King of Pain
|"King of Pain"|
|Single by The Police|
|from the album Synchronicity|
January 1984 UK
|Recorded||December 1982 at AIR Studios, Montserrat for basic tracks, then January–February 1983 at Le Studio, Quebec, Canada for overdubs and mixing|
|Label||A&M - AM 176|
|The Police singles chronology|
"King of Pain" is a song by the English rock band The Police, released as the final single from their fifth and final album Synchronicity (1983). Written by the band's lead singer Sting as a post-separation from his wife, "King of Pain" conjures up symbols of pain and relates them to a man's soul. A&M Records released "King of Pain" as the album's fourth single in the UK, while in North America, it was released as the second single.
The song received positive reviews from music critics, who commended Sting for his writing on the song, as well as the song's melody, while most critics agreed it was a highlight from the album. Reaching number 3 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in October 1983, and number 1 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart for five weeks in August 1983, the single is The Police's most successful US single (together with "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic") after "Every Breath You Take" based on chart position. In the UK, it reached number 17 in the charts in January 1984.
- 1 Background and release
- 2 Composition and lyrics
- 3 Reception
- 4 Track listing
- 5 Cover versions
- 6 Charts
- 7 Personnel
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Background and release
"King of Pain" was released as the second single in the U.S. and the fourth single in the UK, taken from their fifth and final album, Synchronicity (1983). The song was released after "Every Breath You Take"'s eight-week appearance on top of the charts. Sting's fascination with Carl Jung and, to a greater extent, Arthur Koestler inspired him to write the track. As a Hungarian-born novelist who resided in England, Koestler was enthralled with parapsychology and the unexplained workings of the mind (he wrote the book titled The Ghost in the Machine in the late '60s, which the Police named their fourth album after).
Composition and lyrics
"King of Pain" was written by Sting, while production was done by The Police and Hugh Padgham. The song was inspired by his then-recent separation from his first wife. He remarked, "I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image, and I felt that was my soul up there on there on the sun. It's just projecting your state into the world of symbolism, which is what poetry's all about, really."
Actually, it was something I said. I'd just left my first wife - a very painful break - and I went to Jamaica to try and pull myself together. I was fortunate to be able to go to Jamaica, I have to say, and stayed at this nice house and was looking at the sun one day. I was with Trudie who is now my current wife and said 'Look, there's a little black spot on the sun today'. And there's a pause. I said, 'That's my soul up there'. I was full of hyperbole. I said that! I went back in and wrote it down on a piece of stuff, and wrote some other stuff.—Sting, 'In The Studio' Radio Show
According to Allmusic's Mike DeGagne, "King of Pain" harbors an odd-sounding rhythmical structure, but it fits in well with the album's philosophical and psychological concepts." DeGagne analyzed that, "With its eerie, semi-shaded introduction that works into a crawling tempo, King of Pain's haunting, isolated appeal is bred by the lone piano in the background and the coldness of the vocals at the front. Just as Stewart Copeland's wispy percussion and the ghost-like vocal backing come into play, the chorus abundantly kicks in, and the song begins to take flight." The song is composed in the key of B minor with a chord progression of Bm-A-Bm-A-Bm-A-Bm-A-G-A-G-A-C#sus-C#m-Gmaj7 The chorus is in D major. The song concludes in D major, the relative major of B minor.
Critics were impressed with the song's lyrical meaning. Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone wrote that, "The rejected narrator in 'King of Pain' sees his abandonment as a kind of eternal damnation in which the soul becomes 'a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall/ ... A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall'." Mike DeGagne of Allmusic found out that, "Although the lyrics are a little obscure and metaphoric, Sting's references to 'painful' yet everyday occurrences (a butterfly caught in a spider's web, a seagull with a broken back, etc.) symbolize how the physical world regards death and pain as insignificant and minute in the grand scheme of things, whereas the human perception is dealt with an abundance of sorrow and anguish."
The song received acclaim from most music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic picked the song as a highlight from the album, writing that 'King of Pain' and 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', "are devilishly infectious new wave singles." Sputnikmusic website picked it as an "essential track", writing that "King of Pain", "Every Breath You Take" and "Wrapped Around Your Finger", "rely on gorgeous, understated melodies, embracing the primary sonic overtones encompassing the record." Michael Roffman of Consequence of Sound chose the track as "one of his personal favorite Sting-led tracks," pairing it next to his other works like 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You' or 'Fields of Gold.
The song was a success in the United States, peaking at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number-one on the Mainstream Rock chart, while also reaching number 33 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was the band's highest charting-single, only losing to their number-one hit "Every Breath You Take". "King of Pain" entered Canada's RPM chart at number 48, on the edition of August 20, 1983. The song climbed to number-one on the edition of October 15, 1983.
Elsewhere, the song performed moderately. In the United Kingdom, the song only reached number 17; one of the lowest charting-singles, since their first single, "Fall Out" (1979). In Ireland, the song proved to be more successful, reaching number 7, becoming their third top-ten single. In Belgium (Flanders) and Germany, the song became their lowest charting-single.
