NEW YORK — You can hear the playful banter long before Sting and Shaggy enter the room.
There’s genuine chemistry between the two men that defies difference in age and musical styles and translates seamlessly into their collaborative effort, the new CD “44/876.”
“The album is a conversation between two people from two different cultures, two different islands. One is kind of warm and tropical, and one that isn’t — that’s mine,” says Sting. “And we talk about various issues. It’s not just love songs.”
The title is a combination of the phone country codes for Sting’s native England and Shaggy’s Jamaica. And they feel the songs strike the right balance for current times.
“We’re singing about issues that we care about in a way that is not angry or polemic or aggressive,” Sting says. “I think the world needs a smile at the moment because it is such a dark, febrile political times. You know, I think the world needs to just relax a little bit.”
Some of the songs dabble in politics. But it’s the music that matters most to Sting. And that includes working with Shaggy.
“One of my greatest pleasures was to force him to sing,” Sting says of Shaggy. “You know, he’s obviously a singer but actually singing in the way that we would define singing. Not rapping.”
Shaggy chimes in: “Now, he can’t get me to stop.”
“I’ve created a monster because he has a great voice, and I’m taking full credit for that,” Sting says.
In the early days of The Police, reggae was a big influence for Sting. So teaming with Shaggy was a good fit. But Sting also relied on other musicians he’s worked with, notably Branford Marsalis, who played on much of Sting’s early solo work.
“It’s nice to bring some DNA in from somewhere else and throw it in the petri dish that people will recognize and see what happens,” Sting says.