Christopher Bonanos of the Vulture recently posted a complete ranking of all of Billy Joel’s songs. His analyses of these songs and his strange rankings reveal he does not understand Billy Joel’s music. He claims to be a fan of Billy Joel, but some of Joel’s most popular songs are ranked pitifully low and some more obscure songs are ranked surprisingly high. If he truly knew the music of Wiliam Martin Joel, his rankings would look completely different.
As a child, my dad constantly played Billy Joel in the car, and I have come to know Joel’s music quite well. I understand what defines Billy Joel’s music. The songs that define his music are also some of his biggest hits. Bonanos seems to disregard these songs because he does not particularly care for some of them and because they are popular, but when ranking “the best Billy Joel songs”, it is not about an individual’s taste. The focus must be on those defining songs.
Therefore, I present to you, dear reader, my top 50 Billy Joel songs, a list which will (hopefully) more accurately represent what society as whole would say on this matter.
50. “Rosalinda’s Eyes”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 33
Billy Joel gets a little Cuban on us, and it is delightful.
49. “I Go to Extremes”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 56
This song is extremely good!……Pardon the pun.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 60
Bonanos says “No piano!”. To which I say, “Hush!”. This is a good song; do not hate it because the lack of piano.
47. “The Night is Still Young”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 97
I underestimate this song. It has its moments of greatness.
46. “All About Soul”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 89
River of Dreams is a unqiue album. An aging Billy Joel puts out an album full of songs that are much different than most of the songs on his earlier albums.
45. “Careless Talk”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 73
Billy Joel has a lot of lesser-known songs that are just downright fun.
44. “If I Only Had the Words (to Tell You)”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 83
Anyone who has ever had feeling for someone and were too nervous to tell them how they feel knows why this song is great.
43. “Great Suburban Showdown”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 107
This song evokes memories of unpleasant and awkward social obligations my parents drug me to in my youth.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 67
I wish more people knew of this song’s existence.
41. “Easy Money”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 81
“Easy Money” is a great opening to a great album, An Innocent Man.
40. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 42
Billy Joel refers to this song as “historically inaccurate”, but that does not damage its quality.
39. “Half A Mile Away”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 48
I often forget about this song and how fun it is.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 22
We all have had someone in our lives we loved, despite being treated like garbage by them. This song is about those relationships and how it is hard to see the toxin from the inside.
37. “You’re My Home”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 77
“[D]ull” is how Bonanos describes this song. It is a simple love song, and to expect great things out of it is setting yourself up to hate it. Accept this song for what it is: lovely.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 70
This song drops out of the top 100 Billy Joel songs if you listen to the version where “I’ll tell you what it means” is omitted.
35. “C'etait Toi”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 109
Bonanos laments the use of the French language in this song, but the French lyrics show off Joel’s versatility.
34. “Just the Way You Are”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 7
Not much needs to be said about this one. It is a classic Billy Joel song. The fact that this one ranks 34th tells you how talented Billy Joel is.
33. “Don’t Ask Me Why”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 80
Glass Houses is one of Joel’s best albums, and Bonanos completely misses in his assesment of it.
32. “Matter of Trust”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 86
The Bridge is an often overlooked album, and this little gem is one of the better songs on that album.
31. “Downeaster ‘Alexa’”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 75
Billy Joel wanted to write a folk song, and this was the result. It tells the tale of a Long Island Bayman trying to make ends meet, while struggling with the changing times.
30. “The River of Dreams”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 24
When I listen to this song, I always picture myself lying awake in the bedroom I slept in from when I was 2 until I was 8.
29. “Big Shot”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 46
My mom did not want me to listen to this song as a child, but my dad let me. Mom did not want me to hear the word “Bitchin’.”
28. “Only the Good Die Young”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 2
This is a top ten song if you take away the lyrics that are offensive to Catholics.
27. “Why Should I Worry?”
Bonanos’ Ranking: N/A
Bonanos did not feel the need to include this in his list, and that is a shame. This track from the delightful movie Oliver and Company fits so well with the film and is very much a Billy Joel song. The exclusion of this song is unforgiveable.
26. “Summer, Highland Falls”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 27
One word: Nostalgia.
25. “She’s Got a Way”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 21
“She’s Got a Way” expresses a feeling that probably all of us have felt. You are able to list all of these things you admire about your significant other, but the one thing that draws you in most is the one thing you cannot express in words.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 51
Billy Joel is able to create truly unique songs, and this is a prime example of that.
Bonanos’ Ranking: 47
A great truth is expressed in this song.
