If you wanted to dance all night long, would the namesake song be the greatest?
We’ve all been there when “that song” starts to play and everyone crowds the dance floor. And, we were curious what keeps people bopping on their feet hour after hour.
So we took a look at what makes a great dance song and why All Night Long might be the greatest.
Let’s hit the floor!
Who Originally Wrote All Night Long?
International superstar Lionel Richie originally wrote and sang the pop hit, All Night Long, in his 1983 album of the year Can’t Slow Down.
From Tuskegee, Alabama, Lionel grew up on the famous campus of Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University). He has fond memories of being surrounded by a warm and supportive community.
Lionel Richie’s musical career spans decades. It took off when he was a founding member of the funk band The Commodores, then soared higher as a solo artist starting in 1982. He is truly a music icon with an Oscar, Golden Globe, and four Grammy Awards. In 2017, Lionel Richie also became a Kennedy Center honoree.
Lionel performed his international chart-topping hit for a full nine minutes at the 1984 Olympics. It was the perfect fit for the closing ceremonies, “… the time has come, to raise the roof and have some fun.” Everyone at the Los Angeles Memorial coliseum rocked on the field and in their seats, right along with him.
What Was Lionel Richie’s Creative Process for His Hit?
Lionel uses everyday life to inspire his writing, perhaps reflecting on his childhood. For, All Night Long, his muse came from a trip to the Caribbean. Richie wanted the beat that everyone danced to.
Richie developed a playful calypso-inspired tune that would have everyone dancing in the streets. He pulled joyful words from different languages to give his song a multicultural vibe. “Karamu” is Swahili for a party with a feast. “Fiesta” is Spanish for a party.
In fact, there are so many dialects in Africa that he decided to make up his own words. The lyrics, “Tambo liteh sette mo-jah! Yo! Jambo jambo …” could mean hello or welcome.
What Popular Covers Are There of All Night Long?
Bands can raise a crowd to the dance floor covering the Richie classic All Night Long. Richard Perry replicated the song’s party atmosphere in his 1985 DeBarge hit Rhythm of the Night. Two popular covers of the Richie song are by the Hindley Street Country Club and artist Jason Mraz.
Hailing from Adelaide, Australia, the Hindley Street Country Club did what they do best. They created a live recording, matching Richie’s style note for note. You get the party vibe. Virginia native Jason Mraz lays down his R&B groove. As the song builds to its familiar beat, you can hear his edgy style.
The musicality of both renditions is wonderful. But we think Lionel Richie’s original version is the best. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though, and HSCC and Mraz created excellent performances.
What Makes a Song a Great Dance Hit?
What is it about a great dance hit that keeps us moving?
Most would agree that the right tempo sets the best pace. Neuroscientists at Aarhus University in Denmark reported that danceable rhythms have the right amount of gaps and breaks in the beats. Your brain wants to fill those gaps with body movement, naturally propelling you through the song.
They also learned our favorite tunes require balance. Regardless of your chosen genre, such as pop, disco, or hip-hop, the songs can be neither too simple nor overly complex.
A syncopated beat with a layer of rhythms gets us moving. Each component of the song, like the drums, guitar, and vocals, adds nuances that subtly get our feet tapping and shoulders swinging.
So, Is All Night Long the Greatest Dance Song?
Ironically, All Night Long is not in the top ten or even fifty of many dance song rankings.
In Top40 Weekly, one of the biggest online archives of U.S. songs, Lionel Richie’s dance hit ranks a mere sixty-three. The Commodores’ classic Brick House rounded out the top ten. And, music and entertainment site LiveAbout listed their top twenty-five dance-pop songs from the past four decades. Lionel Richie’s well-known classic wasn’t in it.
Many of the high-ranking dance classics stand the test of time. Chubby Checker’s version of The Twist came out in 1960 and is still ruining knees. We didn’t see Pharrell William’s Happy, the only single from the movie soundtrack for Despicable Me 2. Yet, many families bounce to this one and know every word.
What Is Considered the Best Dance Song Ever?
Slant Magazine put Donna Summers’ 1977 I Feel Love at the top of their one hundred best dance songs. It has a futuristic syncopation that underpins the song and elevates her breathy vocals.
Top40 Weekly listed The Village People’s Y.M.C.A. as their number one. Not just a foot-tapper, the song is an arm workout while dancers imitate the letters during the chorus. LiveAbout topped their twenty-five best dance-pop songs of all time with Gloria Gaynor’s version of Never Can Say Goodbye. The disco classic is part of a nineteen-minute-long mix used in dance clubs.
Each list reflects the personal style and musicality of the listener. Each list is also a shuffle of well-known classics from artists such as Madonna (En Vogue) and Deee-Lite (Groove Is In the Heart) and so, so many more. One thing in common, they all get the syncopated tempo just right.
All Night Long Might Not Keep You Dancing Too Long
All Night Long meets the researchers’ criteria for a great dance hit. Richie has a multicultural calypso style that’s joyful and moving. And while it propels many onto the dance floor, it’s not the greatest dance song of all time.
What would be at the top of your list of the greatest dance songs of all time?