For me, it’s always inspiring to read about an artist in any field who’s stretching out of his or her comfort zone in order to push the boundaries of creativity. Just recently, I came across an article about The Last Ship, a new CD by Sting in which he sings from the point of view of a number of different characters. The CD is a trial balloon for a full musical of the same name that’s slated to come to Broadway in about a year. So in a sense, this CD is performing double duty: it’s both a solo project and a road map for a show that’s still being sketched out.
The first CD of original songs that Sting has produced in a decade, it draws inspiration, in part, from the waning days of the shipbuilding industry that once dominated his hometown of Wallsend in Northern England. Using a broad canvas, the collection of songs draws on Celtic sea chanteys, European waltzes, and pop rhythms — certainly a fascinating mix! The presentation is simple and stark, and aims at capturing the rugged, relentless nature of the shipping life and its effect on a range of characters.
What fascinates me about this whole concept is the idea of creating a CD that’s built around a theme. While this isn’t a new concept, in today’s world of fast cuts and fractured messages, it sounds pretty bold and even innovative. I like the idea that an artist who’s gathered a strong following is willing to challenge his fans to think differently about him and what he has to offer. I also admire Sting’s willingness to take a flyer, since he could be courting major rejection.
To mount a musical is an ambitious enterprise and to create original music for it is equally ambitious. While Elton John succeeded with the musical Billy Elliot, there are plenty of flops to provide a sobering antidote to high-flown hopes. And yet, a team of talented people has come together to give it a go and Sting has decided to bet on himself by taking a literary approach to his lyrics that’s more intense and risky than usual. Now that’s writing dangerously! Whatever the fate of this project, any established artist who’s willing to step out on a ledge and grow in a new, more expansive direction is worth taking a look at. Think I’m going to check out The Last Ship! Write on.