CD Review: Lionel Richie

Just Go (Island/ Def Jam)

In a pop culture where demeaning, over-sexualized images of women are often the norm, Lionel Richie's world is an inviting one. Unabashedly sensitive, Richie's tunes are populated by flesh-and-blood women who are treated with goddess-like reverence. On Just Go, Richie teams up with a variety of producers: Christopher "Tricky" Stewart (Mariah Carey, Usher), Stargate (Ne-Yo, Rihanna) and Akon. The result is a more processed, chillier sound — both vocally and musically. Richie's trademark catchy melodies and smooth, easygoing charm, though, are very much intact. So are the straightforward lyrics. On the breezy Stargate cut "Pastime," Richie plaintively croons, "It would make me cry not to have you in my life/How could I go on breathing when you're the air that I'm needing." The Akon-produced title track finds Richie playing the part of a standup guy who only wants to whisk his girlfriend away to the Bahamas or, at the least, "prepare your meal and make your bed." Whether he's singing about the joy of finding the perfect woman ("Good Morning," "I'm in Love") or issuing a soggy plea for her return ("Through My Eyes"), Richie's songs exude an easy, laid-back cool. Even his party anthem "Nothing Left to Give" is more soothing than rousing. Every track on Just Go is a potential hit single; most of these songs are a good cut above average Top 40 fare and a solid affirmation of Richie's continued strength as master of the romantic song. Tierney Smith