Picks and Pans Review: Louder Than Words
Although poking fun at tunes from The Big '80s has become the hip thing to do, that decade was far from a musical wasteland. Back then lush Lionel Richie ballads like "Truly" and "Hello" offered some of the yummiest sweets in the candy store of mellow quiet-storm soul. Louder than Words, Richie's first studio album since 1986's Dancing on the Ceiling, starts off with similarly tasty musical fruits of labor: the soothing shuffle of "Piece of Love," the stately, country and western-inflected "Still in Love" and the hip-hop smoothie "I Wanna Take You Down."
But then faceless, workmanlike balladry and lack of musical focus kick in and start to bog Louder down. Richie's mannered rap on "Don't Wanna Lose You," the first single, is especially grating, and the trendy new-jack swagger of "Change" sounds like a concession to cynics who might want to dismiss Richie, 46, as a dated, out-of-touch dinosaur act. By the time "Climbing" rolls along, he's loading—and overloading—orchestral flourishes onto sweeping feel-good sentiment. Alas, the big, bloated number sinks because Richie's confections always sound best when they're swimming in lite syrup. (Mercury)