Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

Still life with longing and mustache.
Still life with longing and mustache.

Lionel Richie and CeeLo Green are touring together. At first glance it seems odd, a Dungeon Family affiliate splitting time with someone I always picture wearing a turtleneck.

But here we are -- the tour is real and we must confront the idea enough to decide whether or not to buy a ticket. And actually I think I will; there are just so many grooves involved. Lionel and CeeLo just announced a Dallas date ("date" has never felt more appropriate) -- it's on July 11. Tickets go on sale Friday, February 28 at 10 a.m. via LiveNation. I told our esteemed web editor/weather shouter Gavin Cleaver about this. He laughed and asked me if I'd ever seen the "Hello" video. I have not. So we watched it together:

Gavin Cleaver: I mean, what? Is this some sort of set-up for a 1980s crime movie? Why is Lionel's jacket so pink? WHAT IS IN THAT BOOK?!

Kiernan Maletsky: Why is Lionel sad? Is it because barely anyone signed up for his class on perms?

GC: I feel like he is really upset about the Brooklyn Dodgers, though. I suspect he's not even the lecturer. His jacket is just so outlandish that he commands respect among the students.

KM: Maybe he's Billy Boy's parole officer. Also, some quick math reveals that the time between Eisenhower's presidency and this video is roughly equivalent to the time between this video and now.

If they shot a remake, the line would have to be, "When you went to prison, Lionel Richie was still a sex symbol."

GC: Was he, though? The thought is terrifying.

KM: I think so. The '80s were a different, more shoulder-padded time.

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

GC: So it turns out this is some sort of improv class, that is conducted by people who absolutely need acting lessons, while Lionel Richie watches them from a piano, pink jacket sleeves rolled up.

At least the keyboard hook has started.

KM: I have nothing to add. This setup could have been accomplished in 10 seconds.

GC: This setup could have been skipped entirely, and I would have had more respect for the video. Imagine your lecturer bursts out into song while you're trying to act?

KM: In this case it feels like mercy.

GC: How better to establish someone is blind than by footage of someone just handing them a white pole? I mean, she's blind, Lionel, not deaf. If you want be all longing about it, you'll probably need to try mime instead.

KM: Also, there's a reason Van Halen didn't write a song called "Hot for Student" and that reason is felonies.

GC: What's your play here, Lionel? I know the '80s were a different time, when pink jackets were acceptable (as was the music of Lionel Richie) but it doesn't look great that you're singing imagined love songs to one of your students. You're meant to be analyzing her acting skills. So she learns. Tuition is expensive.

KM: Not when the class is improv after hours at the local high school. Or, you know, based on the lockers, the bells and the 30-year-old actor in the backward cap, this is actually just high school. Definitely a felony.

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

GC: So, Lionel's seduction technique becomes clear - hang out in places a blind person wouldn't expect you to be, and stare at them.

KM: I do love this song, though.  

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

GC: Holy shit we just got footage of a predator about to pounce. Lord knows what Laura's group of friends saved her from there. But he was going straight for the hair, while singing about it. That's dangerous behavior.

KM: Yeah, so Laura's friends are just gonna ignore the fact that when they walked up to sit with their blind friend at lunch a teacher with a bushy mustache was a few inches away from running his fingers through her hair.

GC: "Hi Laura!" not, "Laura, did you know a man with a face like a horse was just inches from your hair?"

GC: Let's tackle the nub of this whole song. If she was looking for Lionel Richie, would she have found him already? Or is the fact that she can't see the reason she can't find him? Is she thinking to herself "I wish I could see, so I could find Lionel Richie, the man I'm looking for" the entire time?

KM: Though as you pointed out, presumably she's not deaf since her friends talked to her normally. So you'd think the singing would really lead her straight to him.

GC: "Why is there a man singing a mega-hit pop song in EVERY ROOM I GO TO?"

KM: "I bet he's got a cool haircut."

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

GC: Oh my God why have we gone back to the acting? Did we need to turn down the song to witness the magnificence and meaningfulness of that short piece of wooden drama?

"The thing Lionel loves most about this lady is that she cannot act to save her life," thinks the video director.

KM: Whereas Lionel is totally convincing as the drama teacher who is hopelessly in love with his student. So much so, in fact, that he has broken into her house, watched her shower and followed her into bed.

GC: "When Richies Attack"

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

KM: I stand corrected. He's merely calling his students at home and serenading them.

GC: How much do you think Lionel Richie has hated having to answer the phone for the last thirty years? If I knew Lionel Richie, every time he answered the phone to me with a friendly, "Hello?" I would bellow, "IS IT MEEEE YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?" We probably wouldn't be friends for long.

KM: That guitar solo is the sound of a rack of sensible women's clothing at Mervyn's (RIP).

GC: It's like a warm bath, in a room that smells of lavender, only you're being stalked by Lionel Richie and you have no fucking clue he's just standing there, staring at you, because you're blind.

KM: I'm losing the narrative a little. Does the phone call come after the acting class? Is this scene where he's alone at the piano before all that? Did he write a song to share his feelings and then practice it by following her around all day singing it to her?

Lionel Richie's "Hello" is the Most Confusing Music Video of All Time

GC "Mr. Reynolds. There's something going on in sculpture class. I think you should see it" is a sentence no one in human history had ever said before.

KM: And "Mr. Reynolds" better be the school psychologist, given that a student has just hand sculpted a bust of her teacher.

GC: But no. It turns out that "thing" was an impossibly bad rendition of Lionel "Reynolds" face, with a chin that could be used to bludgeon wildlife to death.





See also: -The Top Ten All Time Best Replacement Lead Singers in Rock and Roll -Songs That Have Hidden Messages When Played in Reverse -The Ten Best Music Videos Banned by MTV

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