New Billy Joel song ‘Turn the Lights Back On’ comes after a decade away

Billy Joel released his first song in nearly two decades Thursday morning, resuming a highly successful songwriting career that many considered to be all but over.

The new song, “Turn the Lights Back On,” is a classic Joel pop ballad about returning to an old love, while also winking to fans who have waited for the Grammy-winning artist to release new music.

“Please open the door/ Nothing is different, we’ve been here before/ Pacing these halls/ Trying to talk over the silence,” Joel sings in the opening verse.

He later sings: “I’m late, but I’m here right now/ Though I used to be romantic/ I forgot somehow/ Time can make you blind/ But I see you now/ As we’re laying in the darkness/ Did I wait too long/ To turn the lights back on?”

The song is produced by Freddy Wexler, a songwriter and producer who has worked with modern pop artists such as Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Kanye West (now Ye) and Justin Bieber.

Joel announced the new single on Jan. 22, with a short Instagram video. He previously teased new music in December during an onstage performance, telling the crowd, “We’ve got a little something we’ve been working on you might hear sometime.” Speculation grew when his official Facebook page changed its cover photo to an image with the phrase, “Did I wait too long ….” (It has since changed to a promotion photo for the new single.)

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This is Joel’s first single since 2007, when he released “All My Life” (which was reportedly a Valentine’s Day gift for his then-wife, Katie Lee) and “Christmas in Fallujah,” a holiday tune he wrote about soldiers in Iraq that was performed by Cass Dillon. In 2001, he composed a classical music album, “Fantasies & Delusions.”

Joel has won five Grammy Awards during his much-celebrated career. His first came in 1978 when he won record and song of the year for “Just the Way You Are.”

That songwriting career came to an apparent halt in 1993 after Joel released his album “River of Dreams.” He suggested an end to his musical journey on the album’s final song, “Famous Last Words,” when he sang: “And these are the last words I have to say/ It’s always hard to say goodbye/ But now it’s time to put this book away/ Ain’t that the story of my life.”

In 2018, Joel told Vulture that he had stopped writing music in part for his mental health. “I would drink to try and ease the pain of not being as good as I wanted to be,” he said. “It was a vicious cycle, so I stopped.”

But he never completely closed the door on a return. “I’m never going to say never,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019. “I may come up with an idea that could become a song. I may write a movie soundtrack. I may write a symphony. I don’t know. Anything’s possible.”

Despite not having any new hits or singles, Joel continued to tour and perform onstage. He has held a residency at Madison Square Garden in New York since 2014, which will wrap up in July.

His shows often feature performances of his classics such as “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “Tell Her About It” (all of which were No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100).

Joel, whose representatives did not respond to a request for comment, is scheduled to premiere “Turn the Lights Back On” on Sunday at the Grammy Awards. He made his first Grammy Awards stage performance in 1988, when he played another notable hit, “New York State of Mind,” according to the awards show’s website.

First appeared on www.washingtonpost.com

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