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Album Review

Lionel Richie, barring his success in the '80s with such hits as "Hello," "Running With the Night," and "All Night Long," has struggled to find his place in music after life with the Commodores. Renaissance, Richie's 2001 release, is another post-Commodores album that misses the mark. Most of the songs don't particularly fit any radio format, with the exception of adult contemporary, but that's not the problem. Lacking a radio home doesn't make for a bad recording. It's the material on Renaissance, which is uninteresting, and Richie's voice is often out of place with the music, as illustrated on "Angel." This song features a mild dance beat but Richie's voice is sorely incompatible with it. Elsewhere, there are nice Latin-flavored arrangements, such as on "Cinderella" and "Dance the Night Away." But, again, Richie's vocal delivery doesn't work with such musical styling. This clash between music and voice is a running theme on Renaissance. Lyrically, the album fails as well, and is rife with juvenile wordplay: "I held you close to me/Girl, you are my ecstasy/Your lips, and your hair/The way you touch me, girl I swear/Only you could take me there" — from "Dance the Night Away." There are, however, some redeeming performances on Renaissance. "It May Be the Water" is the album's first of two winning moments where music, lyrics, and vocal delivery all meet to create successful synergy. The song is similar to a Boyz II Men track and should work on the radio. Richie should have applied whatever techniques he used on this track to the rest of this album, because all the pieces fit perfectly here. "Don't Stop the Music" is the other exception on Renaissance, and recalls the "All Night Long" party vibe. This song, similar to a Luther Vandross R&B jam, successfully captures a modern R&B/dance groove, unlike other tracks on this album that attempt to do the same. It really is sad because Lionel Richie has exhibited such talent in the past. It's painful to hear such floundering work by a performer who listeners know can do better.


Born: 20 June 1949 in Tuskegee, AL

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After leaving the Commodores, Lionel Richie became one of the most successful male solo artists of the '80s, arguably eclipsed during his 1981-1987 heyday only by Michael Jackson and Prince. Richie dominated the pop charts during that period with an incredible run of 13 consecutive Top Ten hits, five of them number ones. As his popularity skyrocketed, Richie moved further away from his R&B origins and concentrated more on adult contemporary balladry, which had been one of his strengths even as part...
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