The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | Billy Joel’s new single is a profound invitation, apology to generations of listeners

Joel released his first single in nearly two decades entitled ‘Turn the Lights Back On.’
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
Feb 4, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Billy Joel performs “Turn The Lights Back On” during the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

World-renowned musician Billy Joel, known for household hits like “Piano Man” and “Vienna,” released an emotional single Thursday that echoes his greatest hits and showcases both musical and personal growth.

The single, entitled “Turn the Lights Back On,” lasts a total of three minutes and 58 seconds, with an encompassing crescendo from Joel’s iconic voice and piano playing to a full-bodied ballad of stringed instruments and drums.

Upon first listen, the piano portion is what caught my ear. The chord changes driven by the piano are both delicate and unpredictable, which creates a dynamic I find to complement Joel’s voice.

After subsequent listens, Joel’s voice and lyrics stand out as a message to his audience who have waited 17 years for the singer to release new music. The song’s lyrics speak of decaying love from complacency and the hope it is not too late to reconcile that love.

This message cuts deepest in the chorus when Joel amplifies the richness of the instrumentation, directly striking the heart with his vulnerable, passionate lyrics.

“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 layin’ in the darkness / did I wait too long / To turn the lights on?” Joel sings.

The song does remind me of his past classics. I don’t think you would find anyone saying this song defects from Joel’s style. It fits into his entourage of classics that feature piano playing and powerful lyrics.

However, there is a level of sincerity I wasn’t expecting from Joel. While this song doesn’t have the swagger of “Piano Man” or the self-encouragement of “Vienna,” “Turn the Lights Back On” feels intimate in a way I feel exceeds some of the classics.

Joel started his music career in 1971, over 52 years ago, and he has managed to remain popular amid a music business landscape that continues to change every day, which in itself is still a major feat.

Some may say Joel has fallen into the trap of musicians who have such well-known hits, that they only destined to play them over and over again until they die, never achieving the same notoriety with new music.

I’m not saying this song will overshadow “Piano Man,” but I think it sends a message to his fans that Joel still has what it takes to make compelling songs, and this one is worth a listen.

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About the Contributor
Jack Moore, News Editor
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from Cedar Rapids Iowa. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes."