The Piano Man Behind Billy Joel and Secret Love Affair

billy joel

With my latest obsession in the jTBC hit Secret Love Affair, I’ve really gone down the rabbit hole in ways I’ve only done with a handful of American shows, and a first for a Korean drama.  I know i’m not alone, soompi forums and sites like Outside Seoul have produced brilliant thought-provoking discourse coupled with several amazing theories that seems to only add to the wonder that is SLA.  I’m usually horrible at thinking of such theories but perhaps it was my inner DJ/music aficionado that led to this.  In episode 12, Sun-Jae (Yoo Ah-In) and Hye-Won (Kim Hee-ae) listen to an uncut, uninterrupted 4 minute Billy Joel classic, “The Piano Man”.  Though I’m not sure if it was as impactful to Sun-Jae and the Korean audience who doesn’t understand English, but for me I was sold.  I noticed some similarities to the characters in SLA to the people Billy talks about in his song.  Below are the lyrics and scene in question

“Piano Man”

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Making love to his tonic and gin

He says, “Son can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet
And I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feeling alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be

He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me”
As a smile ran away from his face
“Well, I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talking with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinking alone

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feeling alright

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see
To forget about life for a while

And the piano sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say “Man what are you doing here?”

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feeling alright

My take: (As I earlier stated on site I think Hye Won is three people in the song, each representing her past, present, and future. Her past is that of the waitress, being groomed for a life to serve the “stoned businessmen” through political cunning. Her present is that of the manager, which can be taken both literally as she is his teacher, but also states their love for one another when the manager smiles during pianos man’s performance, indicating that not so secret love affair. Her future, if you choose to accept it, would be as the old man, or her perhaps 20 years from now, where the piano man remains a distant memory brought back through music, much like Hye Won reminiscing her past and her choices whilst this very song was playing in the episode. This would indicate a sad, somber ending for our two leads, so i’m gonna think of this as my cray cray theory.  No matter what this forever changed how I’ll feel about Billy’s piano pop ballad.

As for the other characters John could be Justin, his wayward friend who dreams of a better life.  Paul would be Professor Kang due the less than ideal spousal relationship, who also talks to Professor Min aka Dave.  Though I doubt that characters were created from this song, but the writer certainly took inspiration from its lyrics, so for all you Billy Joel haters, without him would SLA be what it’s known as today??? Yeah I ask the big questions.  Whatever the outcome next week, SLA will hold up as one of the best dramas, neigh, shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. With that said, heart, prepare to be wrenched.



3 thoughts on “The Piano Man Behind Billy Joel and Secret Love Affair

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