Stipulated: This is all one listener’s opinion. “Close to the Borderline,” Glass Houses Just about the hardest rocking-out he ever recorded, and he did it pretty well. Has more of that Innocent Man lightness and exuberance than most of the stuff on his later records, and benefits from it. 74. A century from now, if you want a wry but ultimately affectionate look at Long Island middle-class life circa 1976, you could do a lot worse than Brenda (sorry, Brender) and Eddie, their paintings from Sears, and the Parkway Diner. But the ranking draws on 30 years of soaking in these songs, plus multiple repeat playings of every one over the past three months. “I Go to Extremes,” Storm FrontAs catchy as a single ever was. song, a bizarre vocal break — he drops an octave and throws in an R&B turn, then snaps back to the sensitive-guy voice — feels like it fell in from Mars. 93. Billy Joel Turnstiles (1976) Eliminated after the semi-final : "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" She's Got a Way (#26) 2. 25. “When in Rome,” Storm Front I’m surprised this didn’t click as a radio hit, because it hits every mainstream note of that era — leaving it sounding a little generic today. No focus.”, Three Dwayne Johnsons of Varying Sizes Star in First. Everybody Loves You Now (#32) 3. “Turn Around,” Cold Spring HarborAnother first-album ballad, probably not worth reviving. Unimaginable that it’d be a hit today — this is another one that’s totally out of style — but it’s a particular weakness of mine, even though it’s not about much of anything besides, y’know, pressure. 27 Notable New Releases Over the Next Two Weeks, Betty White Celebrates Her 99th With Carol Burnett Feeding a Baby Elephant. Not a very interesting idea — essentially “Yeah, I can sometimes be an ass, but I’m fun, too” is a sentiment that covers about three-quarters of the population — but a well-wrought song if you accept that up front. 6. Billy Joel. A sequel to “Piano Man,” once the protagonist is out of the crummy bar and has a couple of albums under his belt. The false ending is a little cheap. 77. “A Matter of Trust,” The BridgeClosest thing he’s ever made to a Queen-style stadium anthem to play at sporting events, with a chorus that benefits from a lot of people singing along. “Christie Lee,” An Innocent ManYeah, it’s dated, but c’mon: If you were reading gossip columns in the heyday of Page Six, the Christie Brinkley songs (of which there are several) are pretty nearly irresistible fun. “Nobody Knows But Me,” single, 1982A kids’ record, made for a CTW compilation album. Maybe Catholic girls start much too late, maybe they don’t, but either way, it’s funny as hell. 4. 114. 75. Might’ve been a lot better with a rewrite. Bernie Goetz? You gotta stop somewhere. I’ve listed which Billy Joel album they first appeared on and, if different, the album containing my favorite rendition. But stare down the rest of the lyrics: They’re plainspoken and pretty okay. Doubly poignant because his mother didn’t have it so easy, and their relationship was not always smooth (cf. No more chip on his shoulder, secure in his talent, out Tony Bennett–ing Tony Bennett. It’s an amazingly accurate (and completely unexpected) Elvis Costello pastiche, missing only the organ part. 23. The weakest song on an album even Joel doesn’t think much of. Armie Hammer Says He’s ‘Genuinely Sorry’ For Calling Woman ‘Miss Cayman’ in Vid, The Miss Cayman Universe Committee released a statement saying that the Committee was “very disturbed by the video.”. “And So It Goes,” Storm FrontA better song on Joel’s weakest album, maybe because the sentiment isn’t very complicated. “Even rode my motorcycle in the rain” is a pretty dumb line, which pulls it down on the list, and it loses a couple more points for the repeat-and-fade. Apparently Ellen was one of the first people to learn of his existence. “Ain’t No Crime,” Piano Man Elton-ish record with a lot of backing vocals. 80. “The Night Is Still Young,” Greatest Hits An odd and unique one-off recording, with Joel’s voice multi-tracked. “Surprises,” The Nylon CurtainOne of several Beatles tributes he’s recorded. “Where’s the Orchestra?” The Nylon Curtain The performance on the album is a little low-energy, but it has interesting lyrics, with an unexpected callback to “Allentown” buried in the last verse. “The Entertainer,” Streetlife SerenadeThe Piano Man finds success! The unintentionally hilarious video may be affecting my judgment a little here. I’m guessing that Joel also does because, even though it was never a hit, he still performs it regularly. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” Piano ManIs the end of the song, when he inserts himself, cheesy or charming? The synths sound terrible now, and the petulance is creeping in, which does him no favors. That said, appreciation does not mean blindness, and Joel himself would agree that not every song on every album catches fire (though he did light it, and we tried to fight it). “Why Judy Why,” Cold Spring HarborAnother very early song that sounds like it was made by an entirely different person. The lead single from his fifth studio album The Stranger, it became his first pop top 10 hit peaking at #3. (Benefits by comparison with Sting’s “Russians,” a similar, cheesier record.) 