- 1. Hard Times in New York Town – Bob Dylan
- 2. (Theme From) New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
- 3. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
- 4. New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem
- 5. New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
- 6. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
- 7. The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon & Garfunkel
- 8. Welcome to New York – Taylor Swift
- 9. Autumn in New York – Ella & Louis
- 10. N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
- 11. Leaving New York – R.E.M.
- 12. Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell
- 13. New York City Cops – The Strokes
- 14. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
- 15. Englishman in New York – Sting
- 16. Angel of Harlem – U2
- 17. 53rd & 3rd – Ramones
- 18. New York Telephone Conversation – Lou Reed
- 19. Take the “A” Train – Ella Fitzgerald
- 20. Chelsea Hotel #2 – Leonard Cohen
- 21. Brooklyn Baby – Lana Del Rey
- 22. Back to Manhattan – Norah Jones
- 23. Safe in New York City – AC/DC
- 24. I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City – Harry Nilsson
- 25. First We Take Manhattan – Leonard Cohen
- 26. Living for the City – Stevie Wonder
- 27. Brooklyn Girls – Charles Hamilton
- 28. South Bronx – Boogie Down Productions
- 29. New York City Serenade – Bruce Springsteen
- 30. Harlem Blues – Nat King Cole
New York City, the city that never sleeps, is one of the most iconic and influential cities in the world. It has been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians, and writers for centuries. From its iconic skyline to its vibrant neighborhoods, New York City has a special place in the hearts of many.
It’s no surprise that the city has been featured in countless songs throughout the years. These songs not only capture the essence of the city but also provide a glimpse into the lives of those who live and work there. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most iconic and memorable songs about New York City. From classic jazz to punk rock, these songs cover a range of genres and offer a unique perspective on the city that never sleeps.
Join us as we take a musical tour of the Big Apple and explore some of the most beloved songs about New York City.
1. Hard Times in New York Town – Bob Dylan
“Hard Times in New York Town” is a folk song by Bob Dylan, originally recorded in 1961 but not officially released until 1991. The song features Dylan’s signature acoustic guitar and harmonica playing, and his lyrics paint a vivid picture of the harsh realities of life in New York City during the early 1960s. The song describes the struggles of poverty, crime, and racism in the city, and Dylan’s lyrics are filled with gritty, realistic images of life on the streets. Despite its bleak subject matter, the song has a hopeful quality to it, with Dylan encouraging listeners to keep fighting for a better life. The song’s melody is simple but effective, and Dylan’s vocal delivery is raw and passionate. Overall, “Hard Times in New York Town” is a powerful and poignant song that captures the spirit of an era and continues to resonate with listeners today.
2. (Theme From) New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
“(Theme From) New York, New York” is a classic song by Frank Sinatra, released in 1980. The song has become an iconic anthem for the city of New York, with its upbeat melody and triumphant lyrics capturing the energy and spirit of the city. The song features a big band sound, with a brass section providing a powerful backing to Sinatra’s smooth vocals. The lyrics celebrate the city’s vibrancy and diversity, encouraging listeners to embrace the excitement and possibility of living in New York. The song’s catchy chorus has become a cultural touchstone, often used in movies, TV shows, and sporting events as a symbol of the city. Overall, “(Theme From) New York, New York” is a timeless classic that captures the essence of New York’s unique character and remains a beloved song to this day.
3. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
“Empire State of Mind” is a song by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, released in 2009. The song is a celebration of New York City, with Jay-Z and Keys trading verses about the city’s energy, ambition, and resilience. The song’s chorus is a soaring anthem that captures the essence of New York’s spirit, with Keys’ powerful vocals providing a dynamic contrast to Jay-Z’s confident flow. The song features a sample from “Love on a Two-Way Street” by The Moments, which provides a nostalgic touch that adds to the song’s emotional impact. Overall, “Empire State of Mind” is a modern classic that captures the energy and excitement of New York City and has become an enduring symbol of the city’s spirit and resilience
4. New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem
“New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” is a melancholic song by LCD Soundsystem, released in 2007. The song reflects the bittersweet feelings that come with living in New York City, as the protagonist sings about his love for the city and its energy, but also acknowledges the difficulties and challenges that come with it. The song features a slow, dreamy melody that creates a reflective and introspective mood, and James Murphy’s plaintive vocals add to the song’s emotional impact. Overall, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” is a poignant and evocative tribute to the complexities and contradictions of life in New York City.
