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Billy Joel's Back! Return of The Piano Man


LC

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Nice song, really nice... "Turn the Lights Back On." It's not "Only the Good Die Young" or "My Life," but this is 2024, so Billy has come up with an age-appropriate, introspective, moving piece. It's probably closer in feel to "Summer, Highland Falls," with it's beautiful rolling piano line.

Check it out. (And a PS to Eric, if you're reading... you can do this! Just pour out some feelings and do that melody thing you mastered!)

 

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I'm going to respond to my own post with a couple of comments. Three things I love about this: 

• Billy's voice. Man, he doesn't sound aged at all. He gives us a very strong vocal that doesn't sound any different than what we heard in the 1970s, '80, and '90s. 

• The rolling piano that I referenced above. It's relaxed and relaxing — kind of symmetrical, as he did with the above referenced classic, "Summer, Highland Falls."

• The lyrics. Billy is in his 70s, and he gives us a peek into his mindset, including regrets, apologies, and some hope. I love the line "And pride sticks out its tongue, laughs at the portrait we've become." 

TURN THE LIGHTS BACK ON (from BillyJoel.com)
Please open the door
Nothing is different
We’ve been here before
Pacing these halls
Trying to talk
Over the silence
And pride sticks out its tongue
Laughs at the portrait that we’ve become
Stuck in a frame
Unable to change
I was wrong

I’m late
But I’m here right now
Though I used to be romantic
I forgot somehow
Time can make you blind
But I see you now
As we’re laying in the darkness
Did I wait too long
To turn the lights back on

Here
Stuck on a hill
Outsiders inside the home that we built
The cold settles in
It’s been a long winter of indifference
Maybe you love me
Maybe you don’t
Maybe you’ll learn to
And maybe you won’t
You’ve had enough
But I won’t give up on you

I’m late
But I’m here right now
And I’m tryin’ to find the magic
That we lost somehow
Maybe I was blind
But I see you now
As we’re laying in the darkness
Did I wait too long
To turn the lights back on

I’m late but I’m here right now
Is there still time for forgiveness
Won’t you tell me how
I can’t read your mind
But I see you now
As we’re laying in the darkness
Did I wait too long
To turn the lights back on

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1 hour ago, LC said:

 (And a PS to Eric, if you're reading... you can do this! Just pour out some feelings and do that melody thing you mastered!)

 

Ditto from me, LC!   It would be pure joy to hear Eric's voice again.

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2 hours ago, susie b said:

I know they toured together for years and had their ups, downs and differences, but I swear I hear a touch of Elton's influence in this song.

I like a couple of BJ's songs and will add this one to my list. 

Totally Susie, that was my very first impression regarding the Elton John vibe. His disagreements with Elton John sprung from Elton trying to get him on the sobriety train of which EJ is an expert. This all happened while they were doing shows together and EJ was on his game but BJ wasn't.
But this new song, is very
simply stated with a common pop chord progression,  yet with those profound but relatable lyrics,
tugs at the heart. I am so impressed with his vocals, that is amazing! I love it.  When you take care of your voice and vocal chords,
this is the result.  Watch for him to perform this at The Grammy Awards Sunday if you are so inclined to check out an award show. Good timing LC!

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On 2/1/2024 at 6:34 PM, Kirk said:

That was Billy's "Brand New Year"! Really good tune- instantly identifiable as Billy Joel without aping his previous works!

I hope Billy doesn't adopt the same songwriting pace Eric did after "Brand New Year"! Lol 

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I don't see what you're all talking about. There's no big statement in the melody, rhythm or lyrics! The rhythm is boring, pretty elementary, no surprise element or change in time signatures that gives it interest, the lyrics are redundant and without dynamics and emotion and the melody is anything but romantic, especially for referring to lying in the darkness...being alone.  Aargh!  It's not moving, stirring, emotional or full of the big instrumentation we are so used to in Eric's style.  It didn't catch my attention as a winner!  My opinion - a big hype, but mostly a big letdown! 

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20 minutes ago, PattiCakes said:

I don't see what you're all talking about. There's no big statement in the melody, rhythm or lyrics! The rhythm is boring, pretty elementary, no surprise element or change in time signatures that gives it interest, the lyrics are redundant and without dynamics and emotion and the melody is anything but romantic, especially for referring to lying in the darkness...being alone.  Aargh!  It's not moving, stirring, emotional or full of the big instrumentation we are so used to in Eric's style.  It didn't catch my attention as a winner!  My opinion - a big hype, but mostly a big letdown! 

