Lionel Richie: All The Hits With Very Special Guest Mariah Carey
- Date: April 21, 2017
- Time: 7:00pm
Venue: BOK CenterAddress:200 South Denver AvenueTulsa, OK 74103
- Cost: From $26.95 to $497
The subject of Memoirs is love at all its stages in our lives. Experiencing it for the first time. Losing it. Remembering its most painful moments, and also its times of greatest innocence and joy. Yearning for it. Learning from it. Growing as a result of its profound power. Finding it again and being grateful for so great a gift. And, finally, being humbled, filled with wonder and elevated by love's mysterious ways. In that sense and more, Memoirs is a full, immensely satisfying journey.
"Each song is like an intimate conversation or entry in a private diary," Carey says about the album. "A lot of the songs reflect specific, different times in my life. Others were inspired by movies, actual events that happened to me, or the stories of friends who told me about experiences that they've gone through." With just one exception, Carey wrote and produced the entire album in collaboration with The-Dream and Tricky Stewart. The trio clearly shared an inspired sense of what Memoirs should be. Sinuous grooves and instantly memorable melodies flow from track to track, while the wit and intimacy of the lyrics create the feel of one friend talking to another. As well-defined as each song is, Memoirs plays with the beauty and consistency of a classic, start-to-finish album.
"My main goal was to work with people I could collaborate with without it seeming redundant or stale," Carey says. "In my opinion Tricky is one of the most underrated major producers out there right now. I really enjoyed collaborating with him. And I especially liked writing with The-Dream, basically because we both love having fun with lyrics and melodies, and we're also capable of getting more serious on deeper songs. There is a particular sense of freedom I feel when we write together -- even though I make him stay in the studio all night until he is ready to kill me! LOL!"
Memoirs' first single is the hard-hitting "Obsessed," which is accompanied by a video directed by Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour trilogy) in which Carey plays both the glamorous star and her stalker fan. Like the video, the song's lyrics combine devastating putdowns ("Last man on the Earth still couldn't get this") with humor ("See right through you like you're bathin' in Windex"). The no-nonsense "Up Out My Face" captures a similar caustic mood, dismissing a former lover with the send-off, "When I break, I break, boy." "It's a Wrap" delivers a similar message about the end of an affair: "When it's gone, it's gone." "Standing O," with its irresistible chorus, sardonically applauds a faithless ex for his signature achievement: "You played the one that loved you the most." "Betcha Gon' Know" foresees karmic revenge for a wayward lover, but, once again, the clever lyrics ("Oprah Winfrey whole segment for real, for real / 20/20 Barbara Walters for real, for real") encourage a smile amid the pain.
The ballad "H.A.T.E.U.," meanwhile, finds the singer seeing life in the wake of a breakup and longing for the moment when loss and regret transform into a cleansing anger. But the title of the song doesn't necessarily stand for what you think it might. "H.A.T.E.U. is the first song I wrote for the album," Carey says, "and it stands for Having A Typical Emotional Upset."
Always a brilliant technical singer with an extraordinary vocal range, Carey rises to new heights on that track. "I sing a recurring melody in the upper register of my voice; it's not an ad-lib, but an integral part of the song's hook," she says. "That's not something I've done before, and when listening back to it, it reminded me of how Minnie Riperton used her upper register on her hit song 'Lovin' You.' I thought how ironic that her song was called 'Lovin' You' and my song is called, 'H.A.T.E.U.' - and both use that upper 'whistle register' as a major part of the melody. So it's sort of an homage to Minnie Riperton, a tribute to her since she has been so influential in my singing style."
On a tender note, the wistful "Candy Bling" beautifully evokes the blissful realm of young love ("Anklets, name plates that you gave to me/Sweet tarts, ring pops had that candy bling/And you were my world"), while "Inseparable" aches for a love that went wrong for reasons that seem impossible to comprehend. "More Than Just Friends" floats off into a fantasy of what a casual relationship might become ("Permanently paint me in your picture like Picasso/Love me down till I hit the top of my soprano!"). "Ribbon" and "The Impossible" swoon with happiness and thankfulness over redemptive love that has returned to make life rich again. "You did the impossible," Carey sings. "You rescued my love."
Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel ends with a spectacularly powerful gospel rendition of Foreigner's gorgeous ballad, "I Want to Know What Love Is." Carey's voice soars into the heavens as a soul-stirring choir makes it clear that the search for love is the closest that any human being ever gets to the divine.
