PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.