Billy Joel Releases “Turn The Lights Back On,” First New Music In 17 Years

Billy Joel Releases “Turn The Lights Back On,” First New Music In 17 Years

It has been a long time since the last new Billy Joel single. River Of Dreams, Joel’s last proper pop album, came out in 1993. That was 31 years ago. The number seems impossible, but I counted on my fingers, and that’s what they’re telling me. Joel followed that with the classical album Fantasies & Delusions in 2007, the songs “All My Life” and “Christmas In Fallujah” in 2007, and a few tribute-album covers — Jimmy Webb, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney — since then. Even those covers are all about a decade old now! So when Billy Joel drops a brand-new proper single, it’s a very big deal.

Last week, Billy Joel announced plans to release “Turn The Lights Back On,” his first proper single in 17 years, and that song has arrived. Joel wrote the track with Arthur Bacon, Wayne Hector, and producer Freddy Wexler. It’s a grand, stately piano ballad that, as Scott Lapatine points out, could’ve fit just fine on River Of Dreams. The songwriting and production are decidedly old-school, with tons of strings and pianos and big drum sounds. There are big melodies all over this thing, especially on the bridge.

“Turn The Lights Back On” shows that there’s very little old-man grit in Billy Joel’s singing voice. He hits big notes, and he sounds crystalline. This type of pop song doesn’t really exist anymore, at least at this cinematic scale, and it’s truly striking to hear a new song that achieves this level of sweep.

“Other people have tried to talk me into going back in and doing new material, and making the recordings, and I’ve always resisted it,” Joel tells Audacy Check In about working with Wexler. “I studiously avoided it because songwriting had become painful… I have this high bar. I said to myself, ‘If I don’t reach that bar, I beat myself up and I punched myself and I hate myself.’ So, I stopped doing it because I got tired of feeling like that.”

Apparently the song started as a Wexler composition. “The melody, the chords, the chord progression, even the time signature was something that struck me immediately, and that’s how I relate to music,” says Joel. “This particular lyric in this song, I’ve had these thoughts, I could have written these lyrics verbatim.”

Check it out below.

“Turn The Lights Back On” is out now on Columbia. Billy Joel will perform at the Grammys this weekend. It’ll be Joel’s first performance on that stage in 22 years, and he will almost certainly do this song.

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