Deconstructing the music video for Billy Joel’s “Pressure”

I’m sorry, but I love Billy Joel’s music.

That is how a lot of people start the conversation when it comes to Billy Joel… They apologize for liking the guy’s work. I blame Piano Man. That song, man… I think I have heard it approximately 10,273 times. And only three of those times was by choice. Classic rock radio has approximately 11 songs in popular rotation, and Piano Man is one of them. A nice song, but after the four hundredth time.. It starts to grate on a person.

Billy Joel is a very talented singer songwriter who is held in both esteem and ridicule, and the ridicule is unwarranted. Except… for the music video for Pressure.

Pressure, off his album The Nylon Curtain, is a nice synth-pop song that has a fantastic beat and some great lyrics. As a stand alone thing it is a nice way to pass 4 minutes of time. Unfortunately, it was 1982 when he came up with it, and all pop singles in 1982 had to have a music video.

Here it is:

Hoo-boy. That was… something, wasn’t it? Let’s look at the highlights.

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Billy’s home theatre setup

I would pay good money for this type of setup in my house. Look at that flat screen! Though the furnishings in his home theatre are a little – stark.

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Billy’s reaction shots

“William Joel, did you forget to take your medicine again? You know what happens when you forget!” He really does twitch well, though.

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A face only a mother can love

Umm… Yeah. Why did the editor decide to freeze on THIS SHOT and slowly zoom in on it? Did Billy sleep with his wife, or something?

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Billy on the Titanic

And they said this career would never sink! Don’t worry, his heart will go on.

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Shag carpeting – That KILLS.

I just… Wow. I have no words.

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This kid.

“Hey, Central Casting? We need a 10- year old that looks like Billy Joel in a dream sequence for a music video… Oh, you have a whole room full of kids in reserve for just such a request? Great, send one up!”

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Blatant 2001 reference is blatant.

I can just see the director pitching this one.

Director: “He is young, then old! Like the end of 2001.”

Billy: “Yeah, whatever. As long as I get to sit in a swivel chair, twitch, and make faces towards an elevated screen, I’m fine with it.”

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Billy Joel’s game show profile

All of a sudden, after Young Billy is sucked into a TV and Old Billy is nodding knowingly (“It’s a METAPHOR”, the director explained), we are in a game show and let’s take a good look at Mr. Joel’s on-screen profile:

AGE: 29

Ummm… No.


So his job is not a Computer Software ENGINEER, it is actually “Computer Software.” You see, he is just a program, we are all in The Matrix, and this music video is the prequel to TRON. Wow.

Mind. Blown.

INTERESTS: fast bikes, cooking, water sports. Satellite

Why am I thinking they just typed random shit in here to fill the space, thinking that no one would be paying attention? Well guess what, makers of this music video… we ARE. At least, I am. I have nothing better to do at the moment.

I really need to get a hobby.

And “fast bikes”? More like “Driving after one to many” ifyaknowwhatimean. #ObviousJoke

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A watery desk

And I thought I was the only one who had to deal with this problem in Elementary School. Hmm. Puberty starts early for some.

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Billy, this is NOT a good look for you.

And it all wraps up with a retrospective of the music video you just say, for all you people with ADD. William Joel ponders his life and all the stressful things that increases his PRESS-URE. Dogs! Water puddles! Shag carpets! Game shows! I’m telling you, thank goodness our military do not deal with such threats.

Billy, we love you, but thank you for never doing another video like this. This one makes the video for Uptown Girl look like Citizen Kane.

Joseph Dickerson is a user experience professional and UX Lead for Microsoft based out of Atlanta, GA. He has implemented processes in user testing, design and ethnographic research and provided design and consulting services for many different projects and organizations.

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