Lionel Richie and Diana Ross – Endless Love

First Hit #1: August 15, 1981

I was briefly tempted to start this with the same line I’ve used twice for Lionel Richie tracks, but I didn’t think it would be a fresh joke anymore.

Anyway, Lionel Richie and Diana Ross might both be talented and distinct performers, but they are for the most part opposites. Richie is all about understatement, and he tends to use quiet to emphasize what he’s trying to say. Diana Ross, by contrast, likes to show off, going big in order to make her statements. To have the two duet makes each performer adjust what they like to do in order to meet the other. Richie’s singing, especially late song, becomes much more showy and large, as he tries to meet Ross and stay on her level. Ross, for her part, doesn’t really change, instead using Richie’s typical song structure to show off her voice. He writes with silences, Ross joins them with expressive lengthening of notes, keeping Richie’s pacing but subverting his intent. It’s a song with two singers intent on pushing each other into new areas, and it keeps the song compelling to hear them bounce off each other.

It’s not perfect, the heavy strings bring to mind vaseline slathered camera lenses and gauzy curtains, but as a vocal showcase it’s pretty fantastic.

I think at some point I’ll have to come to terms with my string hatred.

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One Response to Lionel Richie and Diana Ross – Endless Love

  1. RBerman says:

    Not a fresh joke, but still a true statement! Richie’s smooth, unadorned delivery and romantic sentiments are great, even in the service of a movie about “the love every parent fears.” Diana Ross is serviceable as always, coasting on glamour and accumulated Motown goodwill rather than vocal talent.

    Perhaps I’ll think of some counterexamples, but it seems to me that there was not really a separate, thriving R&B scene in the mid-80s. Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Prince, Dionne Warwick, Billy Ocean, Whitney Houston, Deniece Williams… they all did ballads and pop songs. Seems like an era in which, compared to the decades before (funk) and after (rap), blacks and whites listened to pretty much the same music. This trend will be exemplified a few more #1 singles down the line, with a certain Hall and Oates tune that topped not only the pop chart, but the R&B chart.

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