Is Sting and Shaggy’s 44/876 the album we never knew we wanted?


A Brexit-stressed Sting runs away to Jamaica with new BFF Shaggy for 44/876, a collaboration that is either a sign of the end of times or surprisingly solid reggae for people who don’t like reggae.

Have you ever wondered what would it sound like if The Police summered in Jamaica, only to suddenly find themselves exiled from the Commonwealth on the vengeful authority of the Queen of England, forced to retire on a quiet stretch of sand and make music with whatever local instruments were available?

No. We can confidently say no one has ever asked that. And that’s exactly why Sting and Kingston-native Shaggy decided to make 44/876, referring to the United Kingdom’s and Jamaica’s respective area codes.

“The most important thing to me in any kind of music is surprise,” Sting told Rolling Stone on his left-field collaboration with the Jamaican artist, most famous for a song about adultery in the bathroom. However, there is a distinct difference between surprise with an excited “oh wow!” and shocked with a “wait, what?”

But is our head-scratching bewilderment at the unexpected duo necessarily a bad thing? Are they the musical visionaries we never knew we wanted?

Twitter weighed in:

Perhaps sensing this, Sting and Shaggy preemptively explained themselves in the title track 44/876. Following a few gentle beats that are strangely reminiscent of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Shaggy tells their bromance story. “Me get a call from the Englishman say him wan come hold a vibes/Him wan run left the cold fi ketch some island life.” Sting elaborated:

"I’m trying to free my mind, and live a life stress-free But the politics of this country are getting to me I have a dream that I’m swimming in the Caribbean Sea And then my good friend Shaggy says “Come spend some time, family”"

After this brief explanation and a mandatory reference to Bob Marley, they continue their musical journey down 44/876. The two veer harmlessly between the two artists home-genres.

The relaxed-rock interlaced with hypnotic Caribbean rhythms gives debut single “Don’t Make Me Wait” a cool, unexpected R&B vibe. “Dreaming In The U.S.A.” leans into Sting’s soft rock sound with a warm touch of Beach Boys harmonies as they sing about the American Dream. Meanwhile, slow-jam “22nd Street” opens with the kind of reggae-meets-sedate jazz that makes you think the next line is “A representative will be with you momentarily.”

Lyrically, the songs run the gamut of Shaggy and Sting’s common ground. Sometimes they are quietly political as in “Waiting For The Break Of Day.” They also offer relatable romantic in the brilliantly-titled “Sad Trombone.”

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 28: Recording artists Shaggy and Sting pose backstage at the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for NARAS)

Their collaboration is only surprising because we are all-too-familiar with the authors. But Sting was right — their voices do complement each other surprisingly well. However, it’s clear that an album that began with Shaggy wandering onstage during “Roxanne” (Sting thought he was Sean Paul) was born from why-not curiosity, and a desire to innovate. Consequently, that album is inoffensive at worst and solidly delightful at best.

Perhaps that’s also why their performance at Queen’s 92nd Birthday Party did not go too well, resulting in Shaggy trying to inject some excitement by jumping into the crowd and the former-Police frontman praying he wouldn’t “molest the Queen.”

Here’s hoping no one gets exiled. I’m not sure we need a follow-up record.

Next: Watch Ariana Grande's music video for No Tears Left to Cry

44/876 is out now, and you can listen to it in full here.