Like most people, I like Sting. Yet there’s something about him singing in German that’s hit or miss. Is that a shock? Not really. But I assumed that, because it was Sting, he would pull it off.
This is a musical example of what psychologists call Fundamental Attribution Error. As Malcom Gladwell defines the term, it is “to fixate on supposedly stable traits and overlook the influence of context”. To me, within the contexts of The Police and his solo career, Sting has been a capable musician. I took this musicianship as a stable trait that would go with him in any project. That isn’t necessarily true.
Does this mean that I should now be skeptical every time I listen to Sting and expect the worst? Of course not. What the FAE shows us is that we think because an artist was good in one context that he’ll be good in another.
With that in mind, perhaps we should take everything we listen to of an artist with a grain of salt and fresh ears. Mistakes can happen. Musicians are humans.