Though Sting has yet to meet Juice WRLD — whose breakthrough single “Lucid Dreams” is built around the guitar riff from his 1993 track “Shape of My Heart” — the British singer/songwriter says he owes the 19-year-old rapper/singer a debt of thanks.
The royalties from “Lucid Dreams” will “put my grandkids through college,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee joked during a stop at the Los Angeles Grammy Museum in early October. On a more serious note, Sting tells Billboard he considers Juice WRLD’s usage of “Shape” a “beautiful interpretation that is faithful to the original song’s form.”
The song’s co-writer and Sting’s guitarist Dominic Miller agrees. “I thought it was the most intelligent version of that riff that I’ve ever heard,” he says. “I was really happy with it. I love what he’s saying. He talking about something everyone can relate to, which is a breakup. It’s done in a very beautiful way. We’re really happy for his success and, of course, for us too.”
“Lucid Dreams” is No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts and No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
“Shape of My Heart” first appeared on Sting’s fourth solo album, Ten Summoner’s Tales, which included the hits “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and “Fields of Gold.” Though “Shape” didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S., it has found favor with R&B artists. Both Nas and Carl Thomas also sampled the song, with Thomas’ “Emotional” climbing to No. 8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 2001. “It’s interesting to me that the descending minor scale of ‘Shape’ has inspired so many hip-hop artists,” Sting says. “As if it provides a ready-made template for the expression of emotions that are reflective, tender and vulnerable.”
The ascent of “Lucid World” marks Sting’s second trip to the summit of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart as a songwriter. He hit No. 1 in 1997 with Puff Daddy and Faith Evans’ “I’ll Be Missing You,” featuring 112, which reworked the Police classic “Every Breath You Take.” For Miller, it’s his first No. 1 on the chart. “It’s a happy accident for me,” Miller says.
Juice WRLD immediately gravitated toward “Shape of My Heart” when his producer brought it to him.“My producer sung me the beat, and then when I heard it, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a Sting sample,’” Juice WRLD told Billboard in July. “I think it was like eight bars of the song. That was like the beat that carried the whole beat, the melodies, all of it. It all revolved around the sample.”
Sting, who is on tour with Shaggy supporting their 44/876 album, has now worked a mash-up of “Shape of My Heart” and “Lucid Dreams” into their live show with backup vocalist Gene Noble performing the soaring “Lucid Dreams” chorus. “It always gets a great response,” Sting says.
Until Sting and Juice WRLD come face to face, inevitably at an awards show or some other opportunity, Sting says, “We wish him well. I’m sure we’ll meet up down the road.”