Just a matter of different strokes for different folks. If we are expecting something like these older artists wrote in their 20's, then it would be a big disappointment. It's everything you described PattiCakes but for some, that is enough, especially if it is relatable. For me, songs aren't always about big production numbers, bridges, key changes or crazy chord progressions. Most of the time they are about how they touch you. Billy Joel hasn't been singing, playing or writing for many long years. Just ten minutes ago I watched him perform this on the Grammys. It was well received by the crowd. Sorry to also say that we wouldn't be expecting Eric Carmen to write songs like he wrote in his 20s for that matter. These men are now in their mid seventies. Anyway, I give a thumbs up to anybody who still wants to write music and play it publicly. I'm all for promoting music. I appreciate your candor PattiCakes. 

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5 minutes ago, Rhonda B said:

Just a matter of different strokes for different folks. If we are expecting something like these older artists wrote in their 20's, then it would be a big disappointment. It's everything you described PattiCakes but for some, that is enough, especially if it is relatable. For me, songs aren't always about big production numbers, bridges, key changes or crazy chord progressions. Most of the time they are about how they touch you. Billy Joel hasn't been singing, playing or writing for many long years. Just ten minutes ago I watched him perform this on the Grammys. It was well received by the crowd. Sorry to also say that we wouldn't be expecting Eric Carmen to write songs like he wrote in his 20s for that matter. These men are now in their mid seventies. Anyway, I give a thumbs up to anybody who still wants to write music and play it publicly. I'm all for promoting music. I appreciate your candor PattiCakes. 

That's what's so great about music, it affects everyone different.  I think this is what Eric described as being a shoemaker,  making a good pair of shoes, but not a great pair.  This might appeal to many as good, and I would only expect EC to create a great piece of music because of his inspiration and his style.  Kudos to BJ for returning to songwriting, but I would expect more from a professional.  Thanks Rhonda for your opinion - it's nice to know what people think.

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Just to note, as I said in an earlier post, Billy Joel has been battling alcoholism and depression for almost 30 years. He has been in and out of rehab but always relapsed.   He has been clean for 2 years now. As explained on the Grammys tonight, a young songwriter encouraged Billy Joel to start singing and performing again and he collaborated with Billy Joel on this song. I think the big fanfare is more about the fact that he's singing again and releasing new music after so long. 😊🎶

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I hate to sound cynical here, but his voice on the recording sounds TOO good....like Billy from the 80's. I'm going out on a limb here and suspect AI was used on his voice. I saw his Grammy performance, and THAT was more realistic. I'm not not complaining at all. I think if AI can turn back the hands of time with some of these artists, I'm all in favor of it. I'd love to hear a new Billy Joel, Elton John, Eric Carmen album with vocals from the 70's. 

As far as the song, I like it but I can see where PattiCakes is coming from. I too get a little bored with it by the end.

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What today's technology is capable of could make anyone sound good. I believe it was Rosie O'Donnell who several years ago admitted that her singing on a Christmas album was pure computer correction of her voice. I had never heard of auto-tune before that. Imagine what AI is capable of today. I am waiting for Elvis to release some new recordings. I always wanted to hear Elvis perform the Beatle's "Oh! Darling" the way his voice sounded during the 1968 TV special (Think "If I Can Dream" sound, a bit raspy). It would be awesome. I attempted to do just that a few weeks ago using ChatGPT, but the reply was to the effect that due to copyright issues, the application could not comply with my request.

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A Billy backlash! 

It's nice to have a meaningful discussion on new music, isn't it? Even if we're not of the same mind. (Especially if we're not of the same mind!)

