Lionel Richie – Hello

First Hit #1: May 12, 1984

Empty space isn’t something people normally think of when they think of pop music. Normally, pop music doesn’t have much empty space at all, since it’s generally pretty difficult to get a hit that isn’t completely filled up. Hello, by contrast, is a song about empty space. It is never silent, but it makes a great deal of effort to emphasize the space between words and verses. It’s a song that is as much about the spaces between the words as the words themselves.

That is, of course, part of the point, given that it’s about a shy man who doesn’t have the confidence to really talk to the woman he loves. Given the theme, it needs that space to sell the song, since it’s all about hesitation and uncertainty. In the process, Richie has made a song that is a study on how to use empty space in pop music.

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One Response to Lionel Richie – Hello

  1. Robert Berman says:

    The lyric is one of those “sweet vs stalker” things; the boundary between this song and Sarah McLachlan’s “Possession” is more a matter of emphasis than content. Most women would be creeped out to hear that a neighbor has dreamed a thousand times of kissing them. Still, pop songs get away with a lot somehow. (See also: Benny Mardones’ “Into the Night”; Neil Diamond’s “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon”; etc.)

    Richie in particular gets away with it by marrying his stalker sentiment to beautiful music. The piano part, once again, is just block chords in 4/4, pretty lazy really. But the chord progression on the chorus marches winningly right around the circle of fifths. And the second line has that ghostly synth arpeggio hovering about. Throw in a nice clean jazz guitar bridge, and it’s hit city.

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