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Billy Joel releases first new song in nearly 20 years, 'Turn the Lights Back On'

Updated February 1, 2024 at 1:03 PM ET

Billy Joel released his first new song in close to two decades on Thursday.

"Turn the Lights Back On" is a lush ballad with a rocking piano line that builds with soaring strings. It sounds a lot like many other hits by the Grammy Award-winning, 74-year-old singer-songwriter.

"I'm late, but I'm here right now / Is there still time for forgiveness?" the song asks. "Did I wait too long to turn the lights back on?"

Joel's longtime label, Columbia Records, announced the new song on Jan. 22. A teaser for the song on social media released that day featured a short clip consisting of a simple chord progression played sedately on the piano.

It's been more than 30 years since Joel released his last pop album — River of Dreams — in 1993. The final track, "Famous Last Words," alluded to Joel's desire to step away from the recording studio:

These are the last words I have to say
That's why it took so long to write
There will be other words some other day
But that's the story of my life

But the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer did go on to write songs for himself and undertake projects for others sporadically. Joel's 2007 hit "All My Life" reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart.

Even though he has stayed away from the recording studio for so many years, Joel has continued to perform live regularly. He tours internationally and is scheduled to finish up a 10-year residency this summer at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Fans reacted to the news about the upcoming release with excitement on social media.

"BEYOND EXCITED FOR THIS!!!!" wrote fan Tanya Cironi on Joel's Facebook page. "I hoped one day we would see new music."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.