As always, I respect the opinions of others. Craig, now you've got me wondering whether there was a little "enhancement" in the studio to erase some years in Billy's voice. (I wonder if an artist of Billy's stature (or an engineer involved) would ever admit to as much.) And Patti, I get what you're saying about the song lacking a "big statement" or "big instrumentation," etc. (Lew, I don't get what you're saying, though! 😀)

But I'm with Rhonda. There is emotion in this song that I find touching. Well, to back up a little, I find Billy's return in itself to be moving. In my years as a music journalist (1980s-1990s), I interviewed Billy multiple times and got to know him and admire him. I mean, we weren't best friends or anything, but I'd see him backstage at concerts and he'd know my name and he liked and respected the magazine I edited, and we'd chat about things like my request and follow-up requests to do his authorized biography. (At the time, he said "I haven't done anything yet!" — even though it was after The Stranger, 52nd Street, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2, Nylon Curtain, The Bridge, Storm Front.... Lol. He just didn't wanna go there!)

Anyway, his catalog of music meant a lot to me then, and it still does. "Summer, Highland Falls," "Vienna," "Miami 2017," "I've Loved These Days," ""Rosalinda's Eyes," "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," "She's Always a Woman," the whole Nylon Curtain album — these and so many of his songs were and are very compelling. With some exceptions, his catalog has held up to repeat listenings. 

When Billy came out of nowhere with a new song, I couldn't believe it. But... my expectations weren't that we'd be getting "Allentown" or "You May Be Right" or "Only the Good Die Young" again. Heck, when you're in your 70s, you're just not in the same mindset as when you were 28, you don't have the same voice, you have a different energy. So I listened to his new "Turn the Lights Back On" in the same way I listened to "Brand New Year" by Eric Carmen 10 years ago. A different time, different expectations, different experience.

So I net out where Rhonda did. For some of us, what we hear in the new song "is enough, especially if it is relatable....  [S]ongs aren't always about big production numbers, bridges, key changes or crazy chord progressions. Most of the time they are about how they touch you."

t's not for everyone, I know, so, Patti, I don't discount your musical analysis. I think the one point of departure for us is your line that "the lyrics are redundant and without dynamics and emotion." Man, I do read emotion in the lyrics and I hear it in Billy's voice (AI or not).

I don't know for sure, but the lyric as a whole strikes me not as a rekindling of a relationship (maybe it is... I dunno) — but rather as a self-assessment. I think Billy is looking in the mirror and acknowledging mistakes and wondering if he has waited too long to wake up, so to speak. I could be wrong, but it feels autobiographical. Which is why I'm figuring it's a one-off. I haven't read or heard that he's got new music to follow. This feels like Billy popping up, looking back at his life now that he's in the September of his years, and telling us (and himself): I'm okay. 

I write too much! 

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10 minutes ago, LC said:

I haven't read or heard that he's got new music to follow.

LC, I don't know if you checked out the 3 minute interview I posted above, but there is hints of an album. They didn't want to come out and give a definite answer on that.

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I'm not a huge Billy Joel fan, but I like him and LOVE songs like "My Life" ( in the running for greatest pure melody ever ), "Uptown Girl", "Allentown", and  "Piano Man" ( though somehow I over heard it and wore it out for my listening pleasure ).

But I really dig this new one!.. thanks LC.

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50 minutes ago, Rhonda B said:

LC, I don't know if you checked out the 3 minute interview I posted above, but there is hints of an album. They didn't want to come out and give a definite answer on that.

I just watched it — nice little interview.  This is what I meant when I was telling you off-line that Billy (like Eric) was always a great quote source. Still is. I love what he said to the interviewer here — that in coming back like this, "he feels like Rip Van Winkle." How funny. He went on to say that everything has changed — he "doesn't know how the charts work, doesn't know how radio works...." Yes, it's a different world.  

His teaser comments about a new album.... Well, I guess it's time for me to be cynical: I'd bet we won't see a full 10- or 12-song album of new songs from Billy Joel. Hope I'm wrong. What he says in that interview leaves the door open, but he's also "reluctant" to go there. Doing a whole new album is a tough thing. Maybe we'll get at least a couple more one-offs?  

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I forgot about this.... PattiCakes, you'll love this: Billy actually did a new song in 2007, and it got roundly boo'ed here. It's on the thread below. The song link was busted, but I found it on YouTube and edited it back in. To be totally honest, if I had seen this thread back then, I'd have panned it too.

Then again, at the time of this thread, 2007, Raspberries were an active touring band, and we were being spoiled by the footage and live shows of Eric and the band in a revitalized mode. Billy, at that point, was stepping backward into a "great American songbook"-type song.

 

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