Sting’s last album, 57th & 9th, was a surprisingly straight-ahead, rock-oriented affair. Here, he pulls another detour, teaming up with Jamaican reggae-pop growler Shaggy. The sunny, nonchalant results often suggest Roxanne hitting a Sandals resort, trading her red dress for a string bikini and flip-flops.
Extending his bona fides, Sting evokes “the ghost of Bob Marley that haunts me to this day” on the buoyant title track, which, like everything on the album, is co-credited to Sting, Shaggy and their backing musicians. Indeed, “Morning Is Coming” approximates Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and “Waiting for the Break of Day” does the same to “Wait in Vain.”
While 44/876 appears to begin in Jamaica, it gradually hones in on the pair’s mutual admiration for American life and culture. Beach Boys harmonies drive “Dreaming in the U.S.A.,” and Sting revisits his inner Tin Pan Alley for the soggy “Sad Trombone” and “22nd Street,” though Shaggy slyly undercuts the latter’s sentimental journey with goofball lines like “To get your body was my goal/But you fit perfectly inna de wifey role.” With Sting’s familiar bass sound driving most tracks, and Shaggy’s production partner Sting International (no relation) providing bounce and clarity, 44/876 contains much of the sizzle of classic reggae or dancehall, though a little more substance would’ve been welcome too.