Pop kingpin Billy Joel is working on two new projects, and he doesn’t have to sing a note or plink a piano key for either one.
The first is a classical piano album of new songs, which is being arranged by established concert pianist Hyung-ki Joo. On June 25, Joel will travel to Vienna, Austria, to supervise the project, which he hopes to have available for release by the fall. The tentative title is Music for Solo Piano, but Joel isn’t totally sold on the name.
“I’m thinking of calling it Unsung, but that could be confusing because people may think that this is just old stuff without vocals. It’s not. This is all new stuff,” he stressed Thursday night at a press conference that followed the induction ceremony for the 32nd annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Awards, where Joel was honored with the Johnny Mercer Award.
The new record, his first in eight years, will feature songs Joel wrote over the past four years.
“The first four years the stuff really stunk and then I started getting better,” he said. “You really don’t want to hear the early things. There was a learning curve I went through.”
In addition to working on his upcoming album, Joel is talking to choreographer Twyla Tharp about creating a Broadway musical using his old songs and her dance steps.
“We’re just talking about it,” Joel said. “She’s got a group of dancers who are working with her, and I saw some of my stuff choreographed and I was very interested in that.”
Both of Joel’s new projects are noticeably removed from the realm of pop music, and the artist continues to criticize contemporary mainstream acts. At the end of the press conference, he criticized Christina Aguilera’s fluctuating vocal style, first imitating her, then snapping, “Pick a note and sit on it for a while, okay?”
It’s not the first time Joel has lambasted the current pop scene.
“I feel like we’re in a transitional state right now,” he told VH1’s Rebecca Rankin in a recent interview. “There has been a lot of very popular pop music, and it’s fabricated. There’s a formula right now with pop, and it’s aimed at a teenage demographic group. I don’t know if that’s what I hear music being. There’s also heavy metal and rap and that’s aimed at a particular demographic, too. I think there are a lot of people who are really hungry for something else.”
Despite such attacks, Joel said he hasn’t written off writing more songs with strong verses and catchy choruses.
“Right now, my interest is in writing piano music, but once this comes out, I may go back to writing popular music or I may continue with this instrumental music,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m just following the muse.”