Written by: A'shiyah Dobbs
“Vienna” by Billy Joel has been a source of comfort for me this year, especially with how chaotic things have been while stressing for the future, particularly concerning college. I discovered the song while watching the final episode of The Politician on Netflix, where Ben Platt sang a cover. The scene occurred in a New York City bar with captivating, warm-colored lighting to further enhance the piano and band accompanying the singer. Although I listened to the soundtrack from the show for months on end, the true meaning of the song did not occur to me until a month ago. A friend told me how much she adored the song as it made her nostalgic about the present, making me build a burning question in my mind. What exactly does this song mean to me?
Billy Joel said he finds the meaning “Vienna” to highlight self-worth. Society revolves around productivity, meaning as we get older, we lose our self-worth. For these exact reasons, Joel appreciates European culture for showing him that no matter the age, everyone helps in some way.
With a universal message, Billy Joel displays a profound understanding of the romanticization surrounding teens and young adults. As seen in mainstream media, movies and TV shows, high school and college are shown to be one of the best years in life. These romanticized versions of ‘coming of age’ stories neglect to show the other side of the spectrum, where pressure and isolation is often faced among young adults, affecting our perception of our self worth as we don’t conform to what we view on the media. This results in failure to take care of our mental health, leading to immense cases of burn out.
Addressed in the lines “You can't be everything you want to be / Before your time / Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight”, "Vienna" serves as a reminder to the world that these romanticized versions of life are fabricated. There is nothing wrong with taking a break when approaching crossroads. I believe this song can serve as mine and many others comfort songs as it is a personal reminder that although things are currently busy, there is still a city of music and dreams waiting for you. Life does not simply end after this time in our lives; the media has dedicated so much time to show and is just starting and full of potential things that should not be limited to what we see on TV.