What does The Stranger mean?

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Billy Joel: The Stranger Meaning

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Song Released: 1978


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The Stranger Lyrics

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Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and
Show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them...

  1.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 21st, 11:19pm report


    What this song is basically about is that everyone hides behind a mask that isn’t really them. Such as when he says some are silk and some are leather that means some people act as they are gentle or tough but that isnt acutually what they are it is just what they act like.



  2.  

    Stevied
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    Aug 7th, 8:25am report


    My wife is a stranger depending on the time of month and what time of day it is. It's really that simple.



  3.  

    Stevied
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    Aug 6th, 8:47pm report


    We all mess up. I think this song is about being accountable for ones actions and being honest with ones self. I own my bad. I dont wear a mask. I know who I am and I am accountable for my actions good or bad. The stranger is the opposite.



  4.  

    Stevied
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    Aug 6th, 8:57pm report


    My interpretation is this. Male or female. It can work both ways. In my case this refers to my wife. Her inconsistent moods. She is amazing one minute. Then she can come home and be a totally different woman. Like crazy and unrecognizable. Hence a stranger to me. We all fall in love but we disregard the danger. We assume the person we fall in love with is that person. After time we find out that person wears different faces. Silk, satin, leather or steel. We share secrets. Too ashamed to share in public. We can use these secrets as leverage to control the person we are with. As in. If you leave me I will tell everyone about blah blah blah. So they assume control. One way or the other. Lies, guilt, misbehaviour, shame. Dont be afraid to try again. Everyone goes south, every now and then....I've made mistakes. I've fucked up but you blame me. But you've done the same and do not take this into account as you are too busy blaming and being the victim. I dont use it against you because I'm not that type of vindictive person. You are...I used to believe I was such a great romancer. We had great chemistry etc
    In every way. Then you changed and I could not recognise you and you became unattractive. Ugly inside. I saw the ugly side of you. "The stranger". And you kicked me right between the eyes. I ask you why you are like this. And you will not give me a straight answer. You blame, bully and make yourself the victim. You cant help yourself for how you are but it fuels your belly and you will never quench this desire. It is part of your driving force. You need it to function. You only see your side and will not accept that he isn't always evil and he isn't always wrong. But it's easier to blame than be accountable. That's my take



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 1st, 7:08pm report


    This song is about how when we think we know somebody, we often hardly know that person at all. "The Stranger" is the collective for the unknown things about people we know: "Although we share so many secrets, there are some we never tell."

    According to Joel, the song can also relate to how we don't always know ourselves. He says that his halfhearted suicide attempt at age 21 (he tried to end his life by drinking furniture polish) was an inspiration for the song, as it revealed a dark side of his personality that wasn't readily apparent.

    Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: "After we recorded the song, I remember thinking, 'it needs some sort of introduction. It needs a prelude or a theme, and then it should slam into the song.' I played the theme on the piano to show Phil (Ramone, the album's producer) and whistled along with it, and I said, 'What instrument do you think should do that?' And Phil said, 'You just did it.' I heard it played back and went, 'That's kind of cool, I like that.' It was really the theme to the album because it was born in the studio during the process, and it just kind of captured the mood."
    - SONGFACTS

    So your closest lover has secrets. I bet you have a bunch of lovers who has secrets too, why worry about the secrets of your closest lover? You have your own secrets too!


    I don't have any lover, lovers, or closest lover.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 1st, 7:06pm report


    This song is about how when we think we know somebody, we often hardly know that person at all. "The Stranger" is the collective for the unknown things about people we know: "Although we share so many secrets, there are some we never tell."

    According to Joel, the song can also relate to how we don't always know ourselves. He says that his halfhearted suicide attempt at age 21 (he tried to end his life by drinking furniture polish) was an inspiration for the song, as it revealed a dark side of his personality that wasn't readily apparent.

    Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: "After we recorded the song, I remember thinking, 'it needs some sort of introduction. It needs a prelude or a theme, and then it should slam into the song.' I played the theme on the piano to show Phil (Ramone, the album's producer) and whistled along with it, and I said, 'What instrument do you think should do that?' And Phil said, 'You just did it.' I heard it played back and went, 'That's kind of cool, I like that.' It was really the theme to the album because it was born in the studio during the process, and it just kind of captured the mood."

    So your closest lover has secrets. I bet you have a bunch of lovers who has secrets too, why worry about the secrets of your closest lover? You have your own secrets too!


    I don't have any lover, lovers, or closest lover.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 1st, 7:00pm report


    We all have our own secrets we can't share them with others. So have others .
    My closest lover also her own secrets that she can't share with me...



