Lionel Richie

Dancing on the Ceiling

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Lionel Richie wasn't necessarily emboldened by the success of Can't Slow Down -- after all, he had experienced huge success since the Commodores -- but there is nevertheless a sense of swagger on its 1986 successor, Dancing on the Ceiling. This isn't entirely a good thing, since it means he indulges in silliness (the title track) and sappiness ("Ballerina Girl") in equal measure, seemingly without quite realizing how ridiculous either extreme is. Maybe that's because he still has a strong sense of popcraft, something that makes "Dancing in the Ceiling" stick in the head even if its lyrics are awful, something that makes "Ballerina Girl" work for a slow dance even if it is awfully sugary. This dichotomy is evident throughout the record, as Richie pulls out good music even if he indulges all of his worst impulses a little bit too much. He adds a bit more dance to this album, and while the grooves are funkier than anything since the Commodores, they run on too long -- at eight minutes, "Don't Stop" takes its title command far too seriously. This same tendency is apparent on the ballads and slower songs, which all stay around a little longer than they should, something that gives the impression that this record is a little less focused or consistent than the two blockbusters that preceded it. While it is true that there is nothing here nearly as good as the hits on Lionel Richie and Can't Slow Down, it also is true that on a track-by-track level, it's more consistent, never having resorting to the formless filler that peppered those two otherwise excellent records. This is a good thing, but it would have been better if the record had boasted one or two undeniable singles, or, if it didn't, would at least have been a little tighter. That said, Dancing on the Ceiling is a solid, enjoyable affair -- a comedown after the peaks of Lionel Richie and Can't Slow Down, and one that suggests that Richie needed the extended break he took after its release, but a good record all the same.

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