Opinion: Billy Joel’s “Vienna” Teaches Me the Importance of Slowing Down

Billy Joel’s album “The Stranger” sits on top of a yellow Crosley record player. The album contains the song “Vienna” which reminds the author – Heidi Faramelli, Fremont, Indiana sophomore – to breathe amidst her anxiety and realize that things will be okay (Photo illustration by Heidi Faramelli).

This semester, I’ve been struggling with my mental health. I took on more than I could handle, and it was hard for me to accept that. Accepting failures has always been difficult for me because I consider myself a perfectionist, and it took advice from my loving support system to admit I needed to make some changes for the sake of my health – so I quit my second job. Honestly, even as I’m writing this article, I still find myself trying to adjust to my busy schedule. 

Amidst my stress, I listened to my favorite song, “Vienna” by American singer/songwriter Billy Joel for the first time in a while – and was reminded of the way it soothes my soul. 

I’m grateful to have an extremely close relationship with my parents. We’ve always listened to a variety of music from the 1970s to 1990s together; they’re the ones who introduced me to Joel. In high school, I asked for Joel’s “The Stranger” record for Christmas. I still remember the first time I heard “Vienna” played on vinyl.

Upon receiving the record, I placed the vinyl on the turntable of my yellow Crosley record player and put the needle on the groove gently. As I let Joel’s words wash over me, I resonated with his honesty. He sings about what it’s like to grow up and be unsure of what one is doing, and his interpretation of the song was something I looked into after listening to it. 

In an interview with Vienna, Austria’s YouTube channel, Joel discussed the meaning of his song which was released in 1980 as track five on “The Stranger.”

“Slow down, look around you and have some gratitude for the good things in your life,” Joel said. 

Gratitude is something I’ve been focusing on and it truly makes a positive difference for me. I walk across campus and I smile at the blooming flowers and the vibrant green leaves transforming into golden yellows. I take each day moment by moment because we never know how much time we have. 

The central idea of the song is that “Vienna waits for you,” and it’s okay to realize that you don’t need to have everything figured out at your current age. Vienna can be a metaphor for anything, but I view it as symbolism for a dream.

I don’t exactly know what I want to do with my life post-graduation. This is a hard situation to grapple with; everyone keeps telling me “you’re only a sophomore, you have time.”

Time is something that makes me anxious, though, because it’s such a finite thing. I’m a planner, and I wish I could have everything figured out right here, right now.

My dream would be to become a bestselling romance author and spend my days writing in sweatpants and oversized t-shirts like Emily Henry. However, I worry that my income would be too inconsistent and it’s difficult to get published nowadays. According to Wordsrated, most authors’ odds of being published are between one and two percent. 

It should be obvious by now that worry is something my mind uses like a driving force in my everyday life. Only recently have I come to terms with the fact that I have anxiety, and learned to acknowledge that it causes me to live a lot of my life outside of the present moment. 

One particular set of lyrics resonates with me in this song, because it reminds me to take a deep breath and remember that I’m only nineteen years old and I still have my entire life ahead of me.  

During the second verse, Joel sings:

 “Slow down, you’re doing fine

 You can’t be everything you want to be before your time”

These lyrics can be relatable in any stage of life, but as a college student juggling an on-campus job, playing volleyball, trying to stay on top of schoolwork and figuring out what she wants to do with her life? I feel as though Joel is singing directly to me.

I may not have everything figured out, but I know that my Vienna is out there somewhere – waiting for me to find it.

About Heidi Faramelli 12 Articles
Heidi Faramelli is a sophomore English Creative Writing major and Communication Studies minor from Angola, Indiana. She finds joy in telling people-centered stories and giving the outspoken a platform to tell their stories. Contact Heidi via email at HKF10@albion.edu.

1 Comment

  1. Well said! I absolutely love this song too and like you my first term of Uni studying songwriting and music in the Uk has been not what I expected, and day by day feels very daunting (for similar reasons to what you have said). Also having to establish an identity and dream at this age is really tough! Very glad I read this. (Another great song with a similar message is John Mayers “Why Georgia Why” if you haven’t already heard it)

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