“Englishman In New York” by Sting (1987)

One thing that I’m fortunate to have experienced as a young kid was exposure to other cultures. I’m a first-generation American. My parents and grandparents are from all over the islands, but we also had a fair amount of family in Europe, and they came to visit my grandparents’ house in Brooklyn, which seemed like the hub of all familial activity. So by the time I was 13, I’d met relatives from the Netherlands as well as my “cousin” (who knows what her actual relationship to me was) Shirley, her daughter Cleo, and other members of my family that resided in the U.K.

To have that direct exposure to different cultures while I was still in grade school was kind of cool. I knew that in England, a garbage can was a “bin”. I knew that french fries were “chips” and potato chips were “crisps”. I had a brief period of being obsessed with bread only being toasted on one side. All of those things endear me even more to Sting’s charming tale of a British transplant to mid ‘80s NYC. As does the arrangement, which is fey in a stereotypically British way until a very loud drum track (a variation of which you could’ve heard on any of a hundred New York City street corners) briefly interrupts. It’s a sly, knowing interruption done perfectly.

Extra props for inspiring Shinehead’s masterful “Jamaican In New York”. Let’s hear it for melting pots and a callback to Sting’s legendary love of reggae.

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