They say you should never meet your heroes. But nothing could have been further from the truth when Stevie Wonder added his decisive, chromatic harmonica part to Sting’s “Brand New Day,” the much-acclaimed song that became a hit in 1999.
“I wrote the song, and it had kind of like a shuffle,” Sting said at the time, “and it reminded me of Stevie Wonder, and I said, ‘God, it would be great if Stevie would play on this. I made a phone call full of trepidation because he’s one of my idols, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll come to New York and do it.’
“That really authenticated the song for me. And when he walks into a room, it’s like a higher being. He’s a powerful, spiritual entity.”
“This is about a new beginning, a new start”
Delivered with a typically soulful Sting vocal, “Brand New Day” was an upbeat, hymn-like song that was released in September 1999, just months before the dawn of the 21st century. While it was actually written well in advance of that date, the song’s lyrics challenged the existential fears surrounding Y2K, offering a counterpoint to views that the apocalypse was just around the corner.
“This is about a new beginning, a new start,” Sting stressed prior to the release of his sixth album, also titled Brand New Day. “It coincides with this millennium thing, but you know, we have to turn the clocks to zero, so that’s a great metaphor for saying let’s wipe the slate clean, and we’ll begin again.”
Cracking the UK Top 20, “Brand New Day” was the perfect introduction to the album of the same name, which was released on September 28. Still a high-water mark in Sting’s career, the Brand New Day album proved a critical and commercial success, moving over three and a half million copies in the US and yielding two Grammy Awards for Sting in 2000: the first for Best Pop Vocal Album, and the second, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, in recognition of the quality of the album’s title song.
“I always look for optimism”
“Brand New Day” has since become synonymous with both the new millennium and new beginnings in general, with the legendary singer-songwriter performing the song as the clock struck midnight at NBC’s television studios in New York, on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Upholding this tradition, Sting returned to premiere his new version of the track – a sprightly upgrade with enhanced beats, and which opens the album My Songs, for which Sting re-recorded many of his standout songs – by performing it live in Times Square at the dawn of 2019.
Combined with the fact that it’s simply such a beautifully crafted song, the feeling of hope and positivity that radiates from “Brand New Day” ensures that its appeal is unlikely to fade. “I’ve basically got an optimistic approach…so I always look for optimism and the track makes me happy,” Sting acknowledged in 1999. “I’ve no idea of the depth of this song, but I know that it’s a happy one.”