Last week, I posted a ranking of the 100 best Billy Joel songs. In this post, I take a look at the most popular Billy Joel songs according to aggregated listening data from Last.FM and how that compares to my selections.
What are the most popular Billy Joel songs?
I was interested how my top 100 compared to the opinion of the masses. I spent some time combing over the artist charts at Last.FM. Last.FM is a plugin for music software and mobile devices that tracks the listening behavior of its users and offers detailed information on what they listen to most often. Using the site, I came up with a list of the 119 most popular Billy Joel songs.
(See this footnote for information on how I compiled this list.)
As a reminder, here is my choice for the top ten best Billy Joel songs:
- Vienna (the #14 most popular song)
- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (18)
- Captain Jack (21)
- You May Be Right (13)
- The Longest Time (9)
- Summer, Highland Falls (48)
- My Life (10)
- She’s Got a Way (15)
- She’s Always a Woman (4)
- New York State of Mind (11)
Here are the ten most popular Billy Joel songs:
- Piano Man (#11 on my list)
- Uptown Girl (32)
- We Didn’t Start the Fire (53)
- She’s Always a Woman (9)
- Just the Way You Are (21)
- Only the Good Die Young (14)
- Movin’ Out (17)
- It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (28)
- The Longest Time (5)
- My Life (7)
So, my top ten shares three songs with the public’s top ten: She’s Always a Woman (my #9, their #4), The Longest Time (5, 9), and My Life (7, 10).
Which popular songs did I exclde?
There are eleven songs that I did not include in my 100, but made the public’s top 100.
- Somewhere Along the Line (their #60)
- Why Should I Worry? (67)
- 52nd Street (68)
- Careless Talk (76)
- Falling of the Rain (83)
- State of Grace (86)
- Blonde Over Blue (87)
- Storm Front (90)
- Shades of Grey (91)
- Famous Last Words (94)
- When In Rome (96)
Which unpopular songs did I include?
Of course, that means there are eleven songs that made my top 100 but did not rank in the public’s top 100. Seven ranked in the public’s top 119:
- Where’s the Orchestra (my #24, their #110)
- All My Life (39, 115)
- Weekend Song (49, 108)
- Sleeping with the Television On (51, 114)
- Running on Ice (55, 101)
- Last of the Big Time Spenders (75, 113)
- The Great Suburban Showdown (91, 109)
The other four songs are demos that did not, by my calculation, rank among the top 119 most popular Billy Joel songs:
- Cross to Bear (my #38)
- Money or Love (78)
- Oyster Bay (81)
- Nobody Knows but Me (96)
Of the songs on both of our lists, which songs did the public and I most disagree on? Read on.
What songs does the public appreciate more than I do?
Here are the ten songs that the public “ranked” the most above my ranking:
- A Matter of Trust (my #92, their #29) — difference of 63 spots
- Leave a Tender Moment Alone (98, 40) — 58
- This is the Time (97, 42) — 55
- You’re Only Human (43, 95) — 52
- The Downeaster “Alexa” (20, 71) — 51
- We Didn’t Start the Fire (53, 3) — 50
- All For Leyna (45, 86) — 41
- Goodnight Saigon (22, 62) — 40
- Get it Right the First Time (46, 85) — 39
- An Innocent Man (28, 65) — 37
Of these ten, I’m only somewhat surprised by All For Leyna and An Innocent Man: I don’t really feel like I’m particularly down on these songs. The other eight I do feel like I view a bit lower than their respective success on Billboard. An Innocent Man gets a bump on the popularity chart by being on the “Greatest Hits Vol. 3” album, but All For Leyna’s impressive showing at 45 on the popularity ranking, despite never being included on a Greatest Hits package, surprised me a bit.
What songs do I appreciate more than the public does?
Here are the eleven songs that I ranked most highly above the popularity ranking:
- Souvenir (my #16, their #100) — difference of 84 spots
- Where’s the Orchestra (24, 105) — 81
- All My Life (39, 115) –76
- Tomorrow is Today (19, 92) — 73
- Sleeping with the Television On (51, 114) — 63
- Weekend Song (49, 108) — 59
- Running on Ice (55, 101) — 46
- Summer, Highland Falls (6, 48) — 43
- Rosalinda’s Eyes (22, 63) — 41
- Stiletto (20, 58) — 38
- Last of the Big Time Spenders (113, 75) — 38
Of these, the biggest surprise is “Sleeping with the Television On.” I am atonished it placed as low as 114th on the public’s chart.
All of these songs are non-single album tracks, except the obscure single All My Life. And all of them are off of lower-profile albums except Stiletto and Rosalinda’s Eyes which showed up on the list because of my high placement.
What songs do the public and I agree on?
My list agreed with the popularity list exactly once. We both had Big Shot at #26.
In all, there were fourteen other songs we had within five spots of each other:
- Turn Around (my #94, their #99) — 5 spot difference between our rankings
- The Longest Time (5, 9) — 4
- Two Thousand Years (73, 77) — 4
- That’s Not Her Style (84, 88) — 4
- My Life (7, 10) — 3
- New York State of Mind (10, 11) — 1
- The Entertainer (23, 24) — 1
- I Go To Extremes (33, 34) — 1
- Big Shot (26, 26) — 0
- Lullabye (Goodnight, My Ange) 35 36 — -1
- A Room of Our Own (99, 97) — -2
- You Can Make Me Free (100, 98) — -2
- She’s Always a Woman (9, 4) — -5
- Ain’t No Crime (58, 53) — -5
Looking at the trends
A few (pretty obvious) notes on which Billy Joel songs placed highly on the popularity chart:
- Songs on Greatest Hits albums all had noticeably high placement
- Songs off of prominent albums were all listened to a lot. Those include, in this order: The Stranger, Piano Man, 52nd Street, and Glass Houses
- Songs also featured on movie soundtracks (such as Vienna) featured prominently, as well
- Songs from the first half of albums performed noticeably better on the charts (see the excellent Sleeping With the Television On all the way down at #114!)
- Also, very obviously, singles that had chart success did well whether or not they appeared on Greatest Hits albums (see: Honesty)
Anyways, I enjoyed putting this analysis together. And I hope all two of you who ever make it all the way down here enjoyed reading it just as much.