The reggae-lite collaboration between Sting and Shaggy is as professional, good-natured, and helplessly uncool as its billing promises.
Why Shaggy? Presumably, if Sting wanted to go 50/50 on a reggae album, he had options. Toots Hibbert is still in fine voice. The Wailers aren’t really the Wailers anymore, but Sting and the Wailers has a hell of a ring to it. And if he were looking to make a splash on the adult contemporary charts, Michael Franti probably could have made it happen. But Shaggy? Mr. Boombastic? The guy who sings like he’s auditioning to voice a breakfast cereal character? Why?
It turns out the two just really hit it off. Sting even refers to “my good friend Shaggy” early on the duo’s unlikely collaboration 44/876, and the album never leaves any doubt that Sting means it. Just look at them posing on those motorcycles, like your parents in their most embarrassing vacation photo. Even when the material falls flat, as it frequently does, there’s some pleasure in picturing these two entirely unobjectionable personalities living their best lives, knocking back Coronas while gently busting each other’s chops with the superficial banter of Liam Neeson and his middle-age golf buddies in the Taken films. It’s such an old-man record you can almost feel your testosterone drop listening to it.