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 14th, 2018 1:38am report


    A person can give a completely different impression to the outside world than they do in the bedroom. What you think is the quiet, conservative and reserved person that reveals themselves that way to the public world, could be the one who enjoys having sex with multiple partners at one time, may be bisexual, polyamorious and/or or may have a very extensive sexual history in the bedroom, so to speak. The woman Billy Joel came home to could have had a sexual secret that she never shared with him and he was not prepared for, hence, she became, “The Stranger.” “You’ve done it”- you’ve kept secrets about your past or fantasies you’ve had. “He isn’t always evil and he’s not always wrong.”- maybe your “Stranger” enjoyed participating in group sex and/or your fantasies. He will never quench the fire- you’ll keep having your erotic desires. “Don’t give in to your desires when the stranger comes along.”- Maybe there are things that are better not shared. Maybe asking your partner to participate in an orgy because you’d be very stimulated by it, would scare them away. So don’t give into those desires when “Your Stranger” comes along.



  9.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 19th, 2014 7:20pm report


    To me, it is very clear he is talking about sexual fetishes. "You'll give in to your desire when the stranger comes along." It's a part of ourselves that we don't even understand.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 23rd, 2012 6:32pm report


    This lyric is one of the boldest and most honest ever written. It is about our guilty pleasures, so to speak - that thing that turns us on of which we are ashamed. To me it is clearly about sexual fetishes. Even the cover of the album has Joel sitting on a BED with the mask on the pillow. "You will never quench the fire, you'll give into your desire when the stranger comes along." You may be able to seem perfectly normal in public, but in the privacy of your own home, when the stranger surfaces, you can't resist and you succumb. "Did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself?"



  11.  

    46and2aheadofme
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    Jun 1st, 2010 6:41am report


    The way I first interpreted it was that the "stranger" in the song was a love interest who was unable to see the narrator for how he truly was (a lot like the song 3 Libras by APC)- thus the love interest is a stranger to him. But reading other interpretations, it does seem that the song is about the feeling of overcoming an addiction. However, applying my initial interpretation to that interpretation actually makes for an even more interesting suggestion. After all, moving on from a drug addiction is presumably a lot like moving on from a harmful relationship with someone.

    "Shy away phantom, won't you move away, terrified child"

    To me, he is talking to his inner addicted self. This self, is a "phantom" and "child" because it isn't truly him- it's just a weaker, dependent version of himself. However, even though he despises it, moving on from this inner self is still painful for the narrator because he is still "in love" with it deep down (you can even detect the pain in Maynard's voice as he sings it).

    "As I listen for the whisper, of your sweet insanity"

    Perhaps the reason he loved this "self" is because it made his life more interesting, turbulent, and fun- thus "sweet insanity". Even though he is in the process of moving on, he is still listening for some whisper within himself to coax him back into his former ways.

    So my overall interpretation is that the song is about someone who is still overcoming the addiction, and is prone to relapse because deep down he still misses whatever he was addicted to. To me this is exactly like getting over a love interest.

    Only the genius of APC or Tool could capture such an intricate feeling in a song.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 27th, 2009 12:49pm report


    I find this song is about the different 'faces' or personalities that everyone has. everbody has their regular face, and everyone has another face, a 'stranger' that they keep hidden from the public world. as it is said, some 'are satin' or 'silk' and are easy to pick out and expose, whilst others 'or steel' or 'are leather' and are much more well hidden and harder to break. This face is the 'secret' that 'we never tell'.

    Joel also makes a point in the line 'why were you so surprised that you never saw the stranger? did you ever let your lover see the stranger in yourself?' here he says that you shouldnt be so suprised people you care about hide a part of themselves and keep secrets from you if you've always done the same thing (basically, don't be a hypocrite). The line 'once I used to believe I was such a great romancer, then I came home to a woman that I could not recognize' shows the point of epiphany, the moment of realization when joel understood everything at last. 'once I used to believe I was such a great romancer' this part is the remembrance of another, more naive mindset. 'then I came home to a woman that I could not recognize' here he talks about when a girl he was with revealed her secrets and her hidden self, her 'stranger' (the stranger being the 'woman I could not recognize') his trying to understand what was happening ad getting upset at her for keeping her secrets is all in the 'when I pressed her for a reason she refused to weave an answer'. He doesn't LITERALLY mean that she didn't give an answer, he smiply means the answer he got, he didn't understand it, untill finally... 'it was then I felt the stranger kick me right between the eyes' BAM. and the lightbulb flickers into life.

    The 'we may never understand how the stranger is inspired' means we don't know WHY we keep part of ourselves hidden. 'but he isn't always evil and he is not always wrong' but its not always a bad thing we don't show a part of ourselves. 'though you drown in good intentions you will never quench the fire' even if you hid it for a good reason, your lovers will still be upset. 'you'll give in to your desire when the stranger comes along' you can't keep it hidden forever.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 20th, 2008 4:36pm report


    The Stranger is a song that makes us think about how well we really know who we are or who others are. It almost questions are sanity. Theres always a person hidden within that does not reveal themselves. So you think you know someone but it turns out that you didn't know them. The strangers within everyone and if were not careful the stranger will kick us right between the eyes.




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