Has “Every Breath You Take” gotten slower over the years?
In Top 40’s comeback summer of 1983, it registered as a punchy, uptempo smash at a time when there was increasing presentational excitement at the stations that played it. It wasn’t frenetic like Duran Duran’s “Is There Something I Should Know.” It didn’t gallop along like Michael Jackson, “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” or Michael Sembello, “Maniac.” But I remember it as a hot record on hot stations.
In 1983, more than a few people noticed the resemblance between the bridge of “Every Breath You Take” and its counterpart, Leo Sayer’s hit remake of “More Than I Can Say” a few years earlier. The Sayer hit was the stolid sound of the 1980-81 CHR doldrums. One sapped the excitement of the format, one was the sound of excitement returning to CHR radio.
In recent years, “Every Breath” feels more sluggish, and it’s a comment I’ve heard echoed from others. On a 1-5 tempo scale, I still think of it as a “4,” but others call it a “3.” It feels less vibrant to me now. Is it because I’ve heard it so many times over the years? Is it because I now think of it as refracted through its revved-up interpolation, Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You”?