10 Reasons Why Billy Joel is Better than Bob Dylan
(at least as a Pop Musician of the Last X Years):
A Semi-to-three-(or-four)-quarters Sincere Critique of Bob Dylan
1. Billy Joel sings lyrics & plays songs; Bob Dylan plays instruments & says words
2. Nobody who is not a Bob Dylan fan could actually listen to 10 Bob Dylan songs in a row (and I sort of doubt that Bob Dylan fans could even do that).
3. Billy Joel gets shit on for being boring and safe while Bob Dylan gets massive props for his numerous re-inventions and his individualistic, hard-to-pin down persona. This is because the juvenile delinquent, failed suicide, and former-boxer Joel’s songs were, throughout his career, short stories about love, loneliness, and history, and his shifts in taste were personal and arbitrary, whereas the college-dropout Dylan went from being political in the 60s, personal in the 70s, religious in the late 70s/early80s, less religious in the late 80s, and a shell of his former self/old person in the 90s (and after) JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER FUCKING PERSON HIS AGE.
4. Billy Joel writes songs that convey what they are about. Bob Dylan writes songs that are an extension of Bob Dylan, and convey what Bob Dylan is about.1
5. Billy Joel’s songs, while often long, are rarely longer than they need to be; concision = craft. “Idiot Wind,” a song that I really love, could (and has) soundtracked entire trips to a supermarket. And it’s Heck Of redundant.2
6. People go on about how great a lyricist Bob Dylan is, but could any of these people actually explain what any of his non Love Songs are about? I mean, with a depth that corresponds to their deification of his lyrical skills?34
7. Piano plus Acoustic Guitar / Electric-played-like-an-Acoustic Guitar Forever!
“Clean-Cut Kid” = Mawkish, Facile, Nuanceless, and Arch, Bob Dylan denounces the Vietnam War (finally, for the first time) in 1986; “Goodnight Saigon” = Ridiculous, Overblown, Epic, but Genuinely Affecting, Billy Joel crafts an Actually Substantive and Empathetic Articulation of the ground Anti-War Sentiment While Also Including a Fucking Helicopter Solo
7a. Also, “Allentown” Greater Sign “Maggie’s Farm” [Intelligence, Craft, Humanity and Specificity trumps Derision and Regurgitation. Also Including a Fucking Steam Whistle Solo]
8. Bob Dylan = crashed a motorcycle and almost died
Billy Joel = crashed his car into a fucking house and was perfectly fine
9. Plagiarism: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/07/17/DD198580.DTL Read all the equivocating, po-mo, theoretical bloviating and then have it all made irrelevant when you scroll down to the bottom and see how laughably blatant/legion the examples are.5
10. 3 words: “Born Again Christian”6
– May 6, 2006 (with touch up December 6, 2009)
1At best this involves Bitter (but sort of pathetic) Break-Up scenarios. At worst this involves the Bible and Beat Poetic self-indulgence
2Granted this duration, or use of duration, does seem to actually convey something about what the song is about / or trying to convey: blather, bitterness without end, Bob Dylan / self-indulgence– but seriously, Kurt Vonnegut’s 2/3 of a Masterpiece is Enough rule (or 1/2, or 1/4, or 2/9, etc. I mean, Fuck Highway 61 Revisited). All 212 minutes of it./Bob Dylan is the reason we can’t have nice things i.e. a notion of artistry in songwriting that isn’t duration-and-obfuscation-based.
3Bonus Points: to explain them but then not have them sound overly esoteric and pointless / is he really any better than Robert Plant with a (half-completed) degree in Theology.
4Double Extra Bonus Points if they’re not Insipid Propaganda pieces that are political without having to deal with ‘facts’ or ‘constructing an argument’ just disconnected images of suffering.
5Unless you concede that, while he did graft lines from Saga’s pre-existing work, your apology is that this Bob Dylan album is obviously a clever re-imagining/re-contextualizing of that famous/ubiquitous literary work “Confessions of a Yakuza”– from which lines can be directly lifted without credit– or even note– because it is such a visible/vernacular part of our shared cultural heritage.
6He’s also a dick. And what the hell happened to his politics once they were unfashionable. And he can’t act. And he’s self-absorbed, but while lacking the Delusions of Grandeur that make Billy Joel a truly pitiable and compelling figure. Fuck Bob Dylan. Time Out of Mind sucked ass.