I’ve seen some Billy Joel hate over the years, but this critic takes the laurel. I like some of Billy Joel and other stuff is kind of “meh”, but there’s no way he deserves the hard on this posturing jackass wants to beat him over the head with.
He’s ceretainly not alone. Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell listed Billy Joel as “The Worst Rock and Roller of All Time” in their book The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time, http://www.amazon.com/Worst-Rock-Roll-Records-Time/dp/0756750474/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233090710&sr=1-8
Their main gripe seems to be that what Billy Joel does isn’t Rock and Roll:
Davw Barry’s got not nice things to say about Billy in his various columns about Bad Songs.
I find the Guterman and O’Donnell book fascinating, but I don’t connect with it. To my eternal disgrace, I like Billy Joel. I clearly have no understanding of Rock.
Warning: Ad at the link in the OP has sound. Jackasses. (Not the OP, but advertisers who put automatic sound in their ads)
Made it about halfway through that drivel. The dude takes himself way too seriously. He’s a pissant with a keyboard. Billy Joel ain’t Robert Plant or Ronnie Van Zant, but he’s tolerable. Much more so than Manilow. Piano Man is one of my favorite mellow songs.
I like Billy Joel, and think he’s one of the best lyricists in rock. Admittedly, he’s more soft rock than hard rock, but he’s still pretty damn good.
The only serious argument I read from a Joel-hating critic was that the problem was the Joel really was a Broadway composer. And I think that’s dead on. If Joel were twenty years older, his work would be on Broadway, and it’s likely he’d be perfectly at home. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried his hand at writing a musical (Movin’ Out doesn’t count for anything*).
But whenever I first hear any Billy Joel song, I am always impressed by the quality of the lyrics.
*Unless you consider random jumping around without any regard to the beat of the music or how the entire mishmosh looks like on stage “dancing.”
Another great artist much maligned. Goodnight Saigon, James, She’s always a woman to me - all masterpieces.
I like Billy Joel. I don’t agree with the article’s characterization of a lot of songs, e.g.:
“Only the Good Die Young”: Contempt for the Catholic religion. I know: It’s spirited if anti-spiritual, but, still … I’ve heard some Catholic girls opine on its most famous line (“Catholic girls start much too late”), and they ain’t buyin’ it. B.J. is no James Joyce.
It’s such a fun song…and clever. Maybe it’s pop or rock; I don’t know. He made some observations, it’s a catchy tune, and if it isn’t James Joyce I don’t care. In fact, isn’t it supposed to be rebellious? Or this:
*Well, I really can’t stand the “man of the people” stuff. Like “Allentown” and "The Downeaster ‘Alexa.’ " Yeah, he’s a real working man, that B.J. Sure, other artists strike that pose, but somehow with B.J. the strain of his pretension is just too much to bear. *
I.e. God forbid a popular artist should champion causes, bring awareness to the masses? What planet is he on?
Overall, isn’t this an old angle? If something sells, it’s popular and therefore can’t be any good if you have taste. Criticize what someone else does so you look smarter than him? I can think of other acts with less talent and less to say.
I can appreciate his lyrics, but his music ain’t my cuppa. I don’t hate him, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d put him at a boring, vanilla, emotionless, flatline 5.
No, I disagree. The author gets pretentious in several places and I think his attitude toward Joel’s phoniness is inconsistent - is every wealthy musician who writes about poor people a faker, or can’t they be writing about what they see in the world? - but mostly I’d say he’s on target. I knew instantly that the author had to be from Long Island, because if you’re not from Long Island or at least downstate New York you probably don’t know how badly the whole region is drenched in Billy Joel fandom and how much he’s revered by many people. (How many times has he gotten drunk and flipped his car onto somebody’s lawn? 15? He probably landed on a fan’s grass every time.) Most of his work is ignorable, but if you live there for a while and don’t like what he does, it gets incredibly grating.
I’d have explained it a little differently but I think my point would be close to Rosenbaum’s: Joel’s lyrics mix shallow cynicism with mushy sentimentality in a way that rings false. Many people respond to this mix, but if it doesn’t work for you it’s very irritating. One of my brothers just loved “Leningrad,” for example, but it’s a maudlin and ridiculous song to my ears. And apparently it’s a true story, so I don’t know what that says for Joel’s writing. That’s not the type of song that really bugs me, though, it’s the faux-jadedness that irritates me the most- both Joel’s and his audience.
I’m not going to say all of his songs suck; for starters I’m fine with You May Be Right and Downeaster Alexa, and The Stranger is okay. We Didn’t Start the Fire sucks, although at this stage I don’t think that even needs to be said anymore.
It’s probably also true that the rock label doesn’t apply to him. I don’t see that as a big deal.
I love Billy Joel. I think The Nylon Curtain is a masterpiece.
I’m really not sure where this guy is coming from; all the crappy music out there over the years and he somehow fixates on Billy Joel as the worst offender?
And he really is only focusing on the lyrics; as Damone said about Cheap Trick in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”: “What about the tunes?”
Pretty poor IMO. Billy Joel is a great musician - wonderful chops and has written some of the most memorable tunes of all time (cheesy it might be, but I’m pretty sure that if you busted out and wrote “Just The Way You Are” for your SO you’d be drowning is sex for years).
Some of his stuff hasn’t aged well, and his fanbase is not exactly the coolest (middle aged lawyers driving Mercedes). But he isn’t the worst piano man out there, not by miles. I don’t even consider myself a fan, but if “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” comes on I’m gonna turn the radio up…
My opinion on the article was express in this post from BBQ thread on U2.
In the comments after the Slate article there was one that said in terms of the quality of their music, Joel was awfully similar to his sometime tour-mate Elton John. Basically, they both did a lot of interesting stuff early in their career before settling into a long period of bland mediocrity. I generally agree with that statement.
What? Aaron Neville is a rocker now?
This is tiring. He’s saying “not only is Billy Joel bad, all those who like his music are classless heathens as well.”
Seriously. If A sucks, and you like A, then YOU suck.
This attitude is well and good when we are discussing out likes and dislikes on a message board, but not so much when published for the masses.
Why is that? In any case I saw plenty of contempt for Joel in that article but little for his fans.
He wrote the front piece for a Disney movie. I don’t think you’re allowed to call your music rock and roll after that.
As I mentioned in the U2 thread, this guy obviously listens to Billy Joel a heckavu lot more than most of Joel’s fans. Methinks he protesteth too much. The stuff on River of Dreams, is in my opinion , Joel at his best. And even the author admits he likes the song, An Innocent Man. Some people take their pose too seriously, and the author is one of them.
Like I said earlier, if you live here it’s impossible not to have heard the songs he writes about. I’ve never bought a Billy Joel CD, I’ve never put one of his CDs or songs on at someone else’s house. (In full disclosure I did like Downeaster Alexa as a kid.) And yet I’ve heard every song listed in that article with the possible exception of She’s Always a Woman. It is unavoidable. Buying the box set was excessive and he could’ve proved his point without it, but there you go.
Geez, I thought I was a curmudgeon when it comes to rock music, but I’ve got nothing on that guy.
I’m no fan of BJ, but he’s not that bad. I don’t get the hate, and I hate more stuff than that Mikey kid.
Read it again. It’s there, barely disguised.
I’ve read it three times. Other than the part about the blogger, he’s talking about the musician.