Monday, September 17, 2018

"Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Oscar Alert!
Song#:  2530
Date:  11/09/1985
Debut:  40
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  As Richie was basking in the glow of his Grammy-winning #1 album Can't Slow Down, he got offered the chance to write a song for an upcoming film directed by Taylor Hackford. Hackford's two previous films both generated #1 songs so with Richie's star power at the time, it seemed a third one was not out of the question. Richie accepted the challenge and set out to write a song based on the film's title White Nights. When that proved too difficult of a task, he wrote this ballad for the film. By this point in time, another song from the movie, "Separate Lives" by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, was already out and headed to #1. With that song doing well, Richie's tune was then pushed out just a couple weeks prior to the film's release. The single debuted in the Top 40 and then quickly made its way to the top spot becoming Richie's 10th straight solo Top 10 and 5th #1. It would later earn Richie both the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Original Song.

ReduxReview:  Yes, it was a big #1 hit, it was a gold record, it won an Oscar (but to note - no Grammy nominations), and folks loved it, but I just did not like the tune at all. Richie is basically a pop song writer so I don't expect literary prose, but I had a hard time figuring out what this song was trying to be about. Even today, I still can't tell you what "say you, say me, say it together, naturally" means. And "believing who you are - you are a shining star" makes "tutti frutti" sound like Chaucer. Then two-thirds of the way through, Richie jump-shifts the thing into a dance tune. WTF? It made no sense at all. It was almost like Richie was trying to do a Paul McCartney "Live and Let Die" kind of thing, but it did not work. There are song that can get away with big tempo changes and it can be effective, yet this is not one of them. A tinkly, treacly AC ballad does not need to get all dance-popped up out of nowhere. For me, this is where Richie jumped the shark. I lost interest in his music after this.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Although Richie wrote this song specifically for the film, he recorded and released the single via his home label, Motown. However, the soundtrack album for the film was going to be released by Atlantic. Usually deals are made between labels for the usage of songs and artists, but for this song it didn't happen. Apparently Motown didn't want Richie's first single following his mega-successful Can't Slow Down to be on another label, most likely because they smelled a big hit coming and didn't want to share it with another label. They also wanted to parlay this into being the first single from Richie's next album, which he was working on. With Motown not really willing to deal, the song was not included on the film's soundtrack album. It was an unusual move, but ultimately one that seemed to pay off for Motown and Richie.



  1. While I do agree most of Lionel Richie's singles released after this one weren't that great but I do rank "Love Will Conquer All" to be one of my favorite LR songs, I agree the danced pop section came out of nowhere and was a bit distracting compared to the rest of the song.

    1. Yes, it is one of the better songs in his career after this one. I just lost interest in his music due to this kooky thing.

  2. Couldn't disagree more with your rating and review. Always loved this song, and that "dance break" in the middle makes it surprising and fun. Who the hell cares if the words make sense or not...