22. “And So It Goes”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 62
This song is vastly underrated.
21. “Keepin’ the Faith”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 39
This is one of those songs I heard so many times as a child that it has become part of who Billy Joel is to me.
20. “Goodnight Saigon”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 38
Bonanos criticizes his use of the helicopter sound effect. However, when you’re righting a song about the Vietnam War, helicopter noises are definitely appropriate.
19. “You May Be Right”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 58
A great song from one of Joel’s best albums, Glass Houses.
18. “Tomorrow is Today”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 104
This song cannot be truly appreciated unless you understand the lyrics are based off of Billy Joel’s suicide note.
17. “Innocent Man”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 5
Another song that is classic Billy Joel.
16. “This Night”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 93
Boananos criticizes Joel’s use of Beethoven here, but it is a unique choice that deserves praise.
15. “Until the Night"
Bonanos’ Ranking: 68
This is my personal favorite Billy Joel, but I tried not to let my personal bias affect this list too much. See how this works Bonanos?
14. "She’s Always a Woman”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 34
Dr. Peter Kreeft says this song is offensive if sung about a woman, but a fitting tribute if sung about a woman.
13. “My Life ”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 32
I just cannot understand what Bonanos was thinking when he made this list.
12. “New York State of Mind”
One cannot ignore this Billy Joel classic. Its importance stems from the fact New Yorkers (and wannabe New Yorkers) grasp at any song that praises their city. Regardless of my animosity towards New York, this is a great piano piece.
11. “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) ”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 61
This was turned into a children’s book that came with a CD of this song on it.
Most Billy Joel songs remind me of my dad. This one reminds me of my mom. She used to listen to this song while holding me as a baby. Now she cries whenever she hears this song.
10. “The Stranger”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 16
The title song of Billy Joel’s The Stranger album ranks highly not only for its musical merit, but also for the truth of its lyrics.
“We all have a face / That we hide away forever / And we take them out and show ourselves / When everyone is gone”
9. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 1
Joel is criticized by Bonanos for his “heart attack-ack-ack-ack” line, but quite frankly that makes this song.
8. “Tell Her About It”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 7
Bonanos’ ranking of this song angers me to my core. Seriously, has he even listened to this song? It is awesome.
7. “Prelude/Angry Young Man”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 19
While not one of his most popular songs, it clearly shows off how talented of a pianist Billy Joel is.
6. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 20
I was speechless when I saw how low Bonanos’ had ranked this one. Yes, it is overplayed, but everyone knows this Joel hit. To dismiss it is a completely foolish decision.
Fun Fact: Billy Joel plays the guitar in this one.
5. “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”
This is the Ranking where Bonanos’ is close to getting it right. Although, his description of it as three-songs-in-on is wrong. It may sound like that, but a close listen reveals it tells the tale of ex-lovers reconnecting at “their Italian restaurant.” They rehash old times and discuss the King and Queen of their high school’s prom, the legendary Brenda and Eddie.
4. “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”
Bonanos’ Rankin: 18
This is one of Billy Joe’s biggest hits. Seeing Joel perform this song live is an absolute treat. When my dad saw him do this song live in the summer of 1980, it was the number one song in the country, and the eruption of cheers when he began playing the song was so loud my dad could not hear the song. In 2009, I saw a much older Billy Joel perform “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” He stood near the front of the stage, popped the collar of his suit coat, and sang into the microphone. The microphone stand became a prop for him. He used the stereotypical Elvis dance moves with it, as well as twirling it around and around during the saxophone solo. When the song was over, he heaved the stand towards the edge of the stage. A stagehand appeared out of nowhere, snatched the stand, and quickly disappeared.
3. “Uptown Girl”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 55
Bonanos’ ranking on this one is an absolute joke. This one of the songs you think about when you think about Billy Joel. The classic music video and sound make this one enjoyable song to hear. Why it was ranked so low is beyond me.
2. “The Longest Time”
Bonanos’ Ranking: 10
"The Longest Time" is the ultimate a capella song. Anytime you want to whip out an a capella song to impress the ladies, this is the go-to song. Billy Joel sings all four parts of this song. The guys in the video are lip-syncing. This song is classic Billy Joel.
1. “Piano Man ”
Bonano’s Ranking: 15
There can be no other song ranked number one. Joel is referred to as “The Piano Man” because of this song. I chose the video above because he is able to stop singing and let the sudience continue the song for him. That is incredible. This song is Billy Joel.
This list is probably not perfect, but it is much better than the list that inspired it.