Ray has been an online music writer for over four years. Having sung in multiple competitions as a youth, he has a passion for the art.
Songs about New York cover various genres and artists, from country to pop and rap to folk-rock music. The best New York songs are written by artists who understand what makes NYC great and horrifying. From Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' anthem "Empire State of Mind" to Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" song, over the years, there has been a lot of music showcasing New York. We compiled the best songs written about New York City to tribute this robust and beautiful city.
1. “New York, New York”
Artist: Frank Sinatra
Album: New York, New York
Year Released: 1977
Genre: Traditional Pop Music
Facts About “New York, New York”
- “New York, New York” is one of the most popular songs about New York ever recorded.
- John Kander composed “Theme from New York, New York” with lyrics by Fred Ebb for the Martin Scorsese film New York, New York (1977).
- Even with hundreds of New York songs, the song is still one of the best-known songs about New York City.
- In the A&E Biography episode about Liza Minnelli, composers Kander and Ebb explained that the song’s success was due to actor Robert De Niro, who rejected the original theme for the film for being “too weak.”
- Sinatra first performed this NYC song at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 1978.
- The song is not the same as “New York, New York” from the musical “On The Town.”
- It is one of the New York, New York songs portraying the experience of an entertainer leaving a small town and trying to make it in the big city.
2. “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”
Artist: LCD Soundsystem
Album: Sound of Silver
Year Released: 2007
Genre: Ballad Music
Facts About “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”
- As a traditional closing song to concerts, “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” is the last music the band usually plays before their encore.
- In “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” LCD Soundsystem makes a nostalgic appeal to New York’s current conditions while demonstrating the band’s complicated feelings toward the city that never sleeps.
- Murphy expresses how New York has changed negatively from his point of view in “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” but tells that, despite these changes, he still loves the city in many ways.
- It is one of the best New York city songs about being disappointed in the city.
3. “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
Artist: Beastie Boys
Read More From Spinditty
Album: Licensed to III
Year Released: 1986
Genre: Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop/Rap Music, Rap Rock Music, Hard Rock Music
Facts About “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
- “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is one of the admired songs about New York rap.
- The song “No Sleep till Brooklyn” is the sixth single from the debut album Licensed to Ill by the New York hip hop group the Beastie Boys.
- Despite all the tiring events during their tour, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” demonstrates how determined they are not to stop until they reach Brooklyn, their hometown.
- It is one of the songs for New York City paying homage to New York’s boroughs and has been described as a “joyful rant.”
4. “Coney Island”
Artist: Good Old War
Album: Only Way to Be Alone
Year Released: 2008
Genre: IndieFolk Music
Facts About “Coney Island”
- “Coney Island” is a New York song about being bored with your hometown. Although tedious, yet appreciate it when you’ve been gone a while.
- The band features former Days Away members in its lineup. Good Old War is an indie-folk band based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- There is a contradiction in this New York song between two places. The place he is leaving behind, and the area with his heart.
5. “New York City Cops”
Artist: The Strokes
Album: Is This It
Year Released: 2001
Genre: Indie Rock, Garage Rock Revival Music
Facts About “New York City Cops”
- “New York City Cops” is a jam-packed punk blaster song about New York City cops from The Strokes’ debut album, Is This It.
- “New York City Cops” is one of the most popular indie songs about New York.
- Due to its New York City Police Department lyrics, it was replaced with another song on the then-unreleased American CD edition following the September 11 attacks.
- Two New York songs from the album, “New York City Cops” and “Hard to Explain,” were released through RCA Records in Australia and Europe on June 25, 2001, following the killing of Amadou Diallo by four plainclothes officers in 1999.
- A refrain of the song reads: “New York City cops, but they ain’t too smart.”
6. “New York”
Artist: St. Vincent
Year Released: 2017
Genre: Pop Music
Facts About “New York”
- St. Vincent released “New York” as the lead single off of her fifth studio album, Masseduction, on June 30, 2017.
- The song initially had no chorus and was a piano ballad.
- In “New York,” a relationship ends, hence the song’s somber tone.
- It may not be as popular as “Despacito,” but St. Vincent’s “New York” is undoubtedly a strong contender for summer’s best song.
