Can you easily make a selection? Ranking Lionel Richie’s top songs!

Can you easily make a selection? Ranking Lionel Richie’s top songs!

The song “Let’s Do It Right” was released by the Commodores in 1975.

Although it may seem strange now, the primary influence on Richie’s early songs for Commodores was Sly Stone. The inspiration from the Family Stone can be heard in 1974’s “There’s a Song in My Heart,” and the following year’s delightful “Let’s Do It Right” carries a trace of “Everybody Is a Star” in its genetic makeup.

19. Love Will Conquer All (1986)

Another huge hit, Dancing on the Ceiling from 1986 was nevertheless a less assured album than its predecessor. The title track is no All Night Long and Ballerina Girl is the point where Richie finally gets too MOR to defend. But the album has its moments, including Love Will Conquer All’s supremely assured, super-slick pop-R&B.

18. Up All Night (2006)

Reword: Richie’s more recent albums have a variety of styles and may require a significant amount of time to find the standout tracks. However, “Up All Night” from his 2006 album “Coming Home” is exceptional as it deviates from Richie’s usual relaxed R&B sound and instead features upbeat, 2000s R&B with his smooth vocals effortlessly gliding through.

In 1977, the song “Too Hot ta Trot” was released by the Commodores.

Compared to other artists, the Commodores did not fully embrace disco music. Their song “Too Hot ta Trot” was featured in the disco film Thank God It’s Friday, but it still followed their own style of making people dance. The track has a noticeable influence from Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”

The song “Say You, Say Me” was released in 1985.

Richie was asked to compose a theme for White Nights under the condition that it had the same title as the movie. However, he chose to submit Say You, Say Me instead. This was a clever decision as it separated the song from the film in people’s minds. Despite being recorded in his living room, the song has an impressive and grandiose sound, including a notable change in tempo.

Richie in concert in London in 1987.View image in fullscreen

15. Commodores – Sail On (1979)

The introduction of Sail On implies that the band is making a strong effort to imitate the success of Three Times a Lady, but the song surpasses those expectations. Its beautiful, melancholic melody incorporates elements of country music – a first for Richie – amidst the orchestral strings, horns, and rhythmic congas.

The album “Can’t Slow Down” was released in 1983.

Running With the Night was the hit, but Can’t Slow Down’s best up-tempo offering was the title track’s jittery electronic funk. It was influenced by Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, but is noticeably more unruffled in its vocal delivery, projecting Richie as a man who never breaks a sweat, even at his most urgent.

13. Commodores – Free (1975)

Richie was primarily responsible for writing and singing the slower songs in Commodores, while the funk songs were typically handled by drummer Walter Orange. However, there were exceptions, such as in 1975’s Movin’ On where two songs at the beginning were co-written by Richie and featured horn accompaniment. Of these two songs, “Free” stands out with its rock-inspired chorus.

Lionel Richie in 1985, during the recording of charity single We Are the World.View image in fullscreen

12. Deep River Woman (1986)

If Richie’s 10 million-selling album, Can’t Slow Down, was his response to Thriller, then his next album, Dancing on the Ceiling, was his interpretation of Bad, aimed at achieving the same groundbreaking success as Michael Jackson. However, Richie approached this goal differently, as demonstrated by the song Deep River Woman, which chooses to collaborate with the country band Alabama instead of trying to appeal to a rock audience.

11. Commodores – Sweet Love (1975)

Richie’s debut hit ballad, “Sweet Love,” reached No. 5 on the US Billboard chart. However, it stood out from his later, more polished songs that propelled him to superstardom. While still orchestrated, this ballad featured a prominent electric guitar and a gospel-influenced style that added a raw and gritty edge.

10. Hello (1983)

Attempt to separate Hello (which was released as a single in 1984, a few months after its initial appearance on Can’t Slow Down) from its music video, which features exaggerated acting from Richie, a questionable storyline – is it morally acceptable for a teacher to pursue a romantic relationship with a blind student? – and an unintentionally comical climactic reveal. It may be difficult, but keep listening: there is a solid ballad hidden within.

9. Commodores – Fancy Dancer (1976)

Fancy Dancer, a song written by Richie and bassist Ronald LaPread, was covered by Prince but never officially released. Its funky and low-slung style may have been the reason why he was drawn to it.

8. Stuck on You (1984)

In 2012, Richie released an album called Tuskegee, featuring collaborations with popular Nashville artists, which highlighted his love for country music. This influence had been present in his music for a long time. It’s easy to imagine the song Stuck on You as a traditional country ballad, especially when listening to the version on the Tuskegee album with Darius Rucker, where pedal steel is added to the arrangement.

Lionel Richie performing at Glastonbury in 2015.

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7. Commodores – Zoom (1977)

Despite being on the same album as the popular songs “Easy” and “Brick House”, Zoom is still an incredible track. It showcases Richie’s soulful roots through a subdued yet impactful orchestral arrangement, with a touch of syncopation in the rhythm and beautiful harmonies.

6. Endless Love (1981)

The version featuring a duet with Diana Ross was very successful, but consider listening to Richie’s original demo instead. It can be found on the reissued version of his 1982 self-titled debut solo album. This version removes the grandiose movie theme elements and exposes a more personal, delicate, and emotionally impactful core of the song.

The 1981 song “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” by the Commodores.

Richie’s final successful song with the Commodores came out around the same time as “Endless Love,” the song that signaled the beginning of his solo journey. The two songs are vastly dissimilar: “Lady” is elegant, featuring string instruments and a post-disco boogie sound. It’s so fantastic that one might wish Richie had incorporated some elements of this style into his solo work.

4. Commodores – Brick House (1977)

Maybe Brick House doesn’t belong on this list – Richie didn’t sing or write the Commodores’ most famous funk song – but let’s make an exception, because a) he did a decent job performing it on his 2007 live album and b) the Commodores’ version is fantastic: a seductive command to dance.

The song “Three Times a Lady” was released by the Commodores in 1978.

The first number one hit for the Commodores was a waltz, which Richie had planned to offer to Frank Sinatra. This shows how much the band had strayed from their original style, but despite this, they sold millions of singles and Richie’s future path was determined.

Commodores … Lionel Richie, second left.

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2. All Night Long (All Night) (1983)

The biggest-selling and best single from Can’t Slow Down was a rare diversion from the lovestruck end-of-the-night slow dance soundtracks that were its primary currency. You would struggle to describe it as funk or soul music, but there is something irresistible about its combination of mood-setting, dusk-falling atmosphere and monster chorus.

1. Commodores – Easy (1977)

Some dedicated R&B enthusiasts believe that Richie’s influence ruined the Commodores, as his love for pop music and ballads changed their sound and brought them closer to mainstream music. While their shift in style was undeniable, Richie’s talent for creating melodic songs was undeniable, making it hard to discredit his contributions. Despite its popularity on local radio stations, “Easy” is a wonderfully crafted song that captures a unique blend of emotions – carefree apathy with a hint of remorse and shame.