The StrangerBilly Joel
Yikes...Billy Joel. The natural reaction to being asked to listen to Billy Joel is to recoil. This is the man that brought the world Uptown Girl, after all. The video from the Westlife cover version of that song still occasionally frequents my nightmares. Those four (or is it five?) cherubic Irish scamps, running amok in some kind of 50s cafeteria, dancing with mops and buckets in their blue rockabilly shirts. How can I forgive Billy Joel for being the nexus event that led to that?! The problem is, you can't help but enjoy The Stranger. It's the sort of album you might expect The Special Forces to pump through a tannoy into a Guantanamo cell, on repeat - along with the Barney theme tune - assuming it will grind a terrorist suspect into confession, only to find it has indoctrinated them into being Kool-Aid-drinking, American Dream-obsessing aficionados. It's just so American. But it's the America of a not-too-distant but completely bygone era. Some pre-Internet other-world where people lived like the lead characters from Friends. Close your eyes and imagine Chandler Bing listening to 'Just the Way You Are', before running out into the hustle of Fifth Avenue in his navy cashmere overcoat and chasing after the girl of his dreams, barging people out of the way so that he can catch up with her and then have a panic attack and not tell her how he feels. Like Hootie and the Blowfish's 'Cracked Rear View', Billy Joel's 'The Stanger' is music for the Chandler Bings. Either that or it's music for the Patrick Batemans. But before you've worked out which one it is, you're hooked by the fun jingle-jangle of the opening track, Movin' Out, and it doesn't really matter either way. Then the piano from the title track kicks in and you recognise it as the sample from Xzibit's amazing 'At the Speed of Life' track 'The Foundation', and before you know it you've worked your way through the entire album to 'Everybody Has a Dream' and you've walked into a New York fashion outlet and bought an expensive navy cashmere overcoat of your very own. And when you leave that shop you're gunna have no choice but listen to The Stranger on your Walkman again as you hit the high street. Some people will look at you and see a Chandler Bing. Others will look at you and see a Patrick Bateman. But by this point you don't really care. You're living in some weird alternate early 90s white collar central park office block coffee shop wall street burst fire hydrant subway train American dream. Thanks a lot Billy Joel.