The streets are crippled by snow and Penn Station’s A platform just decided to reroute over the F line, and skip all the WiFi-less travelers at the downtown Eighth Avenue stop. So, what do you do? Just sit back, and cue up the songs that remind you that New York City really isn’t all that bad. To make your lives easier, we’ve come up with some of the best and even thrown in a few of the worst songs about “New York, New York”. So, sit back and enjoy.
“Talkin’ New York” by Bob Dylan
In the song “Talkin’ about New York”, Dylan actually talks about New York City while playing the guitar and harmonica in his signature style. He sings about coming to New York City for the first time, the cold nights and how someone once said he sounded like a hillbilly. The song is from his 1962 self titled album and is definitely worth a listen.
“New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
This song is regarded as the unofficial anthem of New York City, and while it was originally penned for and performed by Liza Minnelli for the 1977 movie of the same name, it was ‘Ol Blue Eyes’ rendition that made it a sing-a-long song for tourists and New Yorkers alike.
“New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
This 1976 classic is one of Joel’s better known works. The ballad is about a homesick New Yorker tied to his past. The melancholy piano-bar ballad classic fits right in to your private New York City soundtrack.
“53rd and 3rd” by The Ramones
While the corner of 53rd and 3rd has since been cleaned up, its grittier past has forever been immortalized in the bare bones punk song of The Ramones. The song ‘53rd and 3rd’ was written by The Ramones bassist Dee Dee Ramone who was inspired by the particular spot in Manhattan known for its male prostitution at the time.
“Chelsea Hotel no. 2” by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen idealized New York with his morose poetry too. The Canadian singer-songwriter croons “Chelsea Hotel no.2” as he laments about lost love in the infamous NYC hotel, which once housed musicians, artists and poets from all over the US. The Chelsea no longer accepts guests, but still remains home to full time residents and is considered a NYC landmark.
“Back to Manhattan” by Norah Jones
No one describes the degree of separation which can form between people living in the boroughs of New York like the Brooklyn-born songstress Norah Jones. In her ballad, “Back to Manhattan” Jones sings about love, separation, and the personal divergence between two lovers with her sultry voice, which fits well in her album The Fall.
So, here you have it, the anthems which are so good at describing the culturally dense metropolis that is New York that they can’t be denied. But, wait a minute, we also promised you the worst songs written about New York City. Here are the songs that fall flat:
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
No city in America has got more songs written about it than New York City. “Empire State of Mind” is just another one to make it on the list. The only problem with this song is that there’s nothing about NYC in the song. While some people would say that it’s clearly about New York because of the title, the name is only mentioned in the chorus “welcome to New York”. Sure it’s a pop song, but if you’re going to talk about New York, then talk about New York!
“Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s single “Welcome to New York” can be described as many things, being including it on a list of great songs about the city is a definite not. If you called it, rage-inducing, tone deaf, or just an empty bubble gum song you wouldn’t be wrong. Obviously, Taylor Swift’s experience of moving to New York City was a lot different than others.
“New York” By U2
Over the last 34 years, the Irish rockers have belted out hit after hit and have reached heights that most artists could only dream of. That being said, even the greats screw up sometimes. The song “New York” is supposed to be a rocker, and even though it uses New York as a metaphor, it quite obviously was a failed appeal for new fans.