Dancing on the Ceiling is Lionel Richie’s third solo album, recorded beginning in 1985 and released in mid-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 after Richie rewrote the album. The album was released to generally positive reviews and warm sales, peaking at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 and moving 4 million copies. Following the album’s release Richie went on a long hiatus, releasing his first album of entirely new material ten years later.
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 1981. His first two solo albums, Lionel Richie (1982) and Can’t Slow Down (1983), were runaway successes: Lionel Richie moved 4 million units, while Can’t Slow Down sold 10 million copies and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Dancing on the Ceiling was his third solo album.
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 White Nights, for which it had won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Work on the album was done while Richie was finalizing his work with “We Are the World”.
During early production, the album was intended to be titled Say You, Say Me and released in December 1985. 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”. Ultimately, the album’s title was changed to Dancing on the Ceiling, as the titular song was Richie’s next single. Recording for the album took over a year and a half, and Richie later stated that he tried to include a mixture of sounds.