Time Out New York's 100 Best NYC Songs

Time Out New York recently compiled a list of the 100 best songs about New York City, flush with videos and blurbs sizing up each song’s merit. It’s a wide-reaching list, pulling in from all sorts of styles across different eras, from Sinatra croonerism (guess which song?!) to Broadway to Grandmaster Flash. With that in mind, I’d say that the #1 (over #2, especially) is somewhat of a curveball, but I can understand the rationale, as the track it is a ubiquitous, inescapable song in this realm (and it will only get worse as the Atlantic Yards project gets finished, hint hint). Check out the list below.

100. XTC, “Statue of Liberty” (1978)
99 Charles Hamilton, “Brooklyn Girls” (2008)
98 Le Tigre, “My My Metrocard” (1999)
97 The Insect Trust, “The Eyes of a New York Woman” (1970)
96 Phil Ochs, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends” (1967)
95 The Moldy Peaches, “NYC’s Like a Graveyard” (2001)
94 Jerry Orbach and the Original Broadway Cast (42nd Street), “The Lullaby of Broadway” (1980)
93 Phosphorescent, “The Mermaid Parade” (2010)
92 Judge, “New York Crew” (1988)
91 Tom Waits, “Union Square” (1985)
90 Unsane, “D Train” (2005)
89 Genesis, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” (1974)
88 The Crystals, “Uptown” (1962)
87 Original Broadway Cast (Rent), “La Vie Boheme” (1994)
86 Fred Neil, “Bleecker & MacDougal” (1965)
85 Al Kooper, “New York City (You’re a Woman)” (1971)
84 Grandmaster D.S.T., “The Home of Hip-Hop” (1985)
83 Kid Creole and the Coconuts, “Dario (Can You Get Me Into Studio 54)” (1979)
82 Death Cab for Cutie, “Coney Island” (2001)
81 Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, “Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” (1968)
80 Paul Simon, “American Tune” (1973)
79 3rd Bass, “Brooklyn–Queens” (1989)
78 Bobby Short, “I Happen to Like New York” (1973)
77 The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York” (1987)
76 The Dictators, “Avenue A” (2001)
75 The Trammps, “The Night the Lights Went Out” (1977)
74 Dion, “King of the New York Streets” (1989)
73 Shelley Plimpton and the Original Broadway Cast (Hair), “Frank Mills” (1968)
72 U2, “Angel of Harlem” (1988)
71 Fear, “New York’s All Right If You Like Saxophones” (1982)
70 The National, “Daughters of the Soho Riots” (2005)
69 Billy Joel, “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” (1976)
68 Sting, “Englishman in New York” (1987)
67 The Ramones, “53rd & 3rd” (1976)
66 Barry Manilow, “New York City Rhythm” (1975)
65 Glenn Miller, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” (1940)
64 Village People, “Fire Island” (1977)
63 Suzanne Vega, “Anniversary” (2007)
62 Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, “Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)” (1998)
61 Gil Scott-Heron, “New York Is Killing Me” (2010)
60 Run-D.M.C., “Christmas in Hollis” (1987)
59 Steely Dan, “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More” (1975)
58 Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, “Streets of New York” (1990)
57 Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “New York City Serenade” (1973)
56 Laura Nyro, “New York Tendaberry” (1969)
55 Nina Hagen, “New York/N.Y.” (1983)
54 Boogie Down Productions, “South Bronx” (1986)
53 MC Shan and Marley Marl, “The Bridge” (1986)
52 The Magnetic Fields, “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” (1999)
51 Andrew W.K., “I Love NYC” (2001)
50 Bill Withers, “Harlem” (1971)
49 Odyssey, “Native New Yorker” (1977)
48 Jay-Z with the Notorious B.I.G., “Brooklyn’s Finest” (1996)
47 Jeffrey and Jack Lewis, “Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror” (2005)
46 Tom Browne, “Funkin’ for Jamaica (N.Y.)” (1980)
45 Ace Frehley, “New York Groove” (1978)
44 Bob & Earl, “Harlem Shuffle” (1963)
43 Original studio cast (On the Town), “New York, New York” (1960)
42 Interpol, “NYC” (2002)
41 Nat King Cole, “Harlem Blues” (1958)
40 Alice Cooper, “Big Apple Dreamin’ (Hippo)” (1973)
39 The Rolling Stones, “Shattered” (1978)
38 The Avett Brothers, “I and Love and You” (2009)
37 Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising” (2002)
36 The Strokes, “New York City Cops” (2001)
35 The Bee Gees, “Stayin’ Alive” (1977)
34 Tom Waits, “Downtown Train” (1985)
33 Bob Dylan, “Talkin’ New York” (1962)
32 Ella Fitzgerald, “Manhattan” (1957)
31 James Cagney, “Give My Regards to Broadway” (1942)
30 Bobby Womack, “Across 110th Street” (1972)
29 Jennifer Lopez, “Jenny from the Block” (2002)
28 Suzanne Vega, “Tom’s Diner” (1987)
27 Simon & Garfunkel, “The Only Living Boy in New York” (1970)
26 Elton John, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” (1972)
25 Stevie Wonder, “Living for the City” (1973)
24 Ryan Adams, “My Blue Manhattan” (2004)
23 Lou Reed, “Halloween Parade” (1989)
22 New York Dolls, “Subway Train” (1973)
21 Nas, “N.Y. State of Mind” (1994)
20 The Ramones, “Rockaway Beach” (1977)
19 Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind” (1976)
18 Vampire Weekend, “M79” (2008)
17 Simon & Garfunkel, “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” (1966)
16 Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning” (1969)
15 LL Cool J, “Doin’ It” (1996)
14 George Benson, “On Broadway” (1978)
13 The Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting for the Man” (1967)
12 Duke Ellington Orchestra, “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941)
11 Wu-Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.” (1993)
10 Leonard Cohen, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2” (1974)
09 Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” (2001)
08 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message” (1982)
07 Leonard Bernstein with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, “Rhapsody in Blue” (1959)
06 Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side” (1972)
05 Billie Holiday, “Autumn in New York” (1952)
04 LCD Soundsystem, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” (2007)
03 Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” (1986)
02 Frank Sinatra, “Theme from New York, New York” (1980)
01 Jay-Z with Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind” (2009)