104. 56. “Falling of the Rain,” Cold Spring Harbor Screams 1971 in a weird, Pippinish-hippie way that doesn’t seem to come from a natural place for Joel: “misty satin dreams” and “wooded glades”? 90. “That’s Not Her Style,” Storm Front Another dated-sounding track, but the lyrics are actually pretty okay — this is (presumably) one of his Christie Brinkley songs, several of which are more charming. Fast piano, banjo, even a jaw harp. This song literally fought for its freedom through its composure, vocals and lyrics. What’s the deal with the, Music Producer Phil Spector Is Dead at 81. “Nocturne,” Cold Spring HarborQuasi-Chopin instrumental — though there are unrecorded lyrics — that absolutely refuses to stick in the mind. “Piano Man,” Piano Man Scoff if you will, but you’ve probably just heard it too many times. Also, arguably the best vocal recording he ever made: His voice is really supple, midway between his early quavery thing and his later baritone. 115. 96. Readers’ Poll: The Best Billy Joel Songs of All Time Selections include ‘Vienna,’ ‘Captain Jack’ and ‘Goodnight Saigon’ His Lawn Guyland worldview comes from an honest place, and when he writes about, say, Anthony (who works in a grocery store, saving his pennies for someday), that guy rings true. 14. Kind of a shrug, in the end, but a pretty one. 17. Albums don't get much better than this, and The Stranger stands as living proof of just how great Billy Joel is as a songwriter. But “We were sold a bunch of nonsense” is a thoughtful lyric in this context. 71. “Real-estate novelist” is a great, vivid three-word characterization. “Goodnight Saigon,” The Nylon Curtain Another argument about authenticity appears. 111. “52nd Street,” 52nd Street Sounds like one of the Ray Charles duets without Ray. “Blonde Over Blue,” River of DreamsNicely written first verse about being lonely at night, but it goes boring after that. Steve Martin Happy to Get COVID Vaccine, Less Excited to be Old Enough to Get It, Groove to the Official Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Inauguration Playlist, The 40 Best Horror Movies on Hulu Right Now, What time is it? 22. *Sorry, there was a problem signing you up. 1. “Shameless,” Storm FrontNo piano! 32. “Getting Closer,” The Bridge Repetitive and plodding. 72. Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake Confirm Arrival of Quarantine Baby, Phineas. 88. A great next-phase–New Wave pop song, one that deserves to come out of the trunk. “Laura,” a much less affectionate view). 10 of the best Billy Joel songs 18 Feb 2020, 12:07pm Gallery: From Katy Perry’s Trump skeleton to Adele’s middle finger: the most controversial Brit Awards moments – in pictures Click on up and down arrows to affect item's ranking Add item. I just don’t hear it — I think it’s pretty but not great. “James,” Turnstiles Admittedly a little watery, but in the end, it’s a small, personal song about a mysterious broken friendship. Irritable Billy makes an appearance, but it’s still a solid song. Not profound, but a superior piece of pop craftsmanship. “This Is the Time,” The Bridge Another ’80s-prom anthem, and I think you have to be a real churl to hate it. It went on to win Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. “The Mexican Connection,” Streetlife SerenadeAn instrumental that sounds like the rights-free music people use in YouTube videos. 43. 81. 20. 62. With the melody sampled many times over in today’s pop culture, this performance version of the song just showcases how talented Billy Joel is. 63. Literally forgettable. “Tomorrow Is Today,” Cold Spring HarborTwo minutes into a rather quavery M.O.R. Anthemic, a little soft. 31. Word. Uptown Girl. “The Stranger,” The StrangerA little self-conscious, a little arty (that whistled intro). Billy Joel is the closest thing Madison Square Garden has to a sure thing — certainly more than the Knicks or the Rangers or the Liberty. He still plays it in concert now and then, and has been known to introduce it as “kind of an obscure song”; it shouldn’t be. 58. 36. I like this one, probably more than most people do. (He really hated L.A.) Much better in live later recordings, where the piano sounds cleaner, the violins are gone, and he sings it better. “Storm Front,” Storm Front Surprising that this one didn’t end up in Twyla Tharp’s Movin’ Out, because it’s got a punchy, big sound that would translate well to a Broadway pit. 95. “Stop in Nevada,” Piano ManWhy is a guy from Long Island writing a fake-Western song? 41. 