Monday, August 6, 2012

Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie

"He has a special quality that makes me want to punch him."

 My wife, Diana said this after listening to “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie. Much to her dismay, I recently put Lionel Richie: The Definitive Collection on my iPod and we’ve been listening to it in the car.

Now, I understand what Diana is talking about. Lionel Richie is one of those puzzling figures in pop music. He’s one of the most successful solo artists of all time. If you were alive in the 1980s, you listened to this guys music. He has yet to diminish from our popular culture and his country album, Tuskegee, is one of the best selling albums of 2012.

His incredible success is puzzling because of . . . well . . .  have you seen the video to “Hello”?

I spent an entire blog post (click here) mocking this song. I’m not alone in making jokes at Richie’s 1980s styling and music videos.

Mainstream pop music in the 1980s, while directed at youth culture also seemed directed at forty-year olds. People like Huey Lewis and Billy Joel, seemed to dress like people’s parents and Richie with his jackets and sweaters fit right into this more “comfortable” idea of a pop music star. The artists who are around now present themselves as being younger and more hit and often time more overtly sexual.

The other thing about Richie is that he’s not that good looking and he’s not that great a singer. He has very distinctive adlibs and sings with instantly recognizable phrasing. To certain people, like my wife, it’s kind of irritating. I get that.

But I still love this guy. My favorite Lionel Richie song is “Dancing On The Ceiling.”

My parents bought this CD and I used to dance around listening to the title track. I didn’t know that Fred Astaire had previously done before the whole ceiling dancing thing.

So I was blown away by the music video. Yeah, it’s cheesy, all the cameos are really corny but there’s something about this song that’s so much fun.

Pop music audiences in the 1980s were less cynical. Something cheesy like “Dancing On The Ceiling” could be a hit, a song with a silly and fantastical subject, could never be a hit today. If you can peel back your jaded view on what’s “cool” and “in,” you’ll find that there’s a lot of fun to be had with Richie.

Look at Rascal Flatts kicking it with Lionel.

This is awesome . . . and I’m not saying that in an ironic way. “Dancing On The Ceiling” doesn’t speak any great social message, nor does it break any music boundaries, but it captures that carefree moment I had as a child dancing around my living room with abandon.

What a feeling.

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