7": A&M / AM 176 (UK)
- "King of Pain" - 4:59
- "Tea in the Sahara" (Live) - 5:05
7": A&M / AM-2569 (US)
- "King of Pain" - 4:59
- "Someone to Talk To" - 3:08
12": A&M / AMX 176 (UK)
- "King of Pain" - 4:59
- "Tea in the Sahara" (Live) - 5:05
American recording artist Lady Gaga performed the track along with Sting at iHeart Radio Festival in 2011; they also performed the track "Stand by Me". Their rendition of "King of Pain" was lauded by critics. Louis Virtel of The Backlot called it "the best version of the song you’ll ever hear," praising Gaga for "sporting teal streaks and some Stevie Nicks drapery, and Sting is (of course) wearing Underarmour, basically. Excellent performance. American metal band Mudvayne covered the song on their album "By The People, For The People" in 2007."
Alanis Morissette version
|"King of Pain"|
|Single by Alanis Morissette|
|from the album MTV Unplugged|
|Released||April 19, 2000|
|Recorded||September 18, 1999|
|Label||Maverick Records, Reprise|
|Alanis Morissette singles chronology|
Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette covered "King of Pain" for her MTV Unplugged album, on September 18, 1999. The song was released as the album's second single on April 19, 2000. Morissette shifted the word "king" to "queen" towards the end of the track. Critics gave the track favorable reviews, with some calling a "tender" ballad, while others naming it outstanding. The song only managed to chart in Brazil and Netherlands.
Background and writing
"King of Pain" was one of the songs Alanis selected to perform on her MTV Unplugged special on September 18, 1999. The set included songs from her previous albums, Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, as well as previously unreleased tracks. After releasing the acoustic version of "That I Would Be Good" as the lead single from the album, "King of Pain" was selected as the second single, released on April 19, 2000. The CD Single features "King of Pain" and three songs recorded for the Unplugged special, but not included on the album: "Thank U", "Baba" and "Your House".
Neva Chonin of Rolling Stone wrote that "songs with lusher orchestral backdrops - 'You Oughta Know',' 'Uninvited' and the Police's 'King of Pain' - still carry lengthy, vocalcentric intros." Beth Johnson of Entertainment Weekly called it " a tender cover". Chris Massey of PopMatters called it a "folksy cover which comes across exceedingly well." Massey commented that, "Sting’s haunting vocals on the original song by The Police are almost overshadowed by the similarly chilling vocals of Alanis herself —almost. When the band kicks in — the bass is almost overpowering — and Alanis belts out the familiar chorus 'I have stood here before inside the pouring rain / With the world turning circles, running around my brain,' the power is outstanding."
- "King of Pain" (MTV Unplugged) – 4:05
- Thank U (MTV Unplugged) – 4:11
- Baba (MTV Unplugged) – 5:11
- Your House ( MTV Unplugged) – 4:37
|Brazil (Hot 100)||54|
|Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)||92|
|Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)||19|
|Canada (Nielsen SoundScan)||1|
|Germany (Media Control Charts)||57|
|UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)||17|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||3|
|U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary||33|
|U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock||1|
"Maniac" by Michael Sembello
|Canadian "RPM" Singles Chart number-one single
October 15, 1983
"One Thing Leads to Another" by The Fixx
- Sting - lead and backing vocals, bass guitar, piano, synthesizers
- Andy Summers - electric guitars
- Stewart Copeland - drums, marimba, percussion
- Buskin, Richard (March 2004). "Classic Tracks: The Police's 'Every Breath You Take'". Sound On Sound.
- DeGagne, Mike. "King of Pain - The Police: Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- "Sting.com: THE POLICE: King Of Pain, 12"". Sting.com. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- "The Police "King of Pain" Sheet Music". Musicnotes.com. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
- Holden, Stephen (June 23, 1983). "The Police Synchronicity - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. King of Pain at AllMusic. Retrieved June 18, 2011.
- "The Police Synchronicity: Sputnikmusic". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
- Roffman, Michael (June 1, 2013). "Dusting ‘Em Off: The Police – Synchronicity". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "The Police - Awards - Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved April 3, 2014.
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- "The Irish Chart Placement". irishcharts.ie. Note: Sting must be searched manually.
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- Virtel, Louis (July 9, 2013). "Watch: Lady Gaga Destroys "King Of Pain" With Sting". The Backlot. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "Amazon.com: King of Pain: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "Alanis Morissette – King Of Pain (CD) at Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- Chonin, Neva (February 3, 2000). "Rolling Stone: Alanis Morissette: MTV Unplugged". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- Johnson, Beth (November 22, 1999). "MTV Unplugged Review | Music Reviews and News | EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- Massey, Chris. "Alanis Morissette: MTV Unplugged | PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "Hot 100 Brasil (PDF)". Hot 100 Brasil. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
- "Nederlandse Top 40 – Alanis Morissette search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.