The New Phenomenon Tiny Desk Concerts: A Review

Hunter Savery ’20

A&E Editor

I am writing this article to remedy a grave oversight on behalf of myself and the entire Tripod arts section. I truly dropped the ball and let this go on for far too long. I failed to recognize the triumph of the human spirit that was the NPR Tiny Desk Concert performed by Jamaican reggae legend, Shaggy and Police frontman, Sting. The recording was released back in mid-July, but wrapped up in a hot girl summer filled with impeachment drama and $5 margarita deals, the concert went overlooked by this critic.

After much delay and at the behest of my roommate, noted outdoorsman and consonant enthusiast William Tjeltveit ’20, I finally watched the dynamic duo take the tiny stage. Boy, was I sleeping on this one! Checkmate atheists, because nothing short of divine intervention could have created such a wondrous pairing. Although the duo may seem like an odd couple, reggae was a major influence for The Police’s brand of new wave rock, as evidenced by their classic bop “So Lonely.” These legends came together out of mutual admiration and the results are purely electric, yet the sound is wholly laid-back.

The concert kicked off with a rendition of Sting’s classic “Englishman in New York,” now including Shaggy’s verses about a Jamaican in New York. The song was light-hearted and the reggae-inspired groove was undeniably infectious. The two paired as well as Trinity and L.L. Bean with a chemistry that seemed truly preternatural. The effervescent Shaggy called his pal “Stingy” as the two gassed each other up and redefined their already legendary acts. The second song “Don’t Make Me Wait” was every bit as jubilant as the last and Sting’s sound was brought to a new level with Shaggy’s verses and ad libs. If there is such a thing as a soulmate, these two have found theirs and it is impossible not to smile while watching them jam.

This Anglo-Caribbean collision was already worthy of many a conversation, but the two did more than weave their own hits and styles together. In their last piece, Shaggy and Sting trotted out a fusion of “Shape of My Heart” and Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dream” with guest vocals on the latter from Gene Noble. Again, the age old villain of genre has been defeated. There are no more boxes in music, we have reached the height of postmodern music. Everyone can find joy in this concert, Democrats and Republicans, kings and peasants, boomers and millennial socialists, there’s something here for everyone.

In these dark and polarized times, it’s more important than ever to highlight the bright spots in the world, particularly those that bring together people from different backgrounds. Shaggy and Sting’s collaboration is an affirmation of everything fine and decent in the world. This may not have been the best Tiny Desk Concert, and the album that this collaboration produced, 44/876, is far from the best work of either performer, but the chemistry of these two performing live makes something greater than the sum of its parts. So if you find the time, sit back and take in Shaggy and Sting’s joie de vivre. The mighty Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” So take notice of one of God’s great gifts and head over to NPR music, you won’t regret it.

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