Pick of the Week: Billy Joel “Turn The Lights Back On”

Graphic that depicts light shining out of a dark tunnel. The text reads: WERS 88.9 FM Pick of the Week: Billy Joel, "Turn The Lights Back On"
Graphics by Sarah Tarlin

By Eden Unger, Staff Writer

Billy Joel is one of those artists that people will look at you sideways for saying you haven’t heard of. And if you’re a person who has gotten gawked at for this very reason, then someone you know probably jumped at the chance to play his music for you. The “Piano Man” — yes, the title does come from his song by the same name — released 13 chart-topping studio albums between 1971 and 1993 alone. That's to say nothing of his 35 live, compilation and video albums released over the span of his career. 

Joel’s new single, “Turn the Lights Back On,” is his first new release in 17 years since "Christmas in Fallujah” in 2007. Some might write-off his work as “dad music,” but Joel has serious credentials. He has seven honorary doctorates, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and received Kennedy Center Honors in 2013. There’s not much to say about Joel that hasn’t already been said, but evidently the New York-native himself had more to say with this new single.



Is it a little on the nose to call a comeback song “Turn the Lights Back On?” Maybe so! But Billy Joel has the bravado to carry it off, so we’ll write it off as self-aware and tongue-in-cheek. The refrain of the song, “I'm late, but I'm here right now,” could just as easily be addressed to a lover or his fans. Is that premise a little heavy-handed? Yes! But take a look at these lines: “Here, stuck on a hill, outsiders inside the home that we built. The cold settles in, it's been a long winter of indifference.” There’s that Joel songwriting we’ve been missing for 17 years!



So, is the single a one-off, or is it indicative of more to come? Well, according to the press release that announced the music video for the single on February 16th, the track is “ushering in the next chapter of his story.” Notably, the music video for the single, which Joel debuted live at the 2024 Grammys, uses AI to depict him singing it across different periods of his career. 

Is new music forthcoming? It’s not entirely clear, but the idea of “turning the lights back on” implies, to me, that he is setting the stage for something big and new. With a catalog so massive and iconic, it’s going to be a gargantuan task to release something innovative that isn’t overshadowed by his past. Is he up to it? Only time will tell.


Every Monday, our music staff brings you a new Pick of The Week, detailing some of our favorite songs. Check out our previous Picks of the Week here, and make sure to tune in to WERS 88.9FM!

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