Music Video of the Day: Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie (1986, dir. Stanley Donen)


I’ve done numerous music videos inspired by movies so far. Yesterday’s Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul is based off of Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Gene Kelly. However, this is the first one that not only explicitly remade a particular film, or part of a film, but also got the director of said film. Stanley Donen actually directed this music video for Lionel Richie.

It was shot by Daniel Pearl because of course it was. For those of you counting, that makes four music videos shot by Daniel Pearl that I have spotlighted so far. That is out of his around 450+ documented music videos.

According to Wikipedia, this was shot at Laird Studios in Culver City and at the LeMondrian Hotel in West Hollywood on a budget that was somewhere between $350,000 and $500,000.

The music video’s main influence is of course Royal Wedding (1951), which Stanley Donen directed. But it also has a nod to The Seven Year Itch (1955).

This music video was such a big deal at the time that HBO aired a half-hour special about the making of it.

Michael Peters did the choreography. He also did the choreography for Beat It and Thriller as well as Love Is A Battlefield.

Rodney Dangerfield and Cheech Marin make cameo appearances. Diane Alexander, who would later marry Lionel Richie, is also in the music video as one of the dancers.

Donen and Glenn Goodwin produced the music video.

While the song did well when it was released, it still made Blender magazine’s list of the 50 Worst Songs Ever. Of course they are using WatchMojo’s definition of “ever”. That means there are only four songs that pre-date the 1980s, they had to be “hit songs”, and somehow their staff had heard every “hit song” that had ever been “released” at the time.

Judging by the songs on the list, Blender magazine thought Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go–not on the list–is a better song than The Sounds Of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel–on the list. Or if we are to take its title for what it says the list is, it means Anger Is My Middle Name by Thor–not on the list–is a better song than Broken Wings by Mr. Mister–on the list. Let that one sink it. Kudos to the trolls who came up with this list. That is unless it was meant to be a parody of these kinds of lists. That’s probably a stretch. Regardless, it is amazing when you stop to think about it. This song was #20, mainly on the grounds that it was probably written with the music video in mind. That never happens.

All that said, there are far better Lionel Richie songs and music videos out there. I just happened to stumble upon this one the other day and it paired well with Opposites Attract that did a much better job being based off of an Old Hollywood movie–even if it did imply that Abdul has sexual relations with a cat.

Enjoy!

Footnote: One of the underlying themes behind Blender’s choices is whether the song offended them in some way, such as their portrayal of minorities. That’s rich considering one of their comments on Kokomo by The Beach Boys is:

“It’s all anodyne harmonizing and forced rhymes (“To Martinique, that Montserrat mystique!”) that would have driven Brian totally nuts had he not been totally nuts already.”

They also complain about We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel this way:

“Can you fit a cultural history of the twentieth century into four minutes? Uh, no

Despite its bombastic production, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ resembles a term paper scribbled the night before it’s due. As the song progresses, Joel audibly realizes he can’t cram it all in: The ’70s get four bellowed words amid the widdly-woo guitars and meet-thy-maker drums. The chorus denies responsibility for any events mentioned, clearing up the common misconception that Billy Joel developed the H-bomb.

Worst Moment: “China’s under martial law, rock & roller cola wars!”: No way does conflating Tiananmen Square with Michael Jackson selling Pepsi trivialize a massacre.”

Truly, the period between 1949-1989 is the cultural history of a century.

Yes, it is weird that a song about Billy Joel’s memories of growing up in a world that was already filled with a history of horrible things would go from fine details to jumping over decades with mentions of only a few things from them. It’s almost as if when you grow older, the things that occurred when you were a child affected you more than the ones you encountered later in your life. Specifically, his list of events start to drop off exactly when he would have turned 21 in 1960. What followed was an uprising during a frightening period most visibly shot down by civil rights leaders being murdered and then a further clampdown on that period of change afterwards. Crackdowns on freedom and living under the threat of nuclear annihilation would be relevant to kids growing up in the 1980s. After that, it makes sense that he would lose track of events and just see them as horrors that his generation has left the next one despite attempts to change things. He would also go through them fast since that clampdown did occur so fast that America went in the span of ten years from Woodstock to Reagan being the president-elect.

Oh, and he mentions Watergate, Punk Rock, Menachem Begin, Former Governor Ronald Reagan starting his bid for the Presidency, Palestine (the Israeli-Palestine conflict was still going on after Begin was elected), the airplane hijackings of the 1970s, the rise of Ayatollah in Iran, and Russians invading Afghanistan. That’s four things from the 70s, right?

I can also understand how they could misunderstand the chorus that is interwoven with the events that occurred in the world that Joel grew up with, lived threw as a young man, and is now seeing a new generation inheriting along with new problems as meaning that there’s a denial of responsibility for those events. It’s almost as if the song takes you through the life of one person who lived through a period when even with large numbers of people uprising, it still only caused changes, but not an alteration to the trajectory of the world that continues to burn and appeared to only speed up after those changes.

Finally, I am truly offended that Joel would end the song with China being under martial law and Coke & Pepsi running ads using rock & roll stars to sell soda being mentioned back-to-back. Being so confused at the end that he says “I can’t take it anymore” bothers me. Rock and Roll being a driving force in causing people in communist countries to uprise during the 80s with that same genre being used to make people think the important battle in their life is between two types of sugar-water truly is to “trivialize a massacre.” The Tiananmen Square protests were also the height of the popularity of Chinese rocker Cui Jian when his song Nothing To My Name became an anthem for the protestors. That reminds me, one of these days I’ll have to review the 1989 Soviet film Gorod Zero where Rock and Roll is portrayed as the savior of their country.

Sorry, I just had to mention that here since I already did that music video before I found this amazingly ignorant list. I also wanted to mention it because it really makes me think that this was purely intended to troll people or outright parody these kinds of lists. I would love to have an actual copy of the magazine so I would have more context than text excerpts.

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