- Others say that Carrie Brownstein, who played with Sleater Kinney in 2012, is the subject of this New York song.
- In many ways, “New York” could be seen as the antithesis of “Los Ageless,” the album’s second single.
7. “N.Y. State of Mind”
Year Released: 1994
Genre: Rap Music, East Coast Hip Hop, Hardcore Hip Hop
Facts About “N.Y. State of Mind”
- Nas’ 1994 debut studio album Illmatic contains the song “N.Y. State of Mind.”
- The song features Nas rapping two verses about his rapping talents and the dangerous surroundings of New York City over a drum break sample of “N.T.” by Kool & the Gang.
- According to Nas, the song “Streets of New York” by Kool G Rap was one of the song’s primary influences.
- Hill calls “N.Y. State of Mind” a standout track on Illmatic, stating that it is “conveying the ghetto experience as clearly as a photo by Gordon Parks or a poem by Langston Hughes.”
- Nas shows off his exceptional lyrical skills in this song about New York on the simplistic beat.
8. “Chelsea Hotel #2”
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Album: Leonard Cohen
Year Released: 1974
Genre: Folk Rock Music
Facts About “Chelsea Hotel #2”
- “Chelsea Hotel #2” is one of the best folk-rock songs about New York.
- New York City’s Chelsea Hotel is often frequented by musicians, artists, and writers.
- A sexual encounter at the Chelsea Hotel is referred to as “Chelsea Hotel #2”, probably New York City’s most famous bohemian hotel.
- As stated in the song, Leonard Cohen met Janis Joplin in New York’s Chelsea Hotel.
- In a nutshell, the song is only about a moment between two unattractive people who are both homely and exceptionally talented at the same time.
- There have been many covers of this New York song. Lloyd Cole performed it on the Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan, and Rufus Wainwright performed it at the live Leonard Cohen tribute Leonard Cohen called I was Your Man in 2006.
9. “Empire State of Mind”
Artist: Jay Z ft. Alicia Keys
Album: The Blueprint 3
Year Released: 2009
Genre: Hip Hop Music
Facts About “Empire State of Mind”
- “Empire State of Mind” is one of the best songs about New York, popularized by Jay Z and Alicia Keys.
- The song hit for New York, “Empire State of Mind,” is the new anthem for New York City, making it one of the most famous songs about New York.
- From Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, The Blueprint 3 (2009), “Empire State of Mind” features vocals by American singer Alicia Keys.
- It includes a sample of The Moments’ “Love on a Two-Way Street.”
- Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” remains one of Hov’s most successful singles. It was the first Jay-Z-led single to top the Billboard “Hot 100,” staying at the top for five weeks in a row.
- In addition to winning “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration,” the track was nominated for three Grammy Awards.
- New York City is a gritty, honest place and an idealized, flashy dream in this NYC song.
10. “Autumn in New York”
Artist: Billie Holiday
Album: Thumbs Up!
Year Released: 1934
Genre: Jazz Music
Facts About “Autumn in New York”
- Vernon Duke wrote the song “Autumn in New York” in 1934 when he lived in Westport, Connecticut.
- Numerous musicians and singers have recorded versions of this New York song.
- According to Timeout, New York, Billie Holiday’s “Autumn in New York” ranks No. 5 on our list of the 100 best NYC songs.
- Frank Sinatra’s version was the only one to chart in the USA as a single, reaching #27 in 1949.
11. “Snow Is Falling In Manhattan”
Artist: Purple Mountains
Album: Purple Mountains
Year Released: 2019
Genre: Alternative/Indie Music
Facts About “Snow Is Falling In Manhattan”
- Cocker, Gonzalez, and Feist performed a cover of Purple Mountains’ ‘Snow Is Falling In Manhattan,’ which came out less than a month before Silver Jews legend David Berman passed away.
- In Berman’s opinion, it’s a tricky song about New York from the perspective of someone who owns a brownstone in Manhattan.
12. “Chelsea Morning”
Artist: Joni Mitchell
Year Released: 1969
Genre: Folk Rock Music
Facts About “Chelsea Morning”
- Joni Mitchell wrote and composed “Chelsea Morning” for her second album, Clouds, released in 1969.
- Mitchell’s room in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City was the inspiration for the song’s first verse. Her unique apartment’s décor partly inspired it.
