There have been many songs written across all musical genres about New York. While many of them focus on New York City, that is not always the case. If you are a native New Yorker or love the state, you will want to listen to these top New York songs.
There are many other songs that you may want to add to a New York playlist. These songs prominently feature New York City, but some include just the state itself!
1. Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
Angela Hunte and Janet “Jnay” Sewell Ulepic wrote this anthem in a London studio when they felt homesick for New York City. Within months of writing it, it ended up in Jay Z’s hands. He added his rhymes, but instructed Alicia Keys to sing the chorus precisely as written.
2. New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
Billy Joel grew up in New York, but he moved to Los Angeles for four years. He wrote this song on the day that he moved back to New York city about his love of the town. Billy Joel says this song was his personal favorite amongst all his songs.
3. Englishman in New York – Sting
While Sting made Englishman in New York famous, the first to release it was Godley & Crème in 1976. The duo would be instrumental in several Sting videos, including If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. Listen carefully to Englishman in New York. You will hear “God Bless the Queen” played in a minor key during part of the refrain.
4. Talkin’ New York – Bob Dylan
Talkin’ New York is one of two songs that Dylan wrote that was released on his first album. The reference to East Orange refers to East Orange, New Jersey, where Dylan lived for a few weeks with Bob and Sidsel Gleason, who would often bring Woodie Guthrie home on the weekends, and the house would fill up with musicians young and old.
5. New York – St. Vincent
St. Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, says that New York is not about a single person but a collection of collective heroes. She was moved to record the song after David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen died without a few months of each other, but she says that the music is not only about big heroes.
6. I Love NYC – Andrew W.K.
When you need the perfect party song about New York City, put this one on your playlist. It is also an excellent song for karaoke because of its unique combination of musical genres.
7. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues
This song that hates Christmas is a favorite of many New Yorkers. This song that tells a saga about a 1940s Christmas in New York was written in the 1980s in London. This song took over two years to write.
8. A Letter to the New York Post – Public Enemy
While many West Coast rappers were singing songs that contained a lot of profanity, Public Enemy’s fourth album containing A Letter to the New York Post sent social messages that many young people could connect to daily.
9. New York At Night – Willie Nile
This song, released in 2020, celebrates family, roots and New York City. Willie Nile wrote New York at Night after catching the subway to his Greenwich Village apartment and meeting many interesting characters along the way, including a man covered in Cool Whip.
10. Coney Island – Good Old War
Indie band Good Old War releasted the song on their Sessions album in 2009. Band members say that they wrote the music on the last day of recording their Broken Into Better Shape album, and they took the train to Coney Island to celebrate.
11. Welcome to New York – Taylor Swift
Welcome to New York is the first track on Taylor Swift’s 1989 album and introduces the audience to her new pop sound after she threw away her Nashville roots. The synth-laden sounds in this track catch the listener up in New York City’s vibrant atmosphere.
12. New York Serenade – Bruce Springsteen
The disjointed tale told in New York Serenade features Billy in his Cadillac, the fish lady and the junk man on New York City streets. This was the last song that Springsteen created that had a jazz emphasis. The artist plays the piano in this song.
13. Big Apple Dreamin’ (Hippo) – Alice Cooper
Big Apple Dreamin’ (Hippo) tells the story of a man who wants to move from Ohio to New York City. The Hippo probably refers to the Hippopotamus Club on East 62nd Street that the band frequented. This song was released on Muscle of Love, which was the Alice Cooper’s band’s last studio album.
14. I Wouldn’t Live in New York City – Buck Owens and the Buckaroos
Buck Owens and the Buckaroos released this song in 1970. This song hit number 12 on the country album charts. Owens wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on the album by the same name.
15. New York City – The Chainsmokers
New York City by The Chainsmokers is a dance/electronic song released as a digital download on October 23, 2015. The song tells the story of a turbulent relationship in the Big Apple. While not receiving credit, Victoria Zaro sings many of the lyrics on this track.
16. New York’s Not My Home – Jim Croce
Jim Croce and his wife Ingrid had moved to New York City to make it big in the music industry, but they failed and moved back to Jim’s native Pennsylvania. The couple had no money, so they slept in their car in a Howard Johnson motel parking lot with the New York City skyline dimly in view. The idea for this song came to Jim as he tried to sleep that night.
