The Grammys audience was in the mood for a melody, and Billy Joel had them feeling alright.
The iconic musician, 74, took the stage at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, making his triumphant return to the awards show for the first time in 22 years. He performed his new single, “Turn the Lights Back On,” which debuted earlier this month.
Before his performance, Joel described the making of the song with producer and cowriter Freddy Wexler. Wexler joked that he was “relentless” while trying to convince Joel to record the track, noting that Joel seemed reluctant to hear him out at their first lunch meeting — he ordered clams on the half shell and a BLT to go.
After Taylor Swift accepted the final award of the night for Album of the Year, Joel returned for a second performance, playing “You May Be Right” from his 1980 album, Glass Houses.
Joel last performed at the Grammys in February 2002 when he joined the late Tony Bennett for a duet on “New York State on Mind,” which originally appeared on Joel’s 1976 album, Turnstiles. The duo were nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals that year but lost to Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink for “Lady Marmalade.”
Three days before this year’s Grammys, Joel released “Turn the Lights Back On,” his first new music in 16 years. His most recent previous release is 2007’s “Christmas in Fallujah” with Cass Dillon. His last studio album, Fantasies & Delusions, debuted in 2001.
In 2019, Joel revealed that he never stopped writing but just doesn’t release his latest work. “I still write music. I just don’t record it, and they’re not in song form,” he told Rolling Stone at the time. “It’s another kind of music altogether. It’s purely for my own edification. I don’t feel compelled to record it. I don’t feel compelled to make myself be relevant. Like I said, I lived the rock ‘n’ roll life, and I’m not writing that anymore.”
He also said he hadn’t closed the door on making another full-length album. “I’m never going to say never,” he explained. “I may come up with an idea that could become a song. I may write a movie soundtrack. I may write a symphony. I don’t know. Anything’s possible.”
While Joel hasn’t been recording new music for the past couple decades, he’s never stopped touring and performing. Last year, Joel announced that his long-running residency at New York City’s Madison Square Garden will come to an end in July after his 150th career concert at the famed arena.
“I’m kind of flabbergasted that it lasted as long as it did,” Joel said in a June 2023 press conference. “My team tells me that we could continue to sell tickets, but 10 years, 150 shows — alright already!”
Though Joel’s MSG residency is coming to an end, a rep for the singer assured fans last year that the singer has no plans to retire anytime soon.