First Hit #1: August 12, 1978
A song like Three Times a Lady is one of the most difficult to pull off, because one has to have a sincere expression of love without it going over the edge into a vat of cheese. It is especially difficult when someone places some strings in the background, because then you’re really in danger of going too far. But Lionel Richie pulls it off, because he never tries to oversell it. He knows he has a very pretty voice, and as a result doesn’t have to go too far in order to get the point across. That doesn’t mean he’s not trying, but he’s also reigning himself, which leads to a song which actually sounds a bit more private, like he’s singing to a specific lady. It’s that restraint that makes it good, even if the strings come in and not much else sounds very restrained at all. It’s a track which relies on Richie’s performance to get right, and he make sure that he never goes too far. He’s one of the better singers of love songs for that reason, he knows exactly how much to emphasize to keep it meaningful, without going into Velveeta territory.