Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police is, by all means, the exemplification of a futile cover album, as if the music were her commodity. It’s one thing doing a few impromptu covers as part of a wider, original set, but it’s another thing to create a whole album out of that and give it off for the taking. Juliana Hatfield may have wanted to showcase her admiration for the band that was largely influential to her career, but it’s hard to believe that it was her only intention.
Every track on this record is pretty much a straight rendition of the original. There are certain moments in “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” where it actually seems as though Hatfield has changed the tone of her voice so as to take on an inflection that is closer to Sting’s than it is to hers. The tracks are unchanged with regards to their harmonic structuring or even their broader composition, and while it’s understandable that Hatfield may not have wanted to push the tracks too much, it’s also sad to see her cover them with such restraint.
“Every Breath You Take” barely navigates anything new, except maybe for the grungier bassline and spacy yet subtle electro-production underpinning it all. But a track as ‘karaoke’ as this needs that push, it needs to become something totally unrecognizable and smash any presumption or bias we may naturally bring to a cover. It’s inevitable that listeners are going to try and find their favorite bits of The Police in Hatfield’s versions, and consequently draw comparisons that will favor the former, something which Hatfield could surely have avoided with just a little creative processing.
“Roxanne” uncovers the deeper identity behind Hatfield’s voice, and if anything, is a testament to her abilities. She slows this one right down and gives it a feeling of dark grandeur that’s pretty original. It’s one of the only justifying moments on the record, and will certainly be the stuff people come back for. “Hungry For You” gets pretty close too, as does “Next To You.” They remind us of the reasons we may feel compelled to cover a song. There’s something fleeting about the whole process that can be immensely freeing for an artist, and Hatfield’s liberty can be felt in these moments. There’s a voice to these tracks that the other ones lack – her voice.
Hatfield has a vast repertoire behind her name – Hatfield Sings The Police is her 17th studio album, and so maybe this, in the slightest sense, explains her motives. Maybe she’s too prolific to restrict certain urges, or maybe she was craving a challenge. Whatever the reason, it probably lies in the fact that she’s traversed many musical territories throughout her career. But to wet what’s left of her appetite, she’ll need to find validation elsewhere.