10 of the best Billy Joel songs 18 Feb 2020, 12:07pm Gallery: From Katy Perry’s Trump skeleton to Adele’s middle finger: the most controversial Brit Awards moments – in pictures The Stranger is the fifth studio album by American singer Billy Joel, released in September 1977 by Columbia Records.It was the first of Joel's albums to be produced by Phil Ramone, with whom he would go on to work for all of his albums up until his 1986 album The Bridge.. “All You Wanna Do Is Dance,” TurnstilesOne a few songs on this list with misplaced reggae inclinations. 118. This one doesn’t hold a candle to his other songs on the same turf, like, say, “Just the Way You Are.”. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” The Stranger Only the goofy-awkward “heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack” keeps this one out of the top ten. “An Innocent Man,” An Innocent Man Hard to think of a rock star as an innocent, but he really was — don’t forget that he was repeatedly conned out of millions of dollars by his managers and handlers. But “Gotta have a hit / So they cut it down to 3:05” is clever, for sure. ), 108. I, of course, was correct.). “You May Be Right,” Glass HousesGood straight-up power pop song. You can also knock ten points off for that uncomfortable “sit at home and masturbate” line, which has been filling arenas with uneasy giggles for 35 years, especially when “pick your nose” comes along a few lines later. Goes on forever, though. 8. 40. Billy Joel spent the first 22 years of his career making pop albums, and the last 20 years performing that music all over the world. “You Look So Good to Me,” Cold Spring HarborA corny ballad, justifiably forgotten. Glass Houses ... Limp Bizkit: The Rise & Fall In 10 Songs 10 Rock Bands That Completely Avoided The Sophomore Slump 10 … 110. 94. Marking a striking change in Billy Joel's backing band's line-up, Storm Front was released in 1989 and saw the singer reach for new heights. 49. Ground rules: I’ve limited this to the 114 songs Joel wrote and recorded on his 12 studio albums, from Cold Spring Harbor (1971) through River of Dreams (1993), plus seven additional singles he has released over the years. Sweet if not deep; a little out of place on the album, but that’s okay. Billy Joel scored his one UK Official Singles Chart Number 1 in 1983 with Uptown Girl, which came from his multi-platinum album An Innocent Man. “Allentown,” The Nylon Curtain A lot of people think this is a terrible song. Alright, it’s arguably bogus: He didn’t actually go fight in Vietnam. You\'ll receive the next newsletter in your inbox. It’s more of a gut feeling ranking, a summary of the overall effectiveness of the many things that can make Billy Joel songs enjoyable. “Code of Silence,” The BridgeCo-written and sung with Cyndi Lauper. And hates his record company, and writes about it. • Too many sound effects. Recording is wavery and soft, and I’d be curious to hear a cover version that perhaps brings out whatever the song has in it. Inauthentic, and it shows. Cynthia wrestles with whether or not to invite her father to her pandemic wedding, while Kandi gets the girls together for a good cause. 89. as my colleague Jody Rosen has persuasively written, “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),”, Behold Leslie Knope’s Awful Version of ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’. This one tells guys to risk rejection and be honest and vulnerable with their crushes, and even though you know it probably didn’t go well for some of those nerd-boy listeners, it’s a hard song to hate. 50. “This Night,” An Innocent Man A strong vocal performance on a mostly excellent album, but borrowing the Beethoven “Pathétique” for a melodic line was a terrible idea — it reads like a pointless play for respectability — and it weighs down the already-somewhat-leaden lyrics. 67. Joel grew up in Brooklyn, New York and wrote the song after returning to the city after a four-year hiatus in Los Angeles. It’s been 21 years since Joel released a new pop album, yet he sold out the arena 12 times in 2014 alone, and he’ll play his second (also sold-out) show of 2015 on February 18. I am in his camp. It does have about the purest, cleanest production he ever had. 84. William Martin Joel aka Billy Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist.Commonly nicknamed the “Piano Man” after his first major hit and signature song of the same name, he has led a commercially successful career as a solo artist since the 1970s, having released twelve studio albums from 1971 to 1993 as well as one studio album in 2001. Billy Joel performing at Madison Square Garden, April 15, 2016. “All About Soul,” River of Dreams Another from the Depression Series that had many of the ingredients to be a hit but didn’t have the snap to get there. Comes from a good place — Long Island fishermen do indeed have it tough; he probably knows some of those guys, going way back; the whole scene feels honest — but the synths and production have aged terribly. 