There’s also a reader’s poll, if that’s your thing.

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Comments (53)
  1. Ha ha cool list! Now do one where you rank songs about love in order of best to worst, any genre: GO.

  2. 86. Fred Neil! Yes absolutely! but what about…#101 Sylvain Sylvain “14th st”?

  3. Say what you want about their ridiculous Occupy anthem, Motorcycle Drive By by Third Eye Blind is an amazing song.

  4. Upon visiting the city, who doesn’t walk out into the streets of the Big Apple with “Jenny from the Block” playing as the ultimate NYC song in their head?

  5. “The Lamb Lies Down n Broadway”…but no “Back In NYC”?

  6. I’m no LL Cool J expert (haaa, if you are) but does is he just “Doin It” in NYC? Does he say somewhere that he’s “Doin It” in NYC?

  7. Too low — Pogues “Fairytale” (first NYC song I thought of)
    Should be on — Elvis Costello “New Amsterdam”
    Glad it’s not on there — Manhattan Transfer “Boy from NYC”

  8. where-s coney island baby by lou reed????????

  9. what about julian casablancas – ludlow shahahaha sorry i can’t finish.

  10. Interpol’s NYC placed as low as #42 is a crime.

  11. yeahhh they kinda forgot one, with 2 very hip genius artists, tsk tsk tsk…OH and ‘doo doo doo doo’ would be a better Stones song about nyc probably, or both should be on the list.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLM4BMM_hzk&feature=fvst

  12. If “Empire State of Mind” has one fatal flaw (and I’m not suggesting it’s otherwise flawless), it’s the line “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” That just doesn’t work grammatically. “Concrete jungle where dreams are made?” Sure. “Concrete jungle/ what dreams are made of?” Why not. “Concrete jungle that dreams of made of?” That works too. As it stands, however, that statement doesn’t make a bit of goddamn sense.

  13. Kevn Kinney’s “MacDougal Blues” should be on this list over others.

  14. Maybe I missed it, but where is Garland Jefferys “New York Skyline”?
    This song is often played on college radio stations on/around 9/11

  15. There should be at least ONE PJ Harvey song from Stories from the City/Sea, horrible brainless omission-
    On a rooftop in Brooklyn
    One in the morning
    Watching the lights flash
    In Manhattan
    I see five bridges
    The empire state building
    And you said something
    That I’ve never forgotten

  16. “53rd and 3rd” should be on there.

  17. Where is “SHEENA IS A PUNK ROCKER” ?????????

  18. THE KILLS- WHAT NEW YORK USED TO BE

  19. Im a little dissapointed that Sinatra comes in at #2

  20. considering most lists publications/websites make suck, this one is ok.

  21. U2′s Angel of Harlem shouldn’t be in a top list of anything.

  22. Vampire Weekend’s “M79″ was a good pick, though “White Sky” would have also worked… albeit a slightly more pretentious tour of NYC.

  23. The Brooklyn reference in the Avett Brothers song is totally about a girl, they live in North Carolina…

  24. Totally missed Coltrane’s Central Park West and Cam’ron and Jay-Z’s “Welcome to New York City”

  25. NEW YORK CITY BEAT !!!
    by Armand Van Helden has to be there its just so damn New York !!!

  26. Wow! How could you omit Under the Boardwalk and Spanish Harlem? Blasphemous!

  27. Missing a great songs by

    Pylon – M Train
    Alice Texas – Coney Island

  28. “The Rising” is about Asbury Park. Switch it with “Detachable Penis”, an excellent ode to the East Village of the mid-90s.

  29. Some major songs missing from here.

    How about “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley
    Or “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones
    Or “In the City” by Joe Walsh
    Or “6th Avenue Heartache” by the Wallflowers
    Even “New York City Boy” by Pet Shop Boys or even “Hey there Delilah” are better songs than half of these monstrosities.

  30. Good list, but I think N.Y State of Mind should be above Empire State of Mind. Also, where is Trilogy by Sonic Youth? (I’m not one of those people who think that their opinions are facts, these are just suggestions)

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