Sting was at a crossroads when it came time to record his second solo album, ...Nothing Like the Sun. His debut, Dream of the Blue Turtles, had been a global success, peaking at #2 on the album charts in America. But for his sophomore artist, the recently liberated frontman of the Police was ready to do something different.
“It’s rather cold and technical, not very up. Working with digital is weird, all the flaws are exposed, there’s no warmth. It’s like building a brick wall with no mortar," he told SPIN back when he was making the record at George Martin’s Air Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. At the time, his mom was in the final stages of a two-year battle with cancer. “I know all this is connected with my mother’s situation. Until she’s… out of pain. Until she dies… I can’t really open up and be creative.” Sting would remain in Montserrat in July 1987 when his mother was laid to rest that summer. According to SPIN, the album recording sessions took a decided turn for the better after that moment.
Released on October 13, 1987, ...Nothing Like the Sun was a much more somber and low-key affair than his solo debut. The LP's melancholy mood was belied by lead single, "We'll Be Together." The upbeat tune cruised all the way to #7 on the Hot 100 for the week of December 5, 1987. The #1 song in America that week: Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven is a Place on Earth."
Simmering second single, "Be Still My Beating Heart," shimmied to a #15 peak on the Hot 100 for the week of March 12, 1988. The top tune in the country at the time: Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys, the award went to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Up for the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, the prize went to the same McFerrin track. The track is also notable for featuring Andy Summers of the Police on guitar.
"I wanted this kind of tension because the song is about not wanting to lose emotional control," Sting said of the track. "And that is emotional in itself—the desire to hold your emotions is very engaging."
The last single from the album in America was the jaunty "Englishman in New York," which was only able to reach #84 on the Hot 100.
"Basically, misinformation is the most frightening aspect about American culture," Sting observed. "People only get the information that confirms their prejudices. The opposing view isn’t really easy to find. America is pretty homogenous, but England is at war with itself on all levels: class, race, politics—even art. And therefore everything is ghettoized. As a pop singer, you never meet an artist or a novelist or a choreographer. Whereas in New York, which is set up like a medieval city with people living all around each other, everybody gets to know each other. You’re constantly being exposed to artists from a different line of work and there are no barriers."
...Nothing Like the Sun went on to peak at #9 on the Billboard 200 for the week of November 21, 1987. The #1 album in America that week: the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.