- Mitchel’s lyrics in this song showcase her style of imagery and her ability to use visual inspiration, a skill she inherited from her background in visual arts. For instance, “The sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses.”
- The song “Chelsea Morning” appears on Neil Diamond’s 1971 album Stones.
- In this song, Mitchell references Chelsea, a district in New York City and a famous area in London.
13. “Welcome to New York”
Artist: Taylor Swift
Year Released: 2014
Genre: Synth-Pop, Disco Music, Electropop Music
Facts About “Welcome to New York”
- “Welcome to New York” is a New York movie song featured in The Secret Life of Pets.
- Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” appears on her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014).
- Taylor’s song is about her being a New Yorker. The song portrays Swift’s love for New York, where she lives, and how beautiful and welcoming it is.
- Swift said she wanted to begin her 1989 album with this song because New York has been an important landscape and location in her life in the last couple of years.
- Aside from writing this song about New York with Tedder, Swift produced it with Noel Zancanella, who penned hit songs for Demi Lovato, Ellie Goulding, and Maroon 5.
- Compared with famous New York tribute songs, contemporary music critics criticized the lyrics for their lack of substance.
- The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified “Welcome to New York” platinum for shipments exceeding one million units in the United States on January 22, 2015.
14. “First We Take Manhattan”
Artist: Leonard Cohen
Album: Famous Blue Raincoat
Year Released: 1987
Genre: Folk Rock Music
Facts About “First We Take Manhattan”
- Leonard Cohen wrote the NYC song “First We Take Manhattan” in 1981.
- Jennifer Warnes recorded it on her 1986 Cohen tribute album Famous Blue Raincoat, which contained only Cohen songs written by him or co-wrote.
- The song’s lyric suggests religious and end-time themes with references to prayer, meaningful birthmarks, and signs in the sky.
- As a staple of Cohen’s concerts, the song became a topic of discussion for people trying to figure out his poetry.
15. “New York State of Mind”
Artist: Billy Joel
Year Released: 1976
Genre: Jazz Music, Soft Rock Music
Facts About “New York State of Mind”
- “New York State of Mind” is one of the well-known songs about NYC popularized by the legendary Billy Joel.
- In 1976, Billy Joel released the song “New York State of Mind” on Turnstiles.
- Ray Charles, a singer, songwriter, and pianist like Joel, influenced this New York music. In 1986, Joel did a duet with Charles on “Baby Grand.”
- Originally from Long Island, Joel moved to Los Angeles for four years before returning to New York. This song commemorates his love for his hometown that he missed while away.
Continuation List of Songs About New York
|Songs About New York Title||Artist(s)|
16. “New York’s Alright (If You Like Sex & Phones)”
17. “My My Metrocard”
18. “New York’s Not My Home”
19. “South Bronx”
Boogie Down Productions
20. “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”
21. “I’m Waiting For The Man”
The Velvet Underground
22. “Across 110th Street”
24. “Fairytale of New York”
Sharon Van Etten
26. “Rhapsody in Blue”
Leonard Bernstein with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra
27. “The Message”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
29. “New New York”
30. “New York City”
31. “New York”
32. “New York at Night”
33. “Ever Since New York”
34. “6PM In New York”
35. “Brooklyn Baby”
Lana Del Rey
36. “Brooklyn’s Own”
37. “Brooklyn, You’re Killing Me”
38. “Leaving New York”
39. “I Love New York”
40. “New York, New York”
43. “Brooklyn’s Finest”
45. “Angel of Harlem”
46. “New York City”
47. “Walk on the Wild Side”
48. “Englishman in New York”
49. “14th Street”
50. “Downtown Train”
51. “New York Telephone Conversation”
52. “What New York Used to Be”
53. “Brooklyn Bound”
The Black Keys
54. “New York City Serenade”
55. “I’m Waiting for the Man”
Velvet Underground and Nico
56. “New York City Boys”
Pet Shop Boys
57. “Harlem Blues”
Nat King Cole
58. “Talkin’ New York”
59. “East Harlem”
60. “Empire State”
61. “New York’s In Love”
63. “New York, New York”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
64. “On Broadway”
65. “Harlem’s Nocturne”
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ray