Monday, February 16, 2015

Stuck On You

It has just come to my attention that the Lionel Richie collection titled The Best of Lionel Richie: 20th Century Masters (Millennium Collection) does not include "Stuck On You," thus rendering its own title a lie.

Look. I loves me some "Penny Lover," adore "You Are" and don't even think for a moment I come in second to anyone in my love of "Hello" and its adorbs memes. And that's without even getting into his work with the Commodores. [Oh, "Sail On" are the sun, you are the rain that makes my life this foolish game. You need to know I love you so and I'd do it all again and again.]

But his best song is so clearly "Stuck on You."

I mean, it's so obvious. It's not even up for debate, any more than evolution or climate change or the need to vaccinate your kids. It. Is not. Open. For debate.

Listen to it. Start with that hushed and lovely opening. His voice is just the right mix of sweet and yet commanding. The way he hits certain phrases; listen to the way he sings, almost murmurs "...that I just can't lose." This is someone very gifted operating at the height of his talents.

The melody, simple and logical, remains nothing less than perfect, especially impressive given the way the phrases blend unexpectedly into each other in an oddly circular manner. Listen to the way the little fills in between the verses resemble another straightforward and classic lovely love song, "Wonderful Tonight." And much like that gem, Lionel offers no tricks here, just intimate and intricate affection.

There is so much to love here. That the meat of the song—hell, the very title of the song—is on you from the start. Just as "Losing My Religion," years later, would be rightly lauded for its popular and artistic success as a pop song despite its lack of a real chorus, so too with "Stuck On You." Instead, it has just a few verses that quickly wind their way into your subconscious, just like "Operator" and "Something" and a few other of the finest love songs ever written. The harmonies are sublime. The sentiment is both real and realized. The bridge builds the suspense by staying on the minor third and minor sixth chords over and over, ramping up the tension until he finally brings us back to the still unresolved but more familiar subdominant and dominant chords. And just as soon as it gets going again, it ends. The entire thing is a fleeting, indelible show of beauty that you want to revisit time and again.

Lionel Richie had a barnful of hits that made him a deserved legend. He is worthy of a greatest hits collection, no doubt—in fact, his record labels seems to believe him worthy of a dozen such collections. But a wise man once said, "A flute with no holes is not a flute. And a donut with no holes is a danish." Sorry, Millenium Collection. Lionel Richie had a great many hits. But without "Stuck On You," it is not a "best of" collection, not even close, nevermind one deserving of the appellation Millenium.

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