5. New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
“New York State of Mind” is a classic song by Billy Joel, released in 1976. The song is a love letter to the city that never sleeps, as Joel sings about the unique energy and vibe of New York City, from the bustling streets to the bright lights of Times Square. The song’s iconic piano melody and Joel’s soulful vocals capture the essence of the city, and the lyrics paint a vivid picture of life in New York. “New York State of Mind” has become one of Joel’s most enduring and beloved songs, and it remains a timeless tribute to the enduring appeal of the Big Apple.
6. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
“Fairytale of New York” is a Christmas classic by The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl. The song was released in 1987 and tells the story of a couple in New York who are down on their luck during the holiday season. The song is both melancholic and joyful, with its mix of traditional Irish folk and punk rock sounds. The lyrics are raw and honest, conveying the struggles of the couple while also celebrating their love. “Fairytale of New York” has become an enduring Christmas classic in the UK and Ireland and is beloved for its emotional depth and raw authenticity.
7. The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon & Garfunkel
“The Only Living Boy in New York” is a classic folk rock song by Simon & Garfunkel, released in 1970 on their album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The song was written by Paul Simon and is an ode to his friendship with Art Garfunkel, who was temporarily absent from the music scene at the time. The song features Simon’s signature poetic lyrics and acoustic guitar playing, as well as Garfunkel’s angelic harmonies. The lyrics describe Simon’s feelings of loneliness and longing for his friend, as he navigates the challenges of the music industry. “The Only Living Boy in New York” has become a beloved classic in the Simon & Garfunkel canon, known for its beautiful melody and heartfelt lyrics.
8. Welcome to New York – Taylor Swift
“Welcome to New York” is a pop song by Taylor Swift, released in 2014 as the opening track on her album “1989”. The song was written by Swift and Ryan Tedder, and is an upbeat tribute to the city of New York, which Swift had recently moved to at the time. The song features a catchy synth-pop beat and Swift’s signature pop vocals, as she sings about the excitement and energy of the city that never sleeps. The lyrics celebrate the diversity, creativity, and resilience of New Yorkers, and the music video features iconic New York City landmarks and a colorful cast of characters. “Welcome to New York” has become a fan favorite and a staple of Swift’s live shows.
9. Autumn in New York – Ella & Louis
“Autumn in New York” is a jazz standard composed by Vernon Duke in 1934, with lyrics by his regular collaborator, E.Y. Harburg. The song has been covered by many artists, including Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong in their 1956 album “Ella and Louis”, which is considered one of the best vocal jazz albums of all time. The song’s lyrics describe the autumn season in New York City, highlighting the beauty of the city’s parks, streets, and buildings, as well as the emotions it evokes in people. The song’s melancholic melody and rich harmonies perfectly capture the mood of the season.
10. N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
“N.Y. State of Mind” is a song by Nas, released in 1994 as part of his debut album “Illmatic.” The song is an intense portrayal of the gritty reality of life in the Queensbridge housing projects in New York City, where Nas grew up. The lyrics paint vivid pictures of drug deals, violence, and poverty, all set to a hypnotic beat produced by DJ Premier. The song is considered a classic of hip-hop, and Nas’ detailed storytelling and complex rhyme schemes have influenced countless artists in the genre. It is also notable for its use in the opening credits of the hit TV series “The Get Down.”
11. Leaving New York – R.E.M.
“Leaving New York” is a song by R.E.M. that was released in 2004. The song talks about leaving behind memories and starting anew. It has a melancholic tone and is filled with vivid imagery of New York City. The lyrics are open to interpretation, but they are often associated with the aftermath of 9/11 and the emotions that came with it. The track is a departure from the band’s signature sound, featuring a simple, piano-driven melody and understated instrumentation. Despite its relatively low commercial success, the song has received critical acclaim and is regarded as one of the band’s most poignant compositions.
12. Chelsea Morning – Joni Mitchell
“Chelsea Morning” is a joyful and upbeat song by Joni Mitchell, released in 1969. The song describes a peaceful morning in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, where the singer is waking up to the sounds of the city and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the scene, with references to a child’s balloon, a newspaper stand, and a flower vendor. Mitchell’s voice is accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar strumming, and the melody is filled with whimsical flourishes. Overall, the song captures the feeling of hope and possibility that can come with a fresh start to the day in the bustling metropolis of New York City.
13. New York City Cops – The Strokes
“New York City Cops” is a song by American rock band The Strokes, which was released on their debut album “Is This It” in 2001. The song is known for its fast-paced, guitar-driven sound and catchy hooks, and its lyrics reference the New York City Police Department’s harsh tactics and the band’s desire to resist conformity. The song’s urgent energy and rebellious spirit capture the rawness and excitement of New York City in the early 2000s, and it has become a classic of the garage rock revival movement. “New York City Cops” is a must-listen for fans of rock music and anyone looking for an authentic New York experience.
14. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed
“Walk on the Wild Side” is a classic rock song by Lou Reed that was released in 1972. The song tells the story of several colorful characters from Andy Warhol’s Factory scene in the late 60s, including Holly Woodlawn, Candy Darling, and Joe Dallesandro. The song’s catchy melody and smooth bass line have made it an enduring favorite, and it’s often cited as one of the greatest songs of all time. With its frank and often taboo lyrics about sexuality and gender identity, “Walk on the Wild Side” was ahead of its time and remains a landmark in rock history.
15. Englishman in New York – Sting
“Englishman in New York” is a popular song by British musician Sting, released in 1988. The song tells the story of Quentin Crisp, an English writer and actor, who moved to New York City in the late 1970s. The lyrics touch on themes of individuality, culture shock, and the challenges of being an outsider in a new place. The song features a jazzy, laid-back melody and showcases Sting’s distinctive vocals. “Englishman in New York” has become one of Sting’s most beloved songs, praised for its catchy tune and thoughtful lyrics.
16. Angel of Harlem – U2
“Angel of Harlem” is a soulful rock song by Irish band U2, released in 1988. The track pays tribute to the legendary African-American singer Billie Holiday and the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where she performed during the 1940s. The song features prominent horns and a groovy bassline that give it a lively, upbeat feel. Lead singer Bono’s powerful vocals and poignant lyrics capture the spirit of Harlem and the struggles of its people. “Angel of Harlem” became a chart-topping hit and remains a fan favorite, showcasing U2’s ability to blend rock and soulful elements into a dynamic musical experience.
17. 53rd & 3rd – Ramones
“53rd & 3rd” by Ramones is a fast-paced punk rock song that tells a disturbing story about a male prostitute who works at the intersection of 53rd Street and Third Avenue in New York City. The lyrics describe the protagonist’s struggle to make ends meet and his involvement in violent altercations. The driving guitar riffs and pounding drum beats perfectly capture the frenetic energy of the city, while the raw and aggressive vocals of lead singer Joey Ramone add to the intensity of the song. “53rd & 3rd” is a gritty and unapologetic portrayal of the darker side of New York’s underbelly.
18. New York Telephone Conversation – Lou Reed
“New York Telephone Conversation” by Lou Reed is a quirky and upbeat song that captures the frenzied energy of New York City. The song features Reed’s signature spoken word style over a jazzy piano and saxophone melody, creating a unique blend of rock and jazz. The lyrics are a witty and sarcastic commentary on the superficial conversations had over the telephone in New York City, touching on themes of loneliness and disconnectedness. Overall, the song offers a playful yet poignant glimpse into the fast-paced and sometimes impersonal nature of life in the city.
19. Take the “A” Train – Ella Fitzgerald
“Take the ‘A’ Train” is a classic jazz song composed by Billy Strayhorn and made famous by Duke Ellington’s orchestra. The song is an ode to New York City’s subway system, particularly the A train that runs through Harlem, and its upbeat tempo and swinging melody capture the energy and excitement of the city. Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the song is particularly notable for her impeccable scat singing and improvisational skills, as she effortlessly weaves her way through the song’s complex chord changes. “Take the ‘A’ Train” remains a beloved standard in the jazz repertoire and a tribute to the city that inspired it.
20. Chelsea Hotel #2 – Leonard Cohen
“Chelsea Hotel #2” is a melancholic song by Leonard Cohen, released in 1974. It tells a story of a brief romantic encounter with a woman at New York City’s Chelsea Hotel. The song has a haunting quality to it, with Cohen’s deep and somber voice accompanied by a simple acoustic guitar. The lyrics are introspective and poetic, exploring themes of love, loss, and memory. The song gained notoriety for its explicit references to sexual acts and the real-life inspiration behind the encounter with Janis Joplin. Despite the controversy, “Chelsea Hotel #2” remains a beloved and influential song in the folk and singer-songwriter genres.
21. Brooklyn Baby – Lana Del Rey
“Brooklyn Baby” is a dreamy and nostalgic song by Lana Del Rey that pays homage to the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. The song features Del Rey’s signature vocals, backed by a lush arrangement of acoustic and electric guitars, and a prominent bassline. Del Rey’s lyrics evoke a sense of longing and romance, as she sings about the allure of the Brooklyn lifestyle, referencing iconic landmarks like Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge. The song captures the wistful, yet glamorous, spirit of New York’s most iconic borough, and is a fitting tribute to the city’s creative and artistic legacy.
