The Police's 10 best songs ever, ranked

12 April 2022, 15:41

Despite their relatively short existence, The Police became one of the best-selling bands of all time. (Photo: Showtime/Getty)
Despite their relatively short existence, The Police became one of the best-selling bands of all time. (Photo: Showtime/Getty). Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

The Police were only together for a total of seven years.

But in that time the trio went from playing small, sweaty venues during the British punk scene to becoming arguably the biggest band in the world.

At the peak of their powers, however, The Police went their separate ways.

The tempestuous relationship between singer and bassist Sting, guitarist Andy Summers, and drummer Stewart Copeland proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back given the difference in attitudes and artistic vision they tackled since their formation.

Though too fiery to consider a future together in the long run, there was a valid reason The Police sharply rose to global adoration in such a short space of time.

Straddling new wave, punk, reggae, pop, and rock balladry, the purveyors of peroxide reached chart stardom during the era of MTV and a place in the history books as one of the all-time rock music greats.

That said, here are their 10 best songs, ranked:

10. Can’t Stand Losing You

A tongue-in-cheek track about a tragic teenager committing suicide after being dumped by his girlfriend, the song was considered controversial from the get-go.

Establishing their combination of raw punk energy and reggae rhythms, it eventually became The Police's first charting song but was kept off the top spot by The Boomtown Rats' 'I Don't Like Mondays'.

9. Do Do Do (Da Da Da)

Supposedly a song about politicians, priests, entertainers, and other leading figures' use of manipulative language, Sting wrote the gibberish line 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' to highlight the absurdity of his point.

A nonsensical chorus, yes, but it is undeniably catchy.

8. King Of Pain

Whilst getting over the anguish of his first divorce by holidaying in Jamaica with his new girlfriend (and future wife) Trudie Styler, Sting gazed into the sky and thought up the lyric: "There's a little black spot on the sun today."

Never one to ignore a moment of inspiration, he went on to write 'King Of Pain' about each and every example of pain in the natural world.

7. So Lonely

Shamelessly admitting to borrowing the chord structure for Bob Marley's 'No Woman No Cry', Sting wrote the lyrics to 'So Lonely' as a contrast to the classic reggae anthem.

He later described the track as "a song about misery being sung so joyously."

6. Walking On The Moon

Sting wrote 'Walking On The Moon' in response to being on tour, feeling confined on transport or in hotel rooms whilst the world continued spinning.

Acknowledging the song's reggae roots, he performed it as a tribute to Bob Marley at the 2013 Grammy Awards alongside Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Damian Marley and Ziggy Marley.

5. Don't Stand So Close To Me

Sting denies that this song is written from personal experience, given that it's about a lustful teacher who is the object of his student's affections and advances - prior to becoming a global superstar, Sting was a teacher for a short period of time.

Even the overt references to Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita didn't stop the song becoming the UK's best-selling single after its initial release in 1980.

4. Message In A Bottle

A metaphor for not being alone in feeling lonely, the release of 'Message In A Bottle' was the moment The Police truly arrived as a force in contemporary music, hitting No.1 in the UK charts almost immediately.

It was also the last song they'd perform together (until they reunited some years later) after their initial break-up, playing together at Sting and Trudie Styler's wedding in 1992.

3. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Initially written before his time with The Police, Sting revised 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' for their 1981 album Ghost In The Machine, intending to add some light relief in what was a thematically heavy album.

Dipping back into his treasure trove of demos worked a treat, as the song went to No.1 in the charts around the world and won them the Ivor Novello award for Best Pop Song in 1982.

2. Roxanne

Dysfunctional characters were often central to The Police's songs, and they don't come any more iconic than the eponymous 'Roxanne'.

Written from the perspective of a customer pleading with a prostitute to change her ways and find a more respectable line of work, Sting used Roxanne because of its rich history - it was the name of Alexander The Great's wife and Cyrano de Bergerac's girlfriend.

'Roxanne' has since become one of the band's most influential songs, though it wouldn't get any initial mainstream airplay after its initial release. That was until The Police claimed it was being ignored due to its controversial subject matter, which came them credos within the punk community.

When asked about their first hit being about a prostitute, drummer Stewart Copeland said: "To the extent that there was cause for concern would be the extent to which we got a thrill from it. We were a punk band, officially. That was our mission, that was our purpose."

1. Every Breath You Take

The Police had a lot of hits, but you can't look past 'Every Breath You Take' as being the band's greatest.

Often mistaken for a love song, it's one of the most misinterpreted tracks in the history of music, when it's in fact about a deluded stalker who convinces himself that the emotions he feels are true love.

Written after Sting separated from his first wife, the song's creation was fraught with in-fighting within the band (who were actually physically punching each other in the studio) with Sting saying that the time of its release that "it's a nasty little song, really rather evil."

It was the first single released on The Police's final album Synchronicity, ensuring that the trio went out on a supreme high with the song winning Song of the Year at the 1984 Grammy Awards and staying at the top of the US Billboard Charts for a total of eight weeks.

It's a timeless classic, but remember: it's not a love song. Far from it!