Lionel Richie

Can't Slow Down

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On Can't Slow Down, his second solo album, Lionel Richie ran with the sound and success of his eponymous debut, creating an album that was designed to be bigger and better. It's entirely possible that he took a cue from Michael Jackson's Thriller, which set out to win over listeners of every corner of the mainstream pop audience, because Richie does a similar thing with Can't Slow Down -- he plays to the MOR adult contemporary audience, to be sure, but he ups the ante on his dance numbers, creating grooves that are funkier, and he even adds a bit of rock with the sleek nocturnal menace of "Running With the Night," one of the best songs here. He doesn't swing for the fences like Michael did in 1982; he makes safe bets, which is more in his character. But safe bets do pay off, and with Can't Slow Down Richie reaped enormous dividends, earning not just his biggest hit, but his best album. He has less compunction about appearing as a pop singer this time around, which gives the preponderance of smooth ballads -- particularly "Penny Lover," "Hello," and the country-ish "Stuck on You" -- conviction, and the dance songs roll smooth and easy, never pushing the beats too hard and relying more on Richie's melodic hooks than the grooves, which is what helped make "All Night Long (All Night)" a massive hit. Indeed, five of these songs (all the aforementioned tunes) were huge hits, and since the record ran only eight songs, that's an astonishing ration. The short running time does suggest the record's main weakness, one that it shares with many early-'80s LPs -- the songs themselves run on a bit too long, padding out the running length of the entire album. This is only a problem on album tracks like "Love Will Find a Way," which are pleasant but a little tedious at their length, but since there are only three songs that aren't hits, it's a minor problem. All the hits showcase Lionel Richie at his best, as does Can't Slow Down as a whole.

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