Meaning of “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
The Police’s “Every Breath you Take” has been dubbed ‘the most-misinterpreted song’. This is due to it retaining, throughout the ages, its reputation as a love song based on its smooth sound and lyrics which read as if they are being portrayed by a lover. But a more-accurate description would be an obsessive ex, with the backdrop of this song being related to a sticky situation Sting found himself in real life where he was involved in a romantic relationship with the best friend of his estranged wife, Frances Tomelty, whom he was married to from 1976 to 1984. And the backlash from that decision compelled him to bounce to the Caribbean (specifically Jamaica), where he began writing this song.
So yes, “Every Breath You Take” is being sung from one lover to another. Though taken the aforementioned into consideration, it can be argued that in this case, Sting is taking on the role of the other person, not himself. So in a roundabout way, he is basically mocking this individual by bringing to light her wherewithal to stalk him.
A “sinister” song about obsession
Even if it is interpreted along the lines of a standard love song, as in the singer portraying his own affectionate feelings for the addressee, it is obvious that the he is obsessed with her. Or as Sting himself, who often laughs about the way the track is understood, has said, this song is intended to be “sinister”, with the primary topics being “jealousy… surveillance and ownership”.
Ultimately those who construe this as a straight-up love song should not be too hard on themselves. And why? Because when Sting began writing it such was apparently his goal. However, he was so mentally stressed due to his divorce that the lyrics instead came out “quite dark”.
Musically, the year of 1983 was partially dominated by “Every Breath You Take”. For instance, it received three nominations at 1984’s Grammy Awards. It ended up winning Song of the Year as well as Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. It however, lost the Record of the Year award to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
“Every Breath You Take” was able to maintain the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for total of eight weeks. This was a record for that particular year. Accordingly, Billboard marked it as the number 1 song of 1983. Billboard also placed it at number 31 on their 2018 list of “The Hot 100’s All-Time Top 100 Songs”.
In Britain, it peaked at top of the UK Singles Chart. It ended up spending a total of four weeks at the top.
Other Major Accolades
BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) also recognized it by placing it amongst the “Top 100 Songs of the (20th) Century” and later in 2007 acknowledging it with a “Million-Air” certificate. The criteria to receive the latter is amassing at least three-million airplays on radio and television in the United States. “Every Breath You Take” commandingly led the recipients that year at nine-million airplays.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has also enshrined this as one of the prestigious “Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.
The music video to “Every Breath You Take” won the award for Best Cinematography in a Video at the very-first MTV Video Music Awards in 1984.
Notable Live Performances of “Every Breath You Take”
Sting and Robert Downey Jr. (of “Iron Man” fame) performed this song as a duet on a 2001 episode of the television sitcom Ally McBeal.
Sting performed a modified rendition of “Every Breath You Take” at the 2005 Live 7 concerts.
The Police performed this classic during their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
Who wrote “Every Breath You Take”?
Sting is the sole writer behind this track. It was produced by the entire band in addition to Hugh Padgham.
When did “Every Breath You Take” come out?
It was released by A&M Records on 20 May 1983. The song originally came out as the first single from The Police’s album, Synchronicity. It also made appearances on multiple other albums of the band, including 1992’s Greatest Hits.
It should be mentioned that the famous song “Wrapped Around Your Finger” also appears on Synchronicity. As a matter of fact it was the album’s second single.