Billy Joel Songs for the Soul
Though before most students’ time, Joel’s music sums up college like no other.
By Olivia Buzzacco, Bowling Green State University
You have your list of songs that apply to your everyday life—the good days, the bad days, the heartbreaks, the loneliness, the friend drama, the times where you win, all of it.
There’s millions of songs out there that you can relate to, but rocker Billy Joel can surely rise above all the rest. You may think, “Lol what? This guy’s old,” or perhaps, “Oh yeah! The ‘Piano Man’ guy.”
Whatever way you see Joel, his music is definitely something to check out. I may be a huge fan, but this only means I know the best songs, and the ones applicable to the college crowd.
Here are seven Billy Joel songs college kiddos can definitely relate to during their four years.
1. “My Life” (from “52nd Street,” 1978)
Adulting at its finest! Hell yes, “My Life” is the anthem of being an incoming freshman in the adult world. This is a wonderful song about getting up and out of your house, starting new and not caring about what anyone says. You do you. You go after what you love, and you do it your way.
The chorus is where the song hits you the most, “I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m alright, I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home. I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone.”
While the song is a little slow, the beat is steady and Joel’s voice in the chorus is just what you need to hear to really feel his message.
2. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” (from “The Stranger,” 1977)
Moving out—key for college kiddos.
I’ve always found this song to be rather rebellious and, like “My Life,” about starting life anew. However, “Movin’ Out” can also go a whole different direction for students. Think about it—the song says more than once, “Is that what you get for your money? It seems such a waste of time, if that’s what it’s all about. If that’s movin’ up then I’m movin’ out.”
Joel discusses individuals who long for the finer things in life, but ultimately cannot end up enjoying them (Sergeant O’Leary and his new Cadillac, for instance), which leaves the characters feeling like spending this kind of money is a waste of time. Doesn’t this idea sound familiar?
College students are always upset about the cost of their higher education, and at times paying for college sure seems like a waste of time. Kudos to you, Mr. Joel. Thanks for understanding and looking out for this generation of students.
3. “Big Shot” (from “52nd Street,” 1978)
Drama. Drama, drama, drama.
You’ve definitely been there before, and you always have the perfect rage songs to fit your drama-filled friends and situations. But dig a little deeper. “Big Shot” is a great angry song for any college student. Enemies, drama, bullshit. It’s got it, and it packs a punch.
The song is high energy, which is just what you need when you’re mad. The lyrics and melodies are sharp, heavy and the song struts along and takes you with it. Rumored to be written about Mick Jagger’s ex-wife Bianca Perez-Mora Macias, the song gets down and gritty with a woman who thinks she’s the real deal, but Joel is definitely calling some bullshit on this girl. He’s got no time for her antics and has no problem calling it out. College students always think the high school drama ends when they graduate, but it can definitely continue into the higher education world.
4. “All for Leyna” (from “Glass Houses,” 1980)
Ahh, caught in the world of obsession and not being able to get over someone. The extremes college students definitely go to for someone they like are very real, and Joel feels you on this.
“All For Leyna” shows you how the love and longing for someone can totally take control of another’s life, and this is hands-down something relatable to young adults of today. You fall in love, the relationship goes wrong and your failed romance knocks you to the ground in an instant.
The neat thing about this song is that it doesn’t focus on the woman in question, but rather on the impact she has on the speaker: “I’m failing in school, losing my friends, making my family lose their minds. I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to sleep, I only want Leyna one more time.”
The misery and longing being played out connects the college crowd easily, if this experience (perhaps not as extreme) is something that can be related to.
5. “Sometimes a Fantasy” (from “Glass Houses,” 1980)
For all the long distance lovers out there, Joel’s song about long distance relationships hits on all the feels. You know it can really suck to date long distance in college, and “Sometimes A Fantasy” tells all, but adds the unexpected message that sometimes a fantasy can be just as good as “the real thing” (the song gets a little sexual, but who cares).
Agree to disagree with Joel’s message in “Sometimes A Fantasy,” but the rocking song is high energy all the way through, which can soothe your long distance soul. “Sometimes A Fantasy” has gotten me through more than I could have imagined, and it can definitely work wonders for you.
6. “Ain’t No Crime” (from “Piano Man,” 1973)
Here, Joel gives you a raunchy, gospel-esque song about life, and how you need to be able to forgive yourself, and accept everyone and everything as it comes. The song loosely follows the story of a pair of lovers, but their story isn’t the big picture here. The message is what you’re after.
You definitely hit rough times each semester, second-guess yourself and at times feel like nothing you’re doing is right. Your remedy is in this lovely diddle. The chorus is what speaks to college students, as Joel tells you, “Well it’s just human nature, happens all the time.”
“Ain’t No Crime” is a college student’s great reminder that everything is okay, and to take it all in stride. You got this. Billy Joel believes in you.
7. “I’ve Loved These Days” (from “Turnstiles,” 1976)
This song is the grand finale for all seniors. “I’ve Loved These Days” is perfect for any student as they work through their four years and head toward graduation.
While the song is really about Joel leaving Los Angeles and heading back to New York, “I’ve Loved These Days” is still a great song to set the tone for seniors remembering their time in school, all the friends made, the experiences had and so on: “We’re sleeping long and far too late, and so it’s time to change our ways, but I’ve loved these days.”
Ah, so true, Billy Joel. So true. This song is slow, powerful, and will definitely leave you with the graduation feels at the end: “So before we end and then begin, we’ll drink a toast to how it’s been.” I’m only sad I didn’t discover this song before I graduated.