533. ‘Hello’, by Lionel Richie

And so the promising start that 1984 had made comes to a crashing halt. Actually, no. ‘Crashing’ makes this sound way more exciting than it is. ‘Shuddering’? Still a bit too dramatic. A whimpering halt….? Yes, that’s it.

Hello, by Lionel Richie (his 1st and only solo #1)

6 weeks, from 18th March – 29th April 1984

‘Hello’ is a dull record. The lyrics are trite… Let me start by saying, I love you…. and Sometimes I feel that my heart will overflow… The pace is that of a glacier. Lionel Richie’s voice, while technically decent, is bland. After two records that showed how fun the 1980s could be – ‘Relax’ and ’99 Red Balloons’ – it’s dross like this that gives the decade a bad name.

It’s not that dull ballads were invented in the 1980s. The fifties, for example, was stuffed to the brim with them. But the production here, the glossy soft-soul gloop oozing from this record’s grooves, is prime mid-eighties. And it doesn’t enhance… There’s a soppy organ, a soppy piano, a soppy brass section. There are some weird swirling synths, which are as close as the music gets to being interesting. And then there’s an insipid acoustic Spanish guitar solo that really tries the patience.

Having never actually listened to this snooze-fest through choice before today, I was expecting a more OTT power-ballad element to it. You know: bad, but ridiculous. Except that’s just the video… In it, Richie plays a drama teacher with the unfortunate habit of creeping around behind one of his female students. Who just happens to be blind. He finally plucks up the courage to call her – the way he sings Hello! Is it me you’re looking for…? down the phone is actually hilarious – and she displays her love by making a truly monstrous clay model of his head.

Play ‘Hello’ away from the video, however, and you lose all this silliness. It is a truly boring experience. It’s only four minutes long, but it feels like twice that. I named Richie’s previous #1 – ‘Three Times a Lady’, with the Commodores – as a ‘Meh’ chart-topper, but this one takes ‘Meh’ to new levels. Why this was top of the charts for six weeks, and why it has since become an eighties pop culture cornerstone, is beyond me.

I have to admit that even his more upbeat hits of the mid-‘80s, the likes of ‘All Night Along’ and ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’, leave me feeling cold. Lionel Richie is, for whatever reason, an artist I don’t connect with. Too slick? Too glossy? Soulless soul? Maybe. Either way, for now I’m reminded why this decade will, at times, be a slog.


15 thoughts on “533. ‘Hello’, by Lionel Richie

  1. This record will always remain in my memory as the one that marked the end of my three-year sabbatical as a resident DJ. Early in 1981 I was shown the door when a new management at my previous place took over and brought someone else in, and then in March 1984 a new club opened up just down (or up) the road and I was in the right place at the right time. This was No. 1 for the next few weeks. Looking back on it, I can’t think how I had the nerve, but quite often to finish the fun at 1.00 a.m. I would play the slow section from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’, and just before it came to the hard rockin’ section I would swiftly crossfade it into this. Somehow I never got lynched, and kept the floor full with smooching couples, about 90% of whom were aged 18-25ish. It’s OK as ballads go, I suppose, and I’d rather have this than ‘Being With You’ or ‘One Day in my Life’ (maybe 1981 was a good year to take a break), but I did prefer the upbeat stuff like ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ and ‘Running With the Night’.

  2. When he left the Commodores he left his soul with them…that is story on him. He KNEW how to write pop ballads…I mean it is catchy but just too bland. This is one of his better ballads…everything you said about glossy is the truth.
    McCartney must have taken notes with his song “So Bad”

    • Yeah, you can’t blame Richie, even if this song is now a bye-word for mid-eighties bland balladry. He was just giving the people what they wanted, and want it they clearly did…

  3. You’re not really very keen on this one are you? 😀
    I TOTALLY agree with every sentiment …. it’s absolutely 100% pure popshite. Creepy, sleazy (in a bad way) purile crap.

    No – I don’t like it either.
    Next! 😀 😀 😀

  4. Boring record. The video sold it to people oblivious to bad taste. It was unintentionally hilarious. What was annoying about ritchie is his ability to write a great song like Sail On or Easy gave way to blandness like this once going solo. All Night Long was good. And uptempo. Running With The Night was much darker and much better. But the rot that started with the dreadful endless love just became his career default option. And yes Being With You is sincere and tuneful class. This is a dirge.

  5. This is my first encounter with this series of articles. It is a waste that this piece was more about the reviewer than the song. It didn’t take more than a paragraph to figure that out.

    “Sour” describes the reviewer’s mental state and the immaturity of them writing doesn’t help things either.

    “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie is not a favourite of mine, but I was hoping for something more than a high school quality ra
    nt. However, it might be a curiosity to see how the reviewer describes “Adele’s song “Hello.”

    • Hello… I’m not sure how I made this particular post about me more than the song. In all 533 posts so far I have listened to each #1 single and given my personal opinion. Some I like, some I dislike. Some I know well, some I’m hearing for the first time. Happy for you to follow along and join in with the comments, but if you’re going to describe my writing as a ‘rant’ and the quality of it as ‘high school’ then you’d probably be better off elsewhere. As for Adele’s own ‘Hello’… Well, we’ll come to it as a chart-topper, eventually, but as a preview I’d say it’s very well performed if a bit dull, like much of Adele’s work.

  6. Yeah this song feels more like a parody today with the lyrics and the music video that you can’t really think about it as a song anymore. Admittedly, the whole video is funny to watch especially the way Lionel times his phone call to the lyrics “Hello is it me you’re looking for?” I even remember a video where someone combines Lionel Richie’s song with Adele’s “Hello” and one time in high school when I had a substitute teacher in English class around the time Adele’s song was big he thought we were talking about the Lionel Richie song when some classmates talked about the Adele song.

    I gotta say even as someone who doesn’t care much for Lionel Richie, Can’t Slow Down is a pretty solid album for mainstream ‘80s pop looking past “Hello” even winning Album of the Year at the Grammys against Purple Rain, Born in the USA, Private Dancer, and She’s So Unusual which is exactly the kind of safe but screwed up pick we expect from the Grammys.

  7. Pingback: 538. ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, Stevie Wonder | The UK Number Ones Blog

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