112. Every Billy Joel Album Ranked Worst To Best. 9. Falls down our list for that “nonononono biiiiig shottttttt didnja” line he sings toward the end, which is just ridiculous. Too many songs have a chin-jutting defiance, an insistence that I Am an Artist to Be Taken Seriously, as subtext. Tomorrow Is Today (#58) 37. A mature guy, doing the standards thing — except it’s a standard he wrote himself. “Modern Woman,” The Bridge Spirited, and sorta fun — you can really picture this as the music behind a quick-cut montage in an ’80s Danny DeVito movie — but the cheese factor is very high. 101. “Got to Begin Again,” Cold Spring Harbor Another small but nicely wrought song that someone should dig up and rerecord. Billy Joel was was never a Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa, out to subvert the conventions of pop music; his strengths are plainspoken language, melody, and (of course) piano, and the songs that depend most on those qualities tend to be better than the ones where he gets artier. Billy Joel The Stranger (1977) Eliminated after the final : "Vienna" Eliminated after the final : "Vienna" 3: 3. That’s about a quarter of the songs he’s written and recorded. Why musicians are falling back into addiction during lockdown. “Everybody Loves You Now,” Cold Spring HarborSuper-catchy, bouncy piano, sneery. “Honesty,” 52nd Street Heart-on-sleeve vulnerability. 45. First verse is the best. “Baby Grand,” The Bridge The big Ray Charles duet, a bookend to “Piano Man.” A great, heartfelt performance from both of them, but the song itself is a weird extended metaphor that doesn’t entirely come off (the only one who sticks by you is your piano … or whatever it is your piano represents). We rely on advertising to help fund our award-winning journalism. “Famous Last Words,” River of Dreams“These are the last words I have to say”: Joel’s last song on his final studio album, apart from some one-off releases. Sits well on the album, though not super-interesting when taken on its own. They used to beat him up for his perceived lack of edge. “Streetlife Serenader,” Streetlife Serenade Maybe a little too long, and yes, it’s about the emptiness of pop-star-hood — “shoppin’-center heroes” — but, hey, write what you know. Not the most ambitious song; simple structure, simple lyrics, and there’s nothing bad about it. “Shades of Grey,” River of Dreams “Dad rock” is a cheap label, but this is pretty much it; sounds like a lot of session musicians without a center. “Through the Long Night,” Glass HousesHas a sewing-machine piano line that gets sleepy, but a nice ballad. 64. I’ll also give you that the piano performance is among his best. The straightest of straight-up ballads, I grant you, but this is Billy Joel’s “Yesterday,” and “clevah conversation” makes it all his own, because Long Island. Billy Joel The Stranger (1977) WINNER : "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" WINNER : "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" 2: 2. 69. Billy Joel. 2. 73. A Matter Of Trust (1986) All About Soul (1993) All For Leyna (1980) Allentown (1982) An Innocent Man (1984) And So It Goes (1989) Angry Young Man (1976) Baby Grand (1986) It’s about an imaginary friend, and it’s much better than you’d ever guess. Better known, perhaps, for the Garth Brooks cover version, and if you don’t hate that Nashville sound, a good one. I disagree. New York State Of Mind (Turnstiles, 1976). The song was based on a line in the Sherman Brothers' song 'You're Sixteen', and was helped by its cutting edge (at the time) video, featuring cartoons mixed with live-action sequences. 12. Why didn’t I put it dead last? Pretty strong cut for one that few people remember. “Get It Right the First Time,” The Stranger Joel calls this the weak link on one of his best albums, and I’ll admit that it sounds like the theme to a funny-cops sitcom that never happened. You hear the first verse, and it’s pretty square but okay — and then he sings it again, in French, and you cringe. Not terrible, but loses a lot of points for the awkward “no one ever has to feel like a refugee,” and the weird rolled-R delivery of “Mexican rrreefers.”, 83. • The songs that rise to the top are, with a few exceptions, the purer ones. Is it very pretty? Not terrible, but ultimately not very interesting, either. 12. A Great American Songbook song, written 20 years too late to have made it into the canon. Sinatra could’ve recorded it; Tony Bennett did; many others will. 106. “New York State of Mind,” TurnstilesEvery era produces a couple of standards about New York City, and this one more than holds its own, between Comden and Green on one end and Jay Z and Alicia Keys on the other. When we’re all in the mood for a melody, he gets us feeling alright. “Rosalinda’s Eyes,” 52nd StreetJust about every male singer-songwriter records a mom song; this is a good one. God bless TikTok: at last, we’re reviving the saucy sea shanty! Sleaford Mods: Spare Ribs, review: when you're this angry and inventive, who needs tunes? (As fans know, Cold Spring Harbor was butchered on its release; I used the remastered boxed-set version to give those songs a fair shake.) Billy Joel Cold Spring Harbor (1971) 1. 