Dancing on the Ceiling

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Dancing on the Ceiling
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 15, 1986
  • Ocean Way (Hollywood)
  • Hitsville U.S.A. (Los Angeles)
  • Tarpan (San Rafael, California)
  • Bear Creek (Woodinville, Washington)
  • The Music Mill (Nashville)
GenrePop, R&B
ProducerLionel Richie, James Anthony Carmichael, Narada Michael Walden for Perfection Light Productions
Lionel Richie chronology
Can't Slow Down
Dancing on the Ceiling
Back to Front
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 American singer Lionel Richie, released on July 15, 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 several songs on the album. The album was released to generally positive reviews and it made No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 4 million copies. The album was Richie’s second with session guitarist Carlos Rios. Following this album's release, Richie went on a long hiatus, not releasing an album of entirely new material for another ten years.

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 film 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]


Professional ratings
Review scores
The Village VoiceB+[7]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[8]
Los Angeles Times(favorable)[9]
The Washington Post(mixed)[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".[8] He especially praised the track "Say You, Say Me", but found "Ballerina Girl" a "virtual anthology of Richie's worst saccharine excesses".[8] Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn found that "We Are the World" had left Richie "with a deeper sense of social purpose, and his attempts to infuse that sense into his traditional approach brings a tension to the new album that makes Dancing on the Ceiling his most satisfying collection."[9]

Music critic Robert Christgau of The Village Voice 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". His criticism centered on "Ballerina" for its mawkishness and lack of interest in some of the faster songs.[7] 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". 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".[6]

Chart performance[edit]

Dancing on the Ceiling was released on August 5, 1986.[3] The album sold 4 million copies in the US[1] and 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.[11] In South Africa initial shipments were 60,000 prerelease units.[12] To promote the album Richie went on an Outrageous 40-city concert tour, entitled "Outrageous". The first concert was in Phoenix, Arizona.[5]

Dancing on the Ceiling peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 200. The title track was the second biggest single from the album, reaching No. 2 in the US and No. 7 in the UK Singles Chart, falling behind "Say You, Say Me"'s earlier performance. Other Top 10 singles from the album include "Love Will Conquer All" (US No. 9, UK No. 45) and "Ballerina Girl" (US No. 7, UK No. 17). Meanwhile, "Deep River Woman" reached No. 10 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart.[13]


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.

Track listing[edit]

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

1."Dancing on the Ceiling"Lionel Richie
2."Se La"Richie5:22
3."Ballerina Girl"RichieRichie3:38
4."Don't Stop"Richie
  • Richie
  • John Barnes
5."Deep River Woman"RichieRichie4:35
6."Love Will Conquer All"
  • Richie
  • Phillinganes
7."Tonight Will Be Alright"RichieRichie5:06
8."Say You, Say Me"RichieRichie4:00
CD/cassette bonus track
9."Night Train (Smooth Alligator)"4:59
2003 reissue bonus tracks
10."Dancing on the Ceiling" (12-inch version)Richie
  • Richie
  • Rios
  • Frenchik
11."Se La" (12-inch remix by Steve Thompson & Michael Barbiero)Richie
  • Richie
  • Phillinganes
12."Don't Stop"Richie
  • Richie
  • Barnes
13."Love Will Conquer All" (Remix by Shep Pettibone)
  • Richie
  • Weil
  • Richie
  • Phillinganes


Credits lifted from the album's liner notes.[14]


Background vocals

  • Maxi Anderson (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Billie Barnum (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Melinda Chatman (Tracks 1, 2)
  • David Cochrane (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Kevin Dorsey (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Karen Jackson (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Marlena Jeter (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Fred Law (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Janice Marie (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Rick Nelson (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Brenda Richie (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Anita Sherman (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Karen Siegel (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Alfie Silas (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Phyllis St. James (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Stephanie Taylor (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Deborah Thomas (Tracks 1, 2, 7)
  • Carmen Twillie (Tracks 1, 2)
  • Julia Waters Tillman (Tracks 1, 2, 7)
  • Maxine Waters Willard (Tracks 1, 2, 7)
  • Leslie Smith (Track 2)
  • Lionel Richie (Track 4)
  • Suzee Ikeda (Track 4)
  • Marva King (Tracks 4, 6, 9)
  • Alabama (Track 5)
  • Richard Marx (Track 7)
  • Kitty Beethoven (Track 9)
  • Jennifer Hall (Track 9)

Hoopa Hollers on "Dancing on the Ceiling":

  • James Anthony Carmichael
  • David Egerton
  • Wayne Hargrave
  • Linda Jenner
  • Steve MacMillan
  • Greg Phillinganes
  • Kathi Pogoda
  • Cheryl Pyle
  • Carlos Rios
  • Maximo Rios
  • Dave Rosen
  • Kelly Ryan
  • Wibert Terrell


  • Producers – Lionel Richie (all tracks); James Anthony Carmichael (all tracks); Narada Michael Walden (Track 9).
  • Production Assistant – Brenda Harvey-Richie
  • Production Direction – Suzee Wendy Ikeda
  • Engineers – Calvin Harris (Tracks 1–8); David Frazer and Gordon Lyon (Track 9).
  • Additional Recording on Tracks 1-8 – David Egerton and Fred Law
  • Assistant Recording on Tracks 1-8– David Egerton
  • Assistant Engineers – Karen Siegel and Mark Smith (all tracks); Dana Jon Chappelle and Stuart Hirotsu (Track 9).
  • Mixed by Calvin Harris
  • Mix Assistants – Fred Law and Steve MacMillan
  • Mastered by Brian Gardner at Bernie Grundman Mastering (Hollywood, CA).
  • Art Direction – Johnny Lee
  • Photography – Aaron Rapoport


Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia 218,000[32]
Belgium (BEA)[33] Gold 25,000*
Brazil 200,000[34]
Canada (Music Canada)[35] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[36] 2× Gold 200,000*
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[37] Platinum 20,000*
Netherlands (NVPI)[38] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[39] Platinum 15,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[40] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[41] Gold 25,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[42] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[43] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


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  2. ^ Sloan, What a Feeling.
  3. ^ a b c Berry 1986, "Richie 'conquers all'".
  4. ^ a b Berry 1986, Richie 'conquers all'.
  5. ^ a b Moleski 1986, p. 24.
  6. ^ a b Thomas Erlewine, Stephen. "Lionel Richie: Dancing on the Ceiling". AllMusic.
  7. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Lionel Richie: Dancing on the Ceiling". The Village Voice.
  8. ^ a b c Decurtis 1986, Lionel Richie.
  9. ^ a b Hilburn, Robert (August 10, 1986). "Richie Advances the Politics of Celebration". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Joyce, Mike (August 17, 1986). "Recordings". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Grein 1986, p. 5.
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  34. ^ "A explosão". Jornal do Brasil. October 19, 1986. p. 54. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
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  36. ^ "French album certifications – Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling" (in French). InfoDisc. Select LIONEL RICHIE and click OK. 
  37. ^ "IFPIHK Gold Disc Award − 1988". IFPI Hong Kong. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  38. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Lional Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved July 5, 2019. Enter Dancing on the Ceiling in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  39. ^ "New Zealand album certifications – Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  40. ^ Sólo Éxitos 1959–2002 Año A Año: Certificados 1979–1990 (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. 2005. ISBN 8480486392.
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  42. ^ "British album certifications – Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling". British Phonographic Industry.
  43. ^ "American album certifications – Lionel Richie – Dancing on the Ceiling". Recording Industry Association of America.

Works cited[edit]