As I’ve been going through my library and rating (and re-rating) songs, there’s been a bit of trepidation as I encounter certain songs. “What can I possibly say about (insert name of song here)? I love it, but can’t really articulate why I love it.” This usually results in me developing paralysis from analysis and not writing at all. It’s where I find myself right now, as I try to think of things to say about Sting’s “Fragile” other than “holy shit, this is a beautiful song”.
According to Wikipedia, “Fragile” was written as a tribute to an American civil engineer who was killed by the Contras in Nicaragua. Not surprising, as Sting has a reputation of being quite studied (some might say pretentious, but keep in mind…the man was a schoolteacher!) This has absolutely no bearing on my interest in or enjoyment of the song. As an 11-year old in 1987, I had no concept of politics. The lyrics are general enough that Sting’s not beating you upside the head with any message other than to acknowledge our own fragility. I can relate to that. I could relate to that even more after the attacks on U.S. soil on September 11th, 2001. Sting had a concert in Italy the night of the attacks, and he opened with a haunting version of “Fragile”. It was frighteningly appropriate, and made me appreciate the song even more.
“Fragile” is easily the most covered of Sting’s solo work. Everyone from Dionne Warwick to Freddie Hubbard to 2 Cellos to Al B. Sure! has taken a crack at it. That’s how you know a song strikes a universal chord, especially since the original version of “Fragile” didn’t even make a dent on the American charts.