#148 – Desert Rose


Artist – Sting
Album – Brand New Day
Year – 1999
Genre – Art Rock/World Music

String has always been one to push the boundaries of pop and rock music, and I think there’s no better example of this than “Desert Rose.” He’s always been such an elegant songwriter in my opinion, and as good artist should be, he’s more concerned with the craft of creating a song that feeds the soul lyrically and musically than he is with creating a song for the top of the pop charts. But sometimes the two overlap, and that’s why a song like this is so special.

I couldn’t even list all the instruments that are probably in this song, so I’m going to be pretty general for the most part. This is a song that incorporates Middle Eastern music throughout, so right from the intro, you get this mystical, sweeping landscape of sound that paints a picture of a sunset over a desert with blowing sand. Not only do the instrumentals immediately cover you in this lush sound, but Algerian singer Cheb Mami’s vocals absolutely take you to that far away place in your mind where Sting wants you to go. His voice is like a wind that pulls you through the air…and we haven’t even gotten to Sting yet!

But now we’re here. This song is one of my favorite of Sting’s vocal performances. Right from the moment he starts singing, his echoing voice strikes to the core, and when the song kicks in for the second verse, you’re already nodding your head to the beat of the drums. Not only that, but you’ll probably start singing right along with him during the yodeling refrain.

Not only is the melody different and unique to Sting’s catalog, but also to a lot of art rock in general. The breathtaking chorus, with its epic string section and all encompassing vocal effects, seals the deal for me in terms of this song’s immersion level. I think at this point I was literally hallucinating deserts and palm trees.

The musicality and craftsmanship of the song is out of this world, as is the production. During the bridge, where Mami comes in again, you can hear everything from strings to sitar, and when it all comes together during that swell, I just lost it. No stone has been left unturned when it comes to Stings mission to craft the best song possible. The whole second half of the song is absolutely lovely, as it features some beautiful harmonies, as well as Mami’s vocal part overlaying Sting’s, to amazingly great effect. By the time the song finishes with that mystical synth and string opening, you’ll be floored with the song you just experienced. It’s just a vocally, musically, and lyrically incredible song.

Now to Sting’s true gift, which is his songwriting. These lyrics are absolutely beautiful, like a gorgeous tone poem. The song’s message cuts to the heart of what it means to be searching in your life for that one elusive person that will change your life forever, but the search itself is one of the hardest and most painful and torturous experiences of life. It’s a song about longing, and searching for your own “gardens in the sand” and your own rose growing in the desert. But the beauty when you find it makes the entire search worth it. It’s a song that’s particularly resonant with me right now, and Sting writes about that struggle and search better than many ever will. The first verse is my absolute favorite, and it perfectly encapsulates the longing and pain that comes with the search for your love. The song itself is incredibly beautiful as a whole, so I’m going to link the lyrics to this one, because it’s most definitely worth reading.

I dream of rain
I dream of gardens in the desert sand
I wake in pain
I dream of love as time runs through my hand


Thanks for reading, as always! Let me know what you think with a comment! Don’t forget to share the music!


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