Dancing on the Ceiling

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Dancing on the Ceiling
Studio album by Lionel Richie
Released August 5, 1986
Recorded 1985-86
Genre Pop, R&B
Length 46:27
Label Motown
Producer Lionel Richie, James Anthony Carmichael, Narada Michael Walden for Perfection Light Productions
Lionel Richie chronology
Can't Slow Down
(1983)Can't Slow Down1983
Dancing on the Ceiling
Back to Front
(1992)Back to Front1992
Singles from Dancing on the Ceiling
  1. "Say You, Say Me" / "Can't Slow Down"
    Released: November 1985
  2. "Dancing on the Ceiling" / "Love Will Find a Way"
    Released: June 1986
  3. "Love Will Conquer All" / "The Only One"
    Released: October 1986
  4. "Ballerina Girl" / "Deep River Woman"
    Released: December 1986
  5. "Se La" / "Serves You Right"
    Released: March 1987

Dancing on the Ceiling is the third solo studio album by Lionel Richie, released on August 5, 1986. The album was originally to be titled Say You, Say Me, after the Academy Award-winning track of the same name, but it was renamed to a different track's title after Richie rewrote the album. The album was released to generally positive reviews and warm sales, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and selling 4 million copies. Following the album's release Richie went on a long hiatus, releasing his first album of entirely new material ten years later.

Background and recording[edit]

Lionel Richie had risen to prominence as a member of the Commodores during the late 1970s, but after tensions arose in the band he left in 1982. His first two solo albums, Lionel Richie (1982) and Can't Slow Down (1983), were runaway successes: Lionel Richie sold 4 million copies, while Can't Slow Down sold 10 million copies, and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.[1]

Recording of the songs later used on Dancing on the Ceiling began in 1985. The track "Say You, Say Me" was used in that year's White Nights, for which it had won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.[2] Work on the album was done while Richie was finalizing his work with "We Are the World".[3]

During early production, the album was intended to be titled Say You, Say Me[1] and released in December 1985.[4] However, Richie found that he did not "want to do those songs" owing to the social conditions he saw, and as such he began rewriting it "to express what [he] felt the world was boxing itself into".[4] Ultimately, the album's title was changed to Dancing on the Ceiling, as the titular song was Richie's next single.[1] Recording for the album took over a year and a half,[5] and Richie later stated that he tried to include a mixture of sounds.[3]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks produced by Lionel Richie and James Anthony Carmichael, except "Night Train (Smooth Alligator)" produced by Narada Michael Walden.

1986 release[edit]

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Dancing on the Ceiling" Lionel Richie Richie, Carlos Rios, Michael Frenchik 4:30
2. "Se La" Richie Richie, Greg Phillinganes 5:22
3. "Ballerina Girl" Richie Richie 3:38
4. "Don't Stop" Richie Richie, John Barnes 7:43
5. "Deep River Woman" (backing vocals: Alabama) Richie Richie 4:35
6. "Love Will Conquer All" Richie, Cynthia Weil Richie, Phillinganes 5:40
7. "Tonight Will Be Alright" (backing vocals: Richard Marx) Richie Richie 5:06
8. "Say You, Say Me" Richie Richie 4:00
9. "Night Train (Smooth Alligator)" (bonus track, on compact disc and cassette only) Jeffery Cohen Narada Michael Walden, Preston Glass, Walter Afanasieff, Sade, Ray St. John 4:59

2003 reissue[edit]


Dancing on the Ceiling was released on August 5, 1986.[3] The album sold 4 million copies in the US.[1] It became the first album to be simultaneously certified silver, gold, platinum, and double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America since the institution established double platinum in 1984.[6] To promote the album Richie went on a 40-city concert tour, entitled "Outrageous". The first concert was in Phoenix, Arizona.[5]

Dancing on the Ceiling peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200. The title cut was the second biggest single from the album, reaching No. 2 in the US and No. 7 in the UK, falling behind "Say You, Say Me"'s earlier performance. Other Top 10 singles from the album include "Love Will Conquer All" (U.S. No. 9, UK No. 45) and "Ballerina Girl" (U.S. No. 7, UK No. 17). Meanwhile, "Deep River Woman" reached No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart.[7]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[8]
Robert Christgau B+[9]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[10]

Dancing on the Ceiling has generally received positive reviews. Anthony Decurtis, reviewing in Rolling Stone, gave the album a positive review, writing that it "sets an impressive standard for mainstream pop craft", encompassing Richie's "finest qualities".[10] He especially praised the track "Say You, Say Me", but found "Ballerina Girl" a "virtual anthology of Richie's worst saccharine excesses".[10]

Music critic Robert Christgau ranked the album a B+. He found that it provided "lulling, almost mantralike entertainment" with "a knack for tune that puts [Richie] over the fine line between lulling and boring".[9] His criticism centered on "Ballerina" for its mawkishness and lack of interest in some of the faster songs.[9] Meanwhile, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of allmusic retrospectively gave Dancing on the Ceiling four out of five stars, summarizing that, overall, the album was "a solid, enjoyable affair".[8] He considered, however, it a "comedown" after Richie's previous albums, with its songs generally longer than necessary and the lyrics mixing "silliness ... and sappiness".[8]


Following the success of Dancing on the Ceiling, Richie withdrew almost entirely from the music industry for six years, a move which Steve Huey of allmusic suggests was "quitting while he was ahead".[1] He released a compilation album – with some new material – entitled Back to Front in 1992, with his first all-new release, Louder Than Words, following in 1996. As of 2013, none of his successive albums have been as successful as Lionel Richie, Can't Slow Down, and Dancing on the Ceiling.[1] A remastered edition of Dancing on the Ceiling was released in 2003, featuring four bonus tracks.[11]


All data from Discogs, Lionel Richie (1).

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Position
1986 The Billboard 200 1
Preceded by
True Blue by Madonna
Billboard 200 number-one album
September 27, 1986 – October 10, 1986
Succeeded by
Fore! by Huey Lewis and the News


Works cited[edit]