Sunday, November 2, 2008

I Hate Billy Joel: "You May Be Right"

In the music video for "You May Be Right," Billy Joel's live performance sees Joel onstage, dancing on twinkletippytoes in an alleged "rock" performance. It's as if he engineers lyrics based on his ability to pantomime them on stage. He throws fakes punches as he croons "it's too late to fight," and cowers with his hands over his eyes at "turn out the lights." The bridge is handled by a saxophonist in a Hawaiian shirt. The lyrics talk about a wild young man, but instead of a rock beat he's selling bogus, piano-bopping with all the grit of Elton John (This isn't rock, it's crocodile rock.) Years later, live at Shea Stadium, a balding, white-bearded Joel will wheeze and fatten, sitting behind a keyboard, turning red in the face and bulging with phonynonconformity, as rebellious as an AC/DC album sold exclusively at Wal-Mart.

The premise of the song is a woman calls Billy Joel crazy, which he admits that while she may be wrong, she may be right. (This covers 100 percent of possible outcomes, making Billy's statement meaningless.) The song goes out of its way to mention how crazy Billy is; "crazy" is said eight times, including chorus repetitions. He's thrice a "lunatic", and "madness" and "insane" make one cameo apiece. But unless the song is a brilliant satirical commentary on the wildest fantasies of department-store management types, or Billy Joel's idea of insanity is the time he "...rode my motorcycle in the rain/And you told me not to drive/But I made it home alive/So you said that only proves that I'm insane." If Billy Joel's idea of insanity is a drive in the rain, does that mean he was officially a phony the first time he used wind-shield wipers? (Someone at called it their "all-nighter study song." Billy Joel is as rebellious as waiting until the night before to cram for a physics test.)

Then comes the subtle racism of the lyric "Walked alone in Bedford-Stuy." Another Joel scholar over at songmeanings figured it as an act of racial subterfuge: "I always get a kick out of the line that he walked thru Bedford Stuy alone. (Bedford Stuy (BedStuy) is a neighborhood in Brooklyn. It definetly ain't the greatest neighborhood and what he's saying is that its dangerous for a white guy to walk thru there. and therefore he's "crazy" for doing it. LOL! (Bedstuy is featured in many of Spike Lee's movies.)"

The line is given some extra punch by country superstar Garth Brooks--adding an entire new layer to the Bedford-Stuy song-and-dance at a live performance, Garth reaches the line after climbing a pyramid in windbreaker and headset, slapping the hands of the teeming mass of the front row and works the crowd like an awards ceremony infomercial preacher. And why, exactly, is Garth Brooks covering your song? They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. Bob Dylan turned the Beatles onto marijuana. David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Billy Joel, however, has done a duet of this song with Bryan Adams. Billy Joel is rock for investment bankers in middle-age crises.