The Grammy’s came and went Sunday night, and aside from the arrest of Killer Mike, Jay Z’s whining about Beyonce not winning all of the awards, and boorish behavior from Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, the broadcast barely moved the needle for home viewers. This comes as no surprise, as the American public has become disenchanted with rich celebrities posing and preening and spouting their political views.
However, that isn’t to discount the high notes from the evening. Though there weren’t many, the duet of “Fast Car” from Luke Combs and Tracy Chapman brought down the house for good reason. It was only the third on-stage appearance for Chapman since wrapping her last tour in 2009. The reclusive star shined alongside Combs as they performed last Summer’s biggest song.
However, the biggest moment of the night came when an American icon returned to the Grammy stage and performed his first new song in 17 years. The “Piano Man” Billy Joel performed his emotional new hit song “Turn the Lights Back On,” complete with a live orchestra and Joel behind the piano. The Piano Man brought the crowd to their feet with the emotional ballad about a relationship slipping away and the desire to rekindle it if it isn’t too late.
It is the first new material from Billy Joel in 17 years, and some speculated that it would never happen. Joel still tours but has taken an extended vacation from songwriting. He talked about it before the performance:“A lot of people have asked me, ‘Why’d you stop writing?’ Because I didn’t want to. Some people, maybe they have a great time with it. I kind of suffer with songwriting.”
Thanks to the influence of a longtime fan named Freddy Wexler, who also happened to be a songwriter, and years of persistent convincing, Joel decided to take another run at songwriting. The results have been magic. Joel said about the process: “I did a recording and I listened back and I didn’t hate my voice, which I usually do…So this is actually the first time I’m doing it in 30 years. The whole point of doing what I do was because it was so much fun to do when I first started. I kind of lost that after a while. Freddy got me to find the joy in it again.”
“Turn the Lights Back On” is only the 74-year-old legend’s third release since 1993s “River of Dreams.” Musical tastes have changed, but Joel’s soulful vocals and insightful lyrics still manage to touch a nerve with listeners. Joel last performed at the Grammy’s 22 years ago, when he did a duet of his classic “New York State of Mind” with legendary crooner Tony Bennett.
The “Big Shot” singer has enjoyed an illustrious career. He has been nominated for 23 Grammy Awards, with six wins to his credit. His first nomination came all the way back in 1979 for the legendary ballad “Just the Way You Are.” The song won Record of the Year and Song of the Year and helped launch a career that has now spanned six decades. Judging by the classic sound of “Turn the Lights Back On” and the instant success, Joel appears to be on the verge of renewed popularity.
The decline in popularity of shows like the Grammy’s underscores the decline in modern pop music. There has been a decided lack of talent and creativity in recent years, and many would argue that pop music is dying. New Billy Joel music, while a throwback to a different generation, may be what is needed to renew interest in the genre.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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