A little over a year after introducing teenagers across America to the existence of a singer named Billy Joel and his 1983 tune “Uptown Girl” thanks to her hit “Deja Vu,” Olivia Rodrigo took the stage at Joel’s show at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to finally she sang. songs with the man himself.
The first sign that Rodrigo was in the house came in the middle of the night when the band quietly began playing the intro to “Deja Vu”, though few in the arena seemed to recognize what was going on. “I’m going to raise a young musician,” Joel said. “She’s a three-time Grammy winner. She won the Billboard 2022 Woman of the Year award. She is an American Music Award winner. He has every possible award. She is very talented. I like her music and so do my kids. She is very talented. Please say hello to Olivia Rodrigo.”
As she left, young members of the crowd squealed with glee as their parents tried to figure out what was going on. “Hey guys,” she said as she faced perhaps the most muted crowd of her short career as a touring artist. “Thank you so much for inviting me, Billy. I’m such a huge fan. I wouldn’t have written this next song without you, so thank you.”
A big smile appeared on Joel’s face as she got to the “I bet she knows Billy Joel/’Cause you played her ‘Uptown Girl'” part of the song and pointed right at him. And when it was over, he grabbed the mic, hugged her, and said they were going to play “the song that was referenced in the last song.”
What followed was the wonderfully surreal sight of Joel and Rodrigo standing side by side playfully trading verses on “Uptown Girl.” Rodrigo delivered the “And now she’s looking for a downtown man/That’s me” part and somehow managed to sell it. This moment was somewhat inevitable when “Deja Vu” became a hit, but it was even more beautiful than anyone could have imagined. “Thanks, Billy,” she said as they hugged at the end. “I love you.”
The surprise duet with Joel will only strengthen Joel’s standing with the Gen Z audience, who have turned his 1978 deep cut “Zanzibar” into a TikTok dance craze over the past year. If you think we’re kidding, check out these 262,000 videos that use the same little snippet of his song. “I don’t even know what TikTok is,” he told a crowd last year. “But this is the thing.
Olivia Rodrigo’s part was the highlight of Billy Joel’s extremely joyous concert, which spun between hits like “A Matter of Trust,” “Only The Good Die Young” and “My Life” and fan favorites like “Don’t Ask Me Why.” “, “The Entertainer” and “The Innocent Man”. On the latter song, Joel somehow hits the same stunning high notes as the original recording nearly 40 years ago.
Joel’s month-long residency at Madison Square Garden began as a small experiment in 2014, but is now firmly established as one of the most reliably great rock shows anywhere on the planet. There’s something unique about every gig, and even hackneyed hits like “Piano Man” and “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” sound fresh and exciting when you’re signing them along with 20,000 other people.
And with all due respect to Harry Styles and his 15-day stay at MSG, which is actually quite impressive, Joel is 82 months old and counting. Harry has a long way to go before he catches up.
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