YOU CUNT" and Sting's name in Japanese across the heads of his drums, hoping to use his drum kit like a voodoo doll.
    • During their Behind The Music episode, Copeland had this to say about reuniting and playing three songs at Sting's wedding:

Stewart Copeland: After about five minutes, it became The Thing again.

  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Sting's singing voice is best described as "indistinctly Mediterranean." Also, Stewart Copeland, being an American who grew up in the Middle East before moving to England - his accent on the first verse of "Does Everyone Stare?" is more neutral, while "On Any Other Day" sounds more American (which is admittedly pretty comical to hear for lyrics with British colloquialisms like "I'm the chap who lives in it"). Andy, while normally averting this and singing in his normal Lancashire accent on "Someone To Talk To", lapsed into it while performing the ranting, yelled vocals on "Mother", which sound noticeably more American/indistinctly mid-Atlantic.
  • Word Puree Title: Once more, "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Masoko Tanga".
  • Word Salad Title: Zenyattà Mondatta.
    • In an interview, Copeland explained that the title came from a series of Portmanteaus: the first word comes from Zen and the name of Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta, while the latter is a combination of the Italian word for "world" and a nod to their earlier Regatta de Blanc. He added that their Working Titles were in a similar vein, such as Trimondo Blondomina (three blonds dominating the world) and Caprido Von Renislam (less portmanteau, more of a misspelling of Catharina van Renneslaan, the name of the street where Wisseloord Studios was located).
    • Outlandos d'Amour, for that matter, borders on this due to its mish-mash of English portmanteaus (outlaws + commandos) and incorrect French.
  • Yandere: "Can't Stand Losing You" is a suicidal version. Hilariously enough, the BBC sidestepped the lyrics and instead banned the song because of the cover art (Copeland with a noose around his neck standing on a block of ice).
    • Also featured in "Every Breath You Take".
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Copeland, with his short shorts and tube socks, was a male grade C.