Sunday, February 06, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Lionel Richie - Can't Slow Down (1983)

Can't Slow Down was Lionel Richie's second and most successful album. It went 10 times platinum in the United States and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, beating landmark albums from Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA), Prince (Purple Rain), Cyndi Lauper (She's So Unusual) and Tina Turner (Private Dancer). And looking back nearly 30 years later, I have to wonder...why. It just doesn't seem that spectacular to me. Sure, there are some fun songs here, but it doesn't generate much heat.

The Grammy Award is particularly vexing. Born in the USA and Purple Rain are generally cited as classic albums of the decade; She's So Unusual was, at the time, heralded as the way forward for female pop artists; and Private Dancer was a remarkable comeback for the then-faded Turner. Can't Slow Down is the least interesting of the bunch--an album that looked backward, rather than forward.

Before you think I just want to shred this album, I will acknowledge that it has its moments. "All Night Long (All Night)" is a fun, upbeat track, and "Running with the Night" is another enjoyable, very '80s uptempo number (today's pop music audience will recognize it as the source of Rihanna's "Push Up on It" sample). The title track is the kind of '80s tune that clearly served as the template for some of the recent '80s nostalgia pop, such as Chromeo. The album's one true moment of greatness is its closing track, "Hello," a strikingly austere, decidedly downbeat love song.

Best: Hello, All Night Long (All Night), Running with the Night

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