Sunday, August 26, 2007

Billy Joel - Uncool?

This morning I was listening to a little bit of Whad'ya know? on NPR. It was a repeat of a 2005 show where Michael was talking to Chuck Klosterman. At one point Michael asks Chuck something like "So you like Billy Joel?", but with a smirk in his voice like he was asking about Barry Manilow. Then after Chuck talked about an interview he did with him, Michael asks "Since you like Billy Joel, what about Neil Diamond?"

I'm confused. It's not that I care what people think about Billy Joel, but I've never heard of any kind of uncool easy listening type stigma attached to him in pop culture. Obviously, everyone's familiar with the jokes about Barry Manilow, and I guess Neil Diamond has a kind of easy-listening vibe going which some people think is uncool. But Billy Joel? His catalog is pretty mainstream pop-rock, and he has at least one all-time great song in "Piano Man". It just struck me as odd. So wha's up here? Am I missing something, or was Michael Feldman just trying too hard to be funny?

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10 comments:

Toast said...

I agree. That's pretty messed up. Billy Joel is actually extremely cool. Not only is he one of the greatest songwriters who ever lived, but he's also my atheistic homeboy.

michelline said...

Of course we wouldn't think he isn't cool. We went to his concert in February :) Of course, we also saw Barry Manilow in concert in 2001. And I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Angelos said...

Well, on classic rock stations you'll hear Piano Man and Captain Jack for the 75,604,123 times, but almost everything else is totally adult contemporary, easy-listening, smooth rock, really fucking vanilla so you can put it on at work and no one will complain kind of stuff.

I'm not saying he isn't a good songwriter. Excellent pop sensibilities, use of harmony/melody, etc.

But cool? I don't think he's been "cool" for 25 years.

fridge said...

Nah, he's not cool. Neither is Neil Diamond. I love them both. The whole notion of "cool" is so very tedious. And Klosterman is one of those annoying uber-hip arbiters of "cool". I'll never forget the annoyingly hand-job-tastic email exchange between him and The Sports Guy (another one of those arbiters of pop culture).

Screw them. My iPod has Neil Diamond, Billy Joel and a bunch of stuff that those guys would classify as cool. It's all cool to me.

Chris Howard said...

but almost everything else is totally adult contemporary, easy-listening, smooth rock, really fucking vanilla

I totally disagree. Not only is he a great songwriter, but he has varying styles and instrumentation. The instrumentation and arrangement on "The Entertainer" for example, is great and very different from his piano ballads or some of his other faster stuff.

Sure you can play his music anywhere, but that's not because he plays a vanilla style. It's that most everyone likes his music. You might say that's the definition of vanilla, but that pretty much indicts pop-rock as a genre.

My question isn't about his absolute coolness (which is indisputable), rather is there a general perception of him as uncool? It sounds like Fridge and Angelos say yes. Honestly, I've never heard anything like that until this interview.

The whole notion of "cool" is so very tedious. And Klosterman is one of those annoying uber-hip arbiters of "cool". I'll never forget the annoyingly hand-job-tastic email exchange between him and The Sports Guy (another one of those arbiters of pop culture).

I agree about the notion of coolness. I've gotten to the point that what other people think about my music and other tastes doesn't bother me, as my occasional poddery barn entries should indicate (e.g.Air Supply).

I think you're probably right about Klosterman, but in this case he wasn't the one casting aspersions on Billy Joel, he likes him. It was Feldman. And I did read that Sports Guy exchange. Bill Simmons is definitely far too much of a cool snob.

Mr Furious said...

"The Stranger" is a great album front to back. But I think I'm full up on all of those songs for at least another ten years...

Neil Diamond's "Hot August Night" is a tremendous live album, and he was a staple inmy house growing up. That it was my mom's music most certainly makes it "not cool", but that doesn't mean I don't like it, and it definitely has a place in my life.

Mrs. Furious said...

Billy Joel is certainly not *cool*. That doesn't make him any less talented nor should it alter your enjoyment. But cool he is not. I'm a little younger than the rest of you, so you'll just have to take my word on it.

Chris Howard said...

Ok, I guess I'll have to accept that there is a segment out there who thinks Billy Joel is not cool. I still haven't seen other any evidence of a Barry Manilow-like stigma associated with him though (and I like Barry Manilow, too). But all you who think Billy Joel is uncool (whether you like him or not) are, of course, completely and utterly wrong. You probably think Elvis is uncool too.

John Howard said...

Am I the only one who thinks there's a difference between not being cool, and being not cool?

Because I don't think Billy Joel is cool, but I also don't think he's not cool. I think he's just sort of there.

Chris Howard said...

Am I the only one who thinks there's a difference between not being cool, and being not cool?

Well, as Fridge mentioned above, the whole idea of coolness is kind of stupid anyway. But my question wasn't really about the actual coolness of Billy Joel, but about his perception amongst the hoi polloi. I don't know if we can trust whippersnappers like Mrs. Furious, because they probably think all the stuff we fuddy duddies like is uncool. :)