Lionel Richie Is A Genius

As a child of the 1980’s, one of the more long-standing musical memories is that of Lionel Richie’s music.  I admit, I was a geek and I listened to America’s Top 40 (go Casey Kasem!) religiously every week.  It seemed Lionel Richie was on the charts every week with some hit or another.

Who didn’t think about dancing on the ceiling at some point after hearing his song with the same title?

Admit it, you did.

Anyways, his music has held up pretty well over the years.  He hasn’t had a lot of new stuff that I can think of, but most of his ‘hits’ are still played frequently on Adult Contemporary or Light Rock stations everywhere.

His latest album, Tuskegee, is pure genius.  He has re-recorded most of his greatest hits as duets with country singers, including the likes of Kenny Chesney, Rascall Flatts, and the guy I figure he had to take inspiration from, Darius Rucker, who jumped from pop (lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish) to a straight country artist. With smashing success.

All of the songs have the same familiar feel of the originals.  There are no wild changes here.  But, they add the element of country music, which is a pretty big market.

And I love it.  Here’s why:

  • It introduces a new generation to Lionel Richie – Sure, younger people have probably heard a lot of his songs, but probably classified them as ‘oldies’.  Now, they can actually listen to his ‘current’ stuff.
  • It opens a new audience – Pure country fans probably also heard of Lionel Richie, but were likely never fans.  Now, they can be.
  • He can make royalties galore – Now, country stations can add his songs to their playlist, and the stations that play his music can substitute the newer versions of his songs, and likely give him more spots in their rotation.  Ka-ching to Lionel Richie.

I bet we’ll probably see a lot of older artists try to make this move.  Or at least, if they’re smart, they could try.

Here are a few that I think could pull this off pretty well:

  • Neil Diamond – I’ve always loved Neil Diamond, so I think this would be awesome.  He’s a little cheesy but I think the country singers would line up to perform with him.  He’s got a catalog spanning five decades.  There have to be some hits somewhere.
  • Elton John – Another one of my favorites.  He has gracefully aged into somewhat of a elder statesman in music, and I would think he could easily pull a country duets album off.
  • Fleetwood Mac – Many of their 1970’s hits still hold up today, and I think classics like “You Make Loving Fun” and “Silver Springs” could easily transition to country, just like Lionel did, without many changes to the sound.

Have you heard anything from the ‘new’ Lionel Richie album?  What other artists do you think could make the country jump?

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