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Billy Joel is keeping the lights on

Billy+Joel+released+his+new+single+Turn+the+Lights+Back+On+on+Feb.+1+after+17+years+without+new+music.
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Billy Joel released his new single “Turn the Lights Back On” on Feb. 1 after 17 years without new music.

I’ve been a fan of Billy Joel’s music ever since I was 6 years old singing “Piano Man” in the kitchen with a wooden spoon for a microphone. So much so that my right arm dons a tattoo that reads “Vienna waits for you.” When I discovered he was releasing new music for the first time in nearly two decades, I was ecstatic.

Joel’s last releases in 2007 were “All My Life” and “Christmas in Fallujah,” with his last album, “River of Dreams,” released in 1993. Now Joel is finally back for an encore.

Joel released his new single, “Turn the Lights Back On,” on Feb. 1, and it’s quite obvious that even at 74 years old, Joel has no problem keeping the lights on.

There’s a variety of interpretations on the internet of the new song. ABC News views it as Joel regretting his behavior in a relationship and promising to mend his ways, while Billboard states that Joel is paying tribute to “time’s inexorable march,” touching on regret and waiting too long to do or say things we are meant to.

The speculations stretch far and wide across pop culture magazines and newspapers, but I think Joel had a different goal in mind while working on this song.

I interpret “Turn the Lights Back On” as a tribute to Joel’s fans. This could arguably be the last song he releases before he retires from the music industry, and I think it’s the perfect ballad to end a monumental career.

Where one could relate the lyrics to a lover, I think lines like “I’m late, but I’m here right now/And I’m tryin’ to find the magic/ That we lost somehow” could also pertain to reconnecting with his listeners. Since it’s been 17 years since his last release, he really is “late” when it comes to new music.

I’m not saying Joel’s music only has one meaning, because all fans know that contemporary geniuses like Joel leave the purpose behind their words up to the discretion of the listener. The song could also correspond with some of his typical themes like coming of age, life lessons and the passing of time, like in “Vienna,” “And So It Goes” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

While the themes of his music are constant, the style of “Turn the Lights Back On” resonates with some of his classic pieces. It bears similar chord progressions to “She’s Always a Woman” and “Just the Way You Are,” with bass and snare drum patterns similar to “The Downeaster ‘Alexa.’” I can’t neglect to mention the piano solo that resembles “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” as well.

The new release not only perfectly encapsulates his career, but also all the best themes and similar rhythms from hits throughout his years of creating top-tier music.

Joel is unique in the industry, as most artists from his period became more famous after death, or after they’re done making music. With Joel, he is a legend in the making, releasing a new album every 12 to 16 months between 1970 and 1993 and creating more than 120 songs.

Not only is he a fantastic artist, but he’s an even better performer. I saw Joel in concert with Stevie Nicks this past September as part of their ongoing Two Icons, One Night Tour. Seeing him live was so surreal, and a true test to how talented he really is.

His music has always resonated with a certain feeling of nostalgia, similar to the works of Elton John, Queen, The Eagles and The Beatles (who also had a new release just last year). Not to discredit the artists of today, but there’s something about the way musicians from this time period and genre seem to put their whole soul into their craft, and as a listener, I can feel it in every word.

Hearing new music from Joel during a time where I feel passion is missing from a lot of modern-day tunes feels refreshing. It makes me appreciate his music so much more.

There’s no announcement as to whether or not more singles or even an album will follow the recent release of “Turn the Lights Back On.” I can only hope Joel’s not done with music, but if he is, this is quite the exit track.

No matter what comes next, you really do know how to keep the lights on, Billy.

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A.J. Newth, Opinion Editor

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    Geraldine FindlayFeb 7, 2024 at 1:44 am

    Billy Joel is an amazing artist. The True Piano Man. I just love every song and especially Allentown. Well-done Billy bringing us a new song!

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