Why Billy Joel’s New Deepfake Video Makes Me Sad

It’s just a fantasy. It’s not the real thing.

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Billy Joel sitting a piano, smiling slightly and looking to the side. His face is reflected in the piano’s surface.
Billy Joel performing at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in 2017. Photo by slgckgc, CC BY 2.0.

Billy Joel has long been one of my favorite solo artists. Growing up in the 80s, I bought all of his albums — on vinyl! — and watched all of his videos on MTV. I went to three of his concerts, in three different decades and time zones: Pittsburgh in the 80s, Chicago in the 90s, and — with Elton John — San Jose in the 2000s, the best concert I’ve ever attended.

As an amateur pianist and singer, I appreciated that Billy centered the piano in his music, and that he sang clearly enough that I could understand all of his lyrics. I learned to play many of his songs on the piano myself, and performed them frequently at karaoke and in student concerts.

I also appreciated that Billy knew when to quit, and didn’t continue producing new material just for the sake of it. His last album, River of Dreams, came out in 1993, and since then he’s only published two new original songs with lyrics.¹ The first was 2007’s “Christmas in Fallujah”, a benefit single for disabled soldiers, and Billy didn’t even sing on the original release; the song was written for Cass Dillon.

So when I heard that Billy was coming out with his first new single in 17 years this month, I was intrigued. The video for the song, “Turn the Lights Back On”…

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch