I didn’t really grow up listening to Billy Joel; it just wasn’t my era. But when I truly began to appreciate good music, I understood the Piano Man and the wonders he created with that damn piano. It is absolutely fantastic stuff, and he still, without fail, appears several times on any random playlist I may put together when I’m in need of one. It’s good music. Plain and simple. And it makes me yearn for more music that gets the piano as much as he always has. There is a certain degree of soul that comes with it – one that not many guitars can claim.
But it looks like I have found my very own Piano Man (well, um, one from my era). One that I can confidently tell my children about.
I remember watching the video for Something Corporate’s “If U C Jordan” back in high school and laughing at the entire act. The lyrics, the whole “we’re so different, because we use a piano” shtick, the clear and silly pop-punk scheme – it came off as a joke to my musical senses. And an even bigger insult to the Piano Man. I guess the frontman, Andrew McMahon, could play the piano well enough, but nothing could possibly help this band’s cause (whatever that was). I safely ignored the band (one of my favorite band names ever, though) and the dude behind the piano, from that point on.
Then, many moons later, that same dude, became Jack’s Mannequin, and things started to change. “Everything in Transit”, the band’s first attempt at a record, had some remnants of that pop-punk silliness that annoyed me with Something Corporate. But it was a start. The piano, in a starring role, really grabbed my attention – just like when I first started listening to Joel. Things got even better with “The Glass Passenger”. I could feel the pop-punk silliness begin to fade away and McMahon really start to understand that piano’s potential. I had the privilege of seeing the band during the tour for its second album, and my fondness grew. How a dude with a piano could play a concert that felt this rock-and-roll blew my mind. I never had the chance to see Joel in concert, but if he ever performed at even 20% of the energy level of McMahon, I missed out on something special. At this point, I’m starting to maybe wonder if McMahon is the Piano Man of my era. Could be. Possibly.
I woke up to a surprise on a recent Tuesday morning. Jack’s Mannequin third studio album, “People and Things”, dropped. After a few quick and short song previews, I was all in. For six straight days, I listened to the entire album on an infinite loop. This was it. McMahon was my Piano Man.
One of the things that always bothered me about the potential Piano Man crowning is the strangely high number of teenage girls that worship McMahon. It sounds strange, but there’s a level of validation there that takes a hit. But I can’t harp on that forever when he puts out music like this. Go ahead. Listen to the first five seconds of “Release Me” and just try and tell me that you don’t immediately hear the original Piano Man.