A Tale of Two Songs / by Erin Wade

Apple Music offered up a Billy Joel playlist last week, and Andy Ihnatko (@Ihnatko) posted a link to a New Yorker article about the artist himself a few days later.

While I will admit that I may have recently presented my own critique of a certain Billy Joel song that might be a Thing That Actually Sucks, the reality is that I grew up listening to his work, and I enjoy much of it a great deal.

I was reading the New Yorker article while cooking burgers out on the grill, and found myself telling my daughter about the article. She's not terribly familiar with his work, so I found myself singing a few lines of She's Always A Woman To Me to give her some reference. After giving the lyrics a listen she indicated that she thought she might like to hear more.

She's not one to just say what she thinks I want to hear (not sure where she gets that from), so today in the car I took her at her word, and we listened to the song. And then we talked about it - she observed that it played as if it were a romantic love piece, but the lyrics suggested differently...

On the way home we listened to it again, and having a second go through made me think of another song. So I said "Hey Siri, play Unsalted Butter by The Long Winters:

They are different songs, to be sure, by different artists. But the themes are very similar. Unsalted Butter is the song Billy Joel might have written if he were a more assertive person. She's Always a Woman presents a theme of a guy who is mystified, perplexed, and perhaps a little afraid of his partner. He's trying to understand her, trying to make sense of the relationship, and he's ultimately unable to see his way clear.

With Unsalted Butter we see a man who is also in a relationship in turmoil. But he sees the way things could go, and he's having none of it:

If you think you're gonna be here long, I'll miss you so much... ...when you're gone.

Similar situation. Different perspectives. Neither a traditional "love" song.

Love them both.