Friday, December 02, 2005

Famous Last Words

Billy Joel has a new box set out, entitled My Lives. Naturally, to promote the box, he's doing a number of appearances (Ellen last week and Conan last night), touring the country, and popping up in a series of articles. The most interesting one I've read so far is from Slate and entitled "Billy Joel: Oh, The Squandered Genius!"

The article begins as a review of My Lives, but really serves as a reflection of Billy's career, not only limited to the box set. The writer makes a number of astute points about Billy Joel's career and the scope of the music he's released over his 30 years in the business. But I find that the crux of the article - that Billy Joel's downfall is that he's spent his life trying to establish credibility as a serious artist and has run away from his ability to create excellent schmaltz - to be faulty. Anywhere from the mid 70s through the 1980s, this would have been a valid point. (Indeed, to support his argument, the author uses songs and instances from the late 70s and early 80s, save for "We Didn't Start The Fire.")

But the fact of the matter is that Billy Joel hasn't given a shit about any of this stuff since 1993, when he released River Of Dreams. It's why he hasn't put out another album since then, save for his classical works. And it's why, in interviews, he's said he just has no interest in creating a hit single or fighting for radio airplay. I don't even think he's put on the self-serious airs purported by the writer during his tours with Elton John.

Hell, he even wrote it out plainly in the last song on River Of Dreams, "Famous Last Words:" "These are the last words I have to say/It's always hard to say goodbye/But now it's time to put this book away/Ain't that the story of my life."

Billy Joel may have been a musician fighting for something greater than his reputation, but I think he's now at peace with letting that go, and as such, I don't care if he ever makes another pop album again.


At 12/02/2005 2:49 PM, Blogger Z said...

With each passing day he looks more and more like Darth Vader with his mask removed.


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