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The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

Billy Joel makes a sentimental return to music at the 2024 Grammys

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Photo from “Turn the Lights Back On” official music video. The music video made use of AI de-aging to show the various stages of Joel’s music career and life. Billy Joel returns from a 17-year hiatus with the debut of his new single “Turn the Lights Back On”.

It seems like Billy Joel’s “Famous Last Words” in 1993 weren’t so final after all. 

After a 17-year hiatus from songwriting, New York music icon Billy Joel released the piano ballad single “Turn the Lights Back On” on Feb. 1. Known for seamless storytelling and catchy rhythms, Joel sang solo at the 2024 Grammys for the first time since 1994 where he performed “The River of Dreams”.  

The remarkable story behind the release of “Turn the Lights Back On” and Joel’s journey to “find the magic” again shows how his music is truly timeless. 

Co-writer Freddy Wexler was no stranger to the music industry prior to meeting Joel. Acting as a co-writer for artists such as Post Malone, Ariana Grande and P!nk, Wexler always wanted to write with his music hero. After meeting Joel at a restaurant, the two hit it off together and Wexler’s persistence eventually convinced Joel to help produce “Turn the Lights Back On.” 

The remarkability of the new single does not end there. In an appearance on the “Howard Stern Show,” Joel revealed that, upon hearing the recording for his new single, it was one of the first times in his career he did not hate the sound of his voice. It is no wonder then that Joel agreed to close the 2024 Grammys with “Turn the Lights Back On” and his 1980 hit “You May Be Right.”  

At the 2024 Grammys, it was clear that the musical influence of Joel transcends generational divides.  

In a backstage chat during the Grammys between Joel and pop superstar Olivia Rodrigo, she refers to Joel as “the blueprint” and when Wexler cites Joel as his inspiration for becoming a songwriter, Rodrigo adds, “Oh, really? I think we all kind of did.” 

After this backstage chat, Joel performed “You May Be Right” and “Turn the Lights On” back-to-back. Joel was joined by Icelandic cellist Laufey while performing his single, and it was evident that Joel still had the magic at 74.  

The 2024 Grammys and the release of his new single undoubtedly exposed the charming storytelling of the renowned “Piano Man” to a greater portion of younger generations. 

Although Joel ended his hiatus, he is still unfamiliar with the state of the current music industry. When asked about how he felt debuting new music after so long in an interview with American Songwriter, Joel replied: 

“It feels like Rip Van Winkle,” Joel said. “There’s so much that’s happened in the last 30 years. The state of the art has changed. I don’t know how the charts work. I don’t know how radio works. I just … play the piano.” 

“Turn the Lights Back On” made an impressive entry on the Top 100 at No. 62, his first debut on the Top 100 since his last entry in 1997. 

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Adrian Vazquez, Assistant News Editor

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