New York City, the city that never sleeps, has inspired artists and musicians for decades. With its bustling energy and unique vibe, it has left an indelible mark on numerous songs across all genres. From jazz and hip-hop to pop and rock, New York has imprinted itself deeply into the fabric of music. In this article, we present you with the top 20 songs that pay homage to the incomparable New York City. Immerse yourself in the sounds that capture the essence of the Big Apple.
1. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
“Empire State of Mind” is a contemporary anthem celebrating New York City and its endless opportunities. Jay-Z’s fluid raps about achieving the American dream coupled with Alicia Keys’ powerful chorus create an unforgettable tune.
2. “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra’s swing anthem “New York, New York” ranks among the most iconic songs about the city. Its optimistic lyrics and Sinatra’s unmistakable voice have made it a timeless classic that transcends generations.
3. “Theme from New York, New York” by Liza Minnelli
Originally recorded for the 1977 film New York, New York, Liza Minnelli’s version of the song hasn’t reached the same heights as Sinatra’s but remains a significant landmark in the musical world.
4. “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” is a pop ode to the freedom and diversity that New York City offers. The song is an homage to the excitement one feels when exploring the city.
5. “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
Billy Joel’s ballad “New York State of Mind” reflects the ruminations of a homecomer rediscovering the simple beauty of New York. With its soulful piano, it stands as a quieter classic among New York songs.
6. “Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday’s rendition of “Autumn in New York” is a jazz standard that invokes the beauty of New York in the fall. Holiday’s expressive voice paints a bittersweet picture of the city.
7. “New York City Cops” by The Strokes
With a raw, energetic rock sound, “New York City Cops” by The Strokes ironically critiques New York’s police force, leading to notoriety and fame for the song.
8. “An Open Letter to NYC” by Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys penned “An Open Letter to NYC” as a love letter to their hometown post-9/11, highlighting the resilience and courage of New Yorkers.
9. “Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” is an intimate anecdote about encounters at the famous Chelsea Hotel, a cultural icon of New York, reflecting the city’s artistic spirit.
10. “Harlem Blues” by Nat King Cole
Sung by Nat King Cole, “Harlem Blues” explores the rich cultural legacy of New York’s historic Harlem neighborhood and its influence on the music scene.
11. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” by Beastie Boys
Another hit by the Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, is a high-energy anthem capturing the restless spirit of striving to the top in New York.
12. “Bleecker Street” by Simon & Garfunkel
In “Bleecker Street”, Simon & Garfunkel immortalize the image of the famous New York street and its significance in the 60s folk music scene.
13. “Angel of Harlem” by U2
U2’s “Angel of Harlem” pays tribute to jazz singer Billie Holiday and tells the story of her connection to New York and Harlem in particular.
14. “53rd & 3rd” by Ramones
The punk rock band Ramones detail the darker corners of New York in “53rd & 3rd”, offering an unvarnished look at the city life in the 70s.
15. “Englishman in New York” by Sting
Sting’s “Englishman in New York” revolves around the experience of being an outsider in the city while celebrating individuality and urban living.
16. “Take the ‘A’ Train” by Duke Ellington
A swing masterpiece, “Take the ‘A’ Train” by Duke Ellington, is an instrumental anthem inviting listeners to ride one of New York’s most famous subway lines and explore the city.
17. “New York Minute” by Don Henley
Don Henley’s “New York Minute” reflects the fast-paced nature of New York and deals with the sudden turns of fate that can occur in a New Yorker’s everyday life.
18. “On Broadway” by George Benson
George Benson’s refreshed version of “On Broadway” speaks to the hopes and disappointments on the glittering streets of New York’s theater district.
19. “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s iconic single “Walk on the Wild Side” narrates the tales of various characters wandering through the city and reflects New York’s diverse character.
20. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
A groundbreaking work in the genre of hip-hop, “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five paints a raw picture of urban struggles and challenges in early 80s New York.
This collection doesn’t just showcase the musical diversity birthed by New York City, but also the deep-seated inspiration emanating from this magical metropolis. Each of these songs forms a piece of the vast, sparkling portrait that New York City represents in the world of music.