Why “Every Breathe You Take” Became So Misinterpreted

Why “Every Breathe You Take” Became So Misinterpreted | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Sting at the Olympia Paris, 2017 - Sting / Youtube

The Police’s seminal track “Every Breath You Take” from their 1983 album Synchronicity is one of the most recognizable songs from the band’s catalog. The new wave-soft rock take on the track gave it a unique charm, thanks to its minor chord arrangement for that soothing and placid, easy on the ears melody. Many people love the song due to the recurring riff and bass line that makes a passionate and “love-infused” progression, yet fail to see the lyric’s sinister message.

According to songwriter Sting, “Every Breath You Take” was written at the point of his breakup with wife Frances Tomelty, and his affair with her bestfriend Trudie Styler. Sting had to write the song in the Caribbean due to the band’s popularity during the time, in order to focus on the songwriting process. Sting has described the song as “rather sinister”, saying “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song. I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

Sting has shared an encounter with a couple who used the song for their wedding, “One couple told me ‘Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!’ I thought, ‘Well, good luck’. I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite.”

The next time you feel the urge to sing along with it heartily, take heed of Sting’s personal take on the song. Sometimes, we need to do a double take on the songs we listen to, especially the messages behind them.