Lionel Richie: Coming Home

Coming Home is an album that even Lionel Richie fans might dismiss. Though there are glimmers of substance, an album cannot stand on just two or three pretty good tracks

Lionel Richie

Coming Home

Label: Island
US Release Date: 2006-09-12
UK Release Date: 2006-09-11

Lionel Richie should have nothing to prove. Amidst numerous Grammys, an Oscar, coveted copyrights, and a mountain of platinum albums, Richie's musical legacy is intact. So why does Coming Home, his follow-up to Just For You (2004), sound desperate?

Lionel Richie wanted a hit. The obvious formula, then, was to match Richie with sought-after producers and songwriters half his age. That's the formula employed by "LA" Reid, Executive Producer of Coming Home and Chairman of Island Def Jam Music. Since Richie felt the need to prove that he was relevant enough to hang with the current crop of million-selling tunesmiths, Reid enlisted Raphael Saadiq, Jermaine Dupri, and Dallas Austin, among numerous other producers and songwriters, to determine how a Lionel Richie album should sound in 2006. The results, a Lionel Richie Rorschach test of sorts, are painfully forced.

These producers render Lionel Richie a guest on his own album, rather than the inverse. "I Call it Love", the first single from Coming Home, hit number one on Adult R&B Radio. Produced by StarGate, the team that made Ne-Yo a star, the song is Richie's biggest hit in years, but at Richie's expense. It's regrettable that his distinct style, a style shaped from 30 years of songwriting and producing, is nearly obliterated in favor of a cookie cutter Ne-Yo arrangement.

Raphael Saadiq fares marginally better with "Sweet Vacation". The melody and mid-tempo groove would not be out of place on a late '70s Commodores album (nestled somewhere between "Just to Be Close to You" and "Fancy Dancer"), were it not for the choir of Saadiq's overdubbed voice. Unfortunately, the nasality of Saddiq's voice doesn’t mesh with Richie's soulful baritone, staining an otherwise spotless production.

Richie's self-penned songs are dull and self-derivative. "I Love You" is basically a rewrite of "Hello", a number one hit from Can't Slow Down (1983). "Out of My Head" and "I'm Coming Home" (two other Richie ballads) cure insomnia while "All Around the World" causes it. In the tradition of "All Night Long" and "Dancing on the Ceiling", "All Around the World" is the obligatory "party" song but, at best, sounds like an expensive karaoke track. I'd expect much more from Richie, who co-produced the song, than synthesized horns punched on a keyboard. Even "All Night Long", which was criminally ubiquitous in its day, featured an authentic horn section.

The best tune appears far too late to salvage the album. Gifted by Dallas Austin, "Reason to Believe" succeeds because Austin allows Richie to shine through a tasteful, acoustic arrangement. Unlike the contributions by Dupri, Saadiq, and StarGate, "Reason to Believe" doesn’t straightjacket Richie into someone he's not. "I just want somebody/ to laugh out loud/I just want somebody/to make me smile", Richie sings and you actually believe him. Less believable is the second Austin-produced track, "Stand Down". With a pretty decent reggae rhythm section, Richie adopts the prosody of Bob Marley. I don't think anyone involved intended for it to be amusing...

If you decide to buy Coming Home, here’s a final word of caution: avoid "Up All Night". Never has an established artist sunk to such an abysmal low to sound contemporary.

Coming Home is an album that even Lionel Richie fans might dismiss. Though there are glimmers of substance, an album cannot stand on just two or three pretty good tracks. Maybe the crass commerciality of Coming Home will sell to unknowing listeners. Maybe another gold record will afford Richie some latitude to be more faithful to his muse next time around. We certainly deserve better than this.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

This film suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.