79. But it’s a vivid, thoughtful song about guys he clearly knew well. “I’ve Loved These Days,” TurnstilesOne of the better songs on this album, and I’m surprised it hasn’t become more of a standard. Why are all those CBGBs acts getting all the love?” attitude is off-putting. Has Covid ruined Britain’s next generation of stars? “Sleeping With the Television On,” Glass Houses The best Billy Joel song that was never a hit. Peaked at #3 on 18.02.1978. ), the iffy rhymes (“James Dean” with “winning team,” among many others), the double mention of the Dodgers. 97. A really solid performance of a not very interesting song. 52. Would be curious to hear it in a cabaret setting. 26. Joel’s recording is not bad at all, but if only someone like Bobby Womack had given it a whirl! I grew up right off the Jersey Turnpike, halfway between Levittown and Allentown, during the years when he was on the radio every day. 6. I’ll admit that the brake screech in “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” is fun. “All for Leyna,” Glass Houses A pretty intense, pretty good stalker song. But that whole “Hey, what about me? 42. “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” Turnstiles That date sounded deep in the future back in 1976, didn’t it? 121. The shattering sound that opens Glass Houses, the helicopters in “Goodnight Saigon,” TV static and dial tones: All are gimmicky, and most are cliché. The big piano breaks are old-fashioned but not bad. 38. Has aged better than you’d think. Does that minor/major/minor/major step-down chord progression that Paul McCartney made his signature, with added George Martin shimmer. Log in or link your magazine subscription, Photo: Maya Robinson and Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images, The Complete Works: 121 Billy Joel Songs, Ranked, Jamie Lynn Spears Implicates Elon Musk in the Death of Her Cats, Here’s How to Watch the 2021 Presidential Inauguration of Joe Biden, Simon & Schuster Cancels Senator Josh Hawley’s Book After Capitol Riot. We’ve reached the point where it’s no longer possible to give Natalie the benefit of the doubt. (Although I recently had an argument with someone who claimed that line was junk. As the action shifts to Michael’s courtroom, his guilt tags along. 54. People who write paeans to the suburbs, on topics that sit on the cusp between white-collar and blue-collar, are unfashionable these days. • His Achilles’ heel is a recurrent, petulant demand for respect. 105. An extremely commercial song of the ’80s, recorded as a movie theme. Bring it out at your high-school reunion, and watch the couples start to slow-dance. *An earlier version of this post said Billy Joel was performing at Madison Square Garden tonight. • He’s best when writing about his own time and his own world. I’ve ranked songs based on each song’s best version. Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run) “Elvis Presley Boulevard,” B-side, 1982 An offcut, rarely heard and better than you’d think; worth seeking out for a listen. Very typical big-’80s sound, with synths and echo that haven’t aged well. “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” Turnstiles Poorly recorded — the bass overwhelms it — and the studio cut sounds weak and wan, but underneath all that, there’s a well-wrought pop song in hiding. 1. “C’était Toi (You Were the One),” Glass HousesOh man. “State of Grace,” Storm FrontAfter more than a few listenings in the past month, not a single lyric from this song stuck with me. Single. “Two Thousand Years,” River of DreamsHe’s reaching for something philosophical and trying for a big idea, but it doesn’t quite get there, and the lyrics wander. Nice little prelude to … something. Outrage can bring greatness to art; irritability, not so much. (The Beatles’ “Michelle” has the same problem, by the way. “Half a Mile Away,” 52nd StreetAs tight a commercial-radio song as ever recorded. 13. “Souvenir,” Streetlife SerenadeJoel’s shortest recorded song. New York State Of Mind was influenced by his time working with Ray Charles, who he’d duetted with on the song “Baby Grand”. “A Room of Our Own,” The Nylon CurtainThe staple standup-comic territory of “Hey, men and women are different, you know?” in convenient pop-song form. Was he on vacation? “Pressure,” The Nylon CurtainYou do, in fact, have to deal with pressure. The Nylon Curtain. “She’s Right on Time,” The Nylon Curtain Punchy performance, but the lyrics are thin, without much staying power. “Don’t Ask Me Why,” Glass Houses Not bad at all, and very, very, catchy, but makes you wonder: What does this tropical-hotel setting have to do with anything? 46. The argument is headed in this direction: He’s not quite the hard-rock star he sometimes tried to be, but he’s a better pop songwriter than you remember, and sometimes a great one.