I do not like Lionel Richie’s aesthetic: he is slick and sappy at the same time. That is a recipe for disaster, in my eyes (ears).
But Richie has a rather incredible knack for melody. These songs are catchy, but it’s not just that. Some of his melodies for the ballads are super compelling, they almost win me over, despite the fact that I hate basically everything else about the songs. I’m pretty impressed in spite of myself. Now, if only the rest of the record were good.
Richie’s lyrics run from meh to sappy; sometimes they’re just average R&B lyrics about how she done him wrong, and sometimes they are just sappiness personified (particularly on the ballads). They don’t help his strong melodies. But, again, if the rest of the record were not bad, maybe I wouldn’t care that the lyrics suck because I find his sense of melody quite good.
But no, Richie and his co-producers decided they wanted to make an album with the height of musical technology available. So the keyboards are super cheesy ’80s keyboards, even the piano oftentimes. And the guitars have some shitty effects on them, because we wouldn’t want them to sound like normal guitars. (And when there’s an actual guitar solo, it’s neutered by a chorus effect and not enough space.) I mean, at least the percussion and strings are real.
When Richie tries to be funky, it’s clear he’s no James Brown or George Clinton. (I mean, that goes without saying, but it’s very, very clear.) When he goes crooner, the ballads (with sappy lyrics) are so over-produced that you think they all must have been enamoured with the number of tracks they could use in the studio or something.
The way Richie is dressed on the cover photo is basically the embodiment of this record: this is yacht R&B, for rich people who are scared of the real thing.