For centuries, New York has been seen globally as the land of freedom and opportunity, and as such, a dream destination for millions of people who see making it there as making it in life. It might not always be that idyllic in real life, but we can’t deny that this city has something that captivates the entire world. From its breathtaking urban landscapes, to its history, its icons, and its multicultural environment full of really diverse people, New York City has something to offer everybody. Not only has it been portrayed as a dreamland in a historical and cultural way, but it has also been a huge inspiration for the arts, both fine and popular, and music isn’t the exception. Countless musicians have drawn inspiration from the city for their lyrics, and let the city’s energy motivate them to keep going. As Frank Sinatra puts it perfectly in his iconic song “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Here are the most emblematic songs about this beloved, iconic city, starting with the one and only Sinatra. So, close your eyes, listen, and let these songs transport you to the most magical town of all.
1 “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
2 “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
3 “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” by Beastie Boys
4 “Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday
5 “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z Ft. Alicia Keys
After Sinatra’s hit, this one’s probably the second most popular song inspired by the city, at least for the younger generations. The mix of sounds, rhythms, and genres makes this song uniquely memorable and timeless, while also capturing the diverse cultural spectrum of that “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”
6 “New York, New York” by Ryan Adams
7 “I Love New York” by Madonna
8 “The 59th Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” by Simon & Garfunkel
9 “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
10 “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” by Leonard Cohen
New York City isn’t only about showy buildings and iconic landmarks. It’s also about special spots where stories happen, like the one the great Cohen narrates at the now famous Chelsea Hotel, where tons and tons of famous musicians lived for a while.
11 “New York Groove” by Kiss and Ace Frehley
12 “New York” by Sex Pistols
13 “Safe in New York City” by AC/DC
14 “Leaving New York City” by R.E.M.
15 “New York City Boy” by The Pet Shop Boys
We can’t leave the party outside the New York equation, and this song from 1999, is still one of the most played party anthems about the city. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all the charts and playlists. I mean really, who hasn’t shown off their best moves with this tune?
16 “Back to Manhattan” by Norah Jones
17 “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Sound System
18 “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
19 “Englishman in New York” by Sting
20 “New York City Serenade” by Bruce Springsteen
Very few people can write songs like Bruce Springsteen does, with that kind of melancholy and amazing narratives. This song is proof of that when he gives us an everyday scene accompanied by the serenade of a street musician that paints with his music this melancholic scene.
21 “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald
22 “New York City” by The Chainsmokers
23 “Native New Yorker” by Odyssey
24 “Brooklyn In The Summer” by Aloe Blacc
25 “Un Verano en Nueva York” by El Gran Combo
Last but not least, we have to talk about one of the genres that developed an important wave in the city during the seventies, and that’s salsa. Some of the most important legends of modern and mainstream salsa developed their unique sounds in the multicultural atmosphere of the city, and as you can see with this song, they achieved a unique rhythm that we still dance to today.
New York is that gorgeous yet busy city that takes people’s breath away the minute they set foot on it. This is such a huge emotion that as you can see, many can’t help but be inspired by it, creating amazing songs that transport us to the emblematic Big Apple.
Take a look at our Spotify list for these and more songs about New York:
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Héctor Lavoe: His Story Of Music, Drugs, And Excess In NYC In The 1970s