22. Back to Manhattan – Norah Jones
“Back to Manhattan” by Norah Jones is a mellow jazz-infused track that captures the vibe of the city. With her soulful voice and piano playing, Jones takes the listener on a journey through the streets of New York. The song evokes the feeling of walking down a busy Manhattan street, with the hustle and bustle of the city in the background. Jones sings about the ups and downs of love and life in the city, making it a perfect soundtrack for a late-night walk or a quiet evening at home. The smooth saxophone solo adds a touch of sophistication to the overall sound of the song.
23. Safe in New York City – AC/DC
“Safe in New York City” is a hard-rock song by Australian rock band AC/DC. The song features an intense, driving rhythm with powerful guitar riffs and a relentless beat. The lyrics depict the gritty, dangerous nature of New York City, with references to street gangs and violence. The chorus is a defiant proclamation that the protagonist feels safe in the city, despite its hazards. The song’s raw energy and aggressive style reflect the band’s signature sound and attitude, capturing the essence of the city’s rough-and-tumble spirit. It is a powerful anthem for those who thrive on the excitement and intensity of urban life.
24. I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City – Harry Nilsson
“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City” is a song by Harry Nilsson released in 1969. The song features a catchy melody and uplifting lyrics that evoke a sense of hope and wonder about New York City. Nilsson’s smooth, soulful vocals are backed by a jazzy, piano-driven arrangement that perfectly captures the essence of the city. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years, and its message of finding hope and redemption in the midst of chaos and confusion continues to resonate with listeners around the world.
25. First We Take Manhattan – Leonard Cohen
“First We Take Manhattan” by Leonard Cohen is a hauntingly beautiful song about the desire to change the world, starting with one city. The song opens with a brooding synthesizer and Cohen’s deep, gravelly voice declaring his intention to “take Manhattan, then Berlin.” The lyrics are filled with vivid imagery and a sense of urgency, as Cohen sings about the need to overthrow the existing order and create something new. The chorus is unforgettable, with Cohen repeating the mantra “First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin” over and over again. The song is a testament to the power of music to inspire change and make a difference in the world.
26. Living for the City – Stevie Wonder
“Living for the City” is a powerful and socially conscious song by Stevie Wonder that was released in 1973. It begins with a depiction of life in rural Mississippi before shifting to the story of a young man who moves to New York City to seek a better life, only to become a victim of injustice and inequality. With its funky groove and soulful vocals, the song highlights the struggles of Black Americans living in urban areas, as well as the need for change and progress in society. It remains a timeless anthem of the civil rights movement and a reminder of the ongoing fight for social justice.
27. Brooklyn Girls – Charles Hamilton
“Brooklyn Girls” is a song by American rapper and producer Charles Hamilton. It’s an upbeat track with a catchy chorus that celebrates the unique and diverse qualities of girls from Brooklyn. The song has a nostalgic feel to it and features a mix of old-school and modern hip-hop elements. Hamilton’s clever lyrics and rhymes capture the essence of Brooklyn and its people, from its street art and music scene to its fashion and cultural diversity. With its infectious beat and fun vibe, “Brooklyn Girls” is a celebration of the borough and the people who call it home.
28. South Bronx – Boogie Down Productions
“South Bronx” is a hip-hop classic from Boogie Down Productions, released in 1986. The song pays homage to the birthplace of hip-hop and the cultural and social struggles of the South Bronx neighborhood during the 1970s and 1980s. Over a funky beat and a sample from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” rapper KRS-One delivers a powerful and politically charged message, addressing issues such as poverty, crime, and police brutality in the South Bronx. The song’s catchy chorus and KRS-One’s confident delivery helped establish Boogie Down Productions as one of the most influential groups in the history of hip-hop.
29. New York City Serenade – Bruce Springsteen
“New York City Serenade” is a beautiful and nostalgic song by Bruce Springsteen that takes the listener on a journey through the streets of New York City. The song opens with a slow and mellow instrumental before Springsteen’s soulful voice starts to tell a story of a city that is both exciting and dangerous. The lyrics paint vivid pictures of the people and places of New York City, from the street vendors and corner hustlers to the quiet parks and bustling nightclubs. The song builds to a climactic finish with a soaring saxophone solo that captures the energy and spirit of the city.
30. Harlem Blues – Nat King Cole
“Harlem Blues” is a jazz standard originally recorded by W.C. Handy in 1921 and later popularized by Nat King Cole in 1958. The song features Cole’s smooth, velvety voice over a lush arrangement of horns and strings, evoking the soulful and bluesy vibe of Harlem. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the vibrant culture and history of Harlem, capturing its lively nightlife, bustling streets, and deep-rooted musical heritage. Cole’s masterful interpretation of the song showcases his impeccable phrasing and emotive delivery, making “Harlem Blues” a timeless classic that continues to resonate with listeners today.