17. New York Groove – Ace Frehley
This song was initially released by the English band, Hello, and it became a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom and Germany. Songwriter Russ Ballard wrote New York Groove while flying to New York after not visiting the city for a while. Ace Frehley, the former guitarist for Kiss, turned it into his signature song.
18. N.Y. State of Mind – Nas
The hip-hop song N.Y. State of Mind is about New York City’s dangerous environment. D.J. Premier wrote the music to this song, and Nas made up the words as he went along. The song was recorded in one take in 1994 without the words even being put on paper.
19. Give My Regards to Broadway – James Cagney
The song Give My Regards to Broadway was initially written by George M. Cohan for his 1904 musical Little Johnny Jones. Many people have sung or danced to this song, including Judy Garland and Bing Cosby. One of the most famous recordings of it was by James Cagney.
20. New York – Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran first sang New York at Madison Square Garden after this London-born singer finished a world tour with Taylor Swift. The ballad tells the story of a night of drinking while falling in love.
21. Snow is Falling in Manhattan – Chilly Gonzales
Snow is Falling in Manhattan paints a crave-worthy picture of Christmas in Manhattan. The song is based on a poem by David Berman, who died a year before the song was released. Jarvis Cocker of Pulp and Canadian singer Feist assisted with the vocals of this song.
22. The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel
Paul Simon wrote this song about Art Garfunkel when Garfunkel was in Mexico working on the film Catch-22. While Simon was initially supposed to appear in the film, his part got cut, so he returned to New York City to work on the duo’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters album. Joe Osborn played the bass in this song that the producers spliced together, making it impossible to perform the bass part live.
23. New York Telephone Conversation – Lou Reed
New York Telephone Conversation is a sarcastic take on the city’s hipster art and music scene. Lou Reed wrote this song that was released on his Transformers album in 1972.
24. New York City – They Might be Giants
New York City was initially released in 1994 by the band Cub and released two years later by They Might be Giants. The singer misheard the lyrics when the original song was recorded and had Bob Dylan living at the Empire State Building. No one caught the error, but when the band performed it on stage, they sang the correct lyrics, including King Kong living at the Empire State Building.
25. Safe in New York City – AC/DC
The singer in this song is enjoying the hustle and bustle of sex, booze and other substances in this town where he feels safe. Listen carefully to the last line of the song as Brian Johnson sings, “I feel safe in a cage in New York City.”
26. Autumn in New York – Billie Holliday
Autumn in New York was written by Vernon Duke in 1934 and first heard as part of the musical Thumbs Up! Many people have recorded this song, including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, who did it as a duet. Billie Holiday made it his signature song.
27. Welcome to New York City – Cam’ron
Cam’ron released Welcome to New York City on his seventh album, Come Home With Me. The song features Jay-Z and Juelz Santana on vocals. This rhythm and blues song was used as the theme song for True Crime: New York City video game.
28. New York City Boy – Pet Shop Boys
New York City Boy hit number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart shortly after Pet Shop Boys released it in September 1999. The song was the second released from the group’s Nightlife album. New York’s nightspot Studio 54 is prominently featured in the video for this song. If you love the boy band sound of the 1990s, you will want to listen to this song often.
29. Harlem Blues – Nat King Cole
When you need something easy to listen to, play Harlem Blues by Nat King Cole. This song, released in 1963, appeared on the album St. Louis Blues, which was the soundtrack for the film of the same name. This piece was arranged by Nelson Riddle, who also arranged music for Frank Sinatra and Ella Fritzgerald.
30. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – LCD Soundsystem
James Murphy, who wrote New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down, expresses many people’s love/hate relationship with this city. The songwriter expresses lament over missing growing up in New York in the 1970s and 1980s when he felt that the city was experiencing its Golden Era. The cabaret-style beat to the music helps build the writer’s point as it feels like the mind is moving ever faster.
31. Theme From New York, New York – Frank Sinatra
Arguably, the best-known song is New York, New York, which Frank Sinatra made famous. Liza Minnelli was the first to record this song in 1977. It was written explicitly for Martin Scorcese’s film, New York, New York.
Now that you know 31 songs about New York download your favorites and plan a gathering of friends so that everyone has a chance to share their favorite New York songs. You can help your party go smoother by downloading these songs and having them ready to play ahead of time.