Which brings us back to the angel of the album's title. "I had written a song called 'Imperfect,'" Carey says, "but it didn't make it onto the album. The lyrics of that song address the fact that the world puts so much pressure on us -- especially on women -- to be perfect and look a certain way, and that is impossible because nobody is perfect. Only God is perfect. I know I've tried to be a good person, but I am definitely no angel!"
"But after I put this album together and decided to name it Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," she concludes, "I remembered that the Minnie Riperton album that contained 'Lovin' You' was called Perfect Angel. So I felt in so many ways that it was meant to be."
Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr., was born on June 20, 1949, in Tuskegee, AL, and grew up on the campus of the Tuskegee Institute, where most of his family had worked for two generations prior. While attending college there, Richie joined the Commodores, who went on to become the most successful act on the Motown label during the latter half of the '70s. Richie served as a saxophonist, sometime vocalist, and songwriter, penning ballads like "Easy," "Three Times a Lady," and "Still" (the latter two became the group's only number one pop hits). Although the Commodores maintained a democratic band structure through most of their chart run, things began to change when the '70s became the '80s. In 1980, Richie wrote and produced country-pop singer Kenny Rogers' across-the-board number one smash "Lady," and the following year, Richie's duet with Diana Ross, "Endless Love" (recorded for the Brooke Shields film of the same title), became the most successful single in Motown history, topping the charts for a stunning nine weeks. With the media's attention now focused exclusively on Richie, tensions within the Commodores began to mount, and before the end of 1981, Richie decided to embark on a solo career.
Richie immediately set about recording his solo debut for Motown. Titled simply Lionel Richie, the album was released in late 1982 and was an immediate smash, reaching number three on the pop charts on its way to sales of over four million copies. It spun off three Top Five pop hits, including the first single, "Truly," which became Richie's first solo number one. If Lionel Richie made its creator a star, the follow-up, Can't Slow Down, made him a superstar. Boasting five Top Ten singles, including the number ones "All Night Long (All Night)" and "Hello," Can't Slow Down hit number one, eventually sold over ten million copies, and won the 1984 Grammy for Album of the Year. Such was Richie's stature that he was invited to perform at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a spectacular stage event that was broadcast worldwide.
In 1985, Richie put his superstar status to work for a greater good, joining Michael Jackson in co-writing the USA for Africa charity single "We Are the World"; the all-star recording helped raise millions of dollars for famine relief. By the end of the year, he was on top of the charts again with "Say You, Say Me," a ballad recorded for the film White Nights but not included on the soundtrack album. The song was slated to be the title track on Richie's upcoming album, but delays in the recording process prevented the record from being released until August 1986, by which time the title was changed to Dancing on the Ceiling (in order to promote Richie's next single release). Three more Top Tens followed "Say You, Say Me," as did "Se La," which became the first of Richie's solo singles not to reach the pop Top Ten. Overall, Dancing on the Ceiling didn't match the success of Can't Slow Down, but it still sold an impressive four million copies, although Richie's reputation for sentimental ballads was beginning to incur a backlash in some quarters.
1987 saw Richie's nine-year streak of writing at least one number one single (a feat matched only by Irving Berlin) come to an end. As a matter of fact, Richie all but disappeared from the music business, simply choosing to take some time off after nearly two decades of recording and performing (or, perhaps, quitting while he was ahead). His silence was broken only in 1992, when Motown released a compilation titled Back to Front; in addition to some of his solo hits and a few Commodores tracks, Back to Front also featured three new songs, including the number one R&B hit "Do It to Me" (which wasn't as successful on the pop charts).
Richie wasn't bitten by the recording bug again until 1996, by which time he'd endured his share of personal loss: his father had passed away, and his marriage to wife Brenda -- the muse behind some of his most successful ballads -- had fallen apart. In approaching his comeback, Richie attempted to update his sound to reflect a decade's worth of developments in urban R&B. The result, Louder Than Words, was a moderate success, reaching the Top 30 and going gold. However, it didn't produce any major hit singles, and Richie's nods to new jack swing and hip-hop were criticized as awkward. 1998's Time found Richie in a more familiar element, relying on his signature sound with only slight musical updates. However, the album flopped, spending only a few weeks in the lower reaches of the charts. Richie's next album, Renaissance, was released to a favorable reception in Europe in late 2000; it was issued in the U.S. in early 2001. Three years later, on the heels of enduring a very public and bitter divorce with his second wife, Diane, Richie released Just for You. The 2006 album Coming Home found him working with an all-star cast of collaborators including Jermaine Dupri, Raphael Saadiq, Sean Garrett, and Dallas Austin. Live in Paris followed in 2007.
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