Ready to kick it and listen to all of the best songs about New York City?
If so then this exquisite local’s guide to 120 of the best NYC anthems ever is 110% for you!
I mean, hi. I’m a 30+ year New York resident who continually listens to a neverending array of fun, top NYC songs that you can add to any New York inspired playlist.
This way, you can feel like you’re traveling all the way to the Big Apple without actually leaving your couch.
Because from jazz to hardcore party anthems to Broadway show tunes to heavy metal, this list has all of the best and most iconic New York anthems that you and your friends will love.
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Best Songs About New York City
1. “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel
Prepare for a ton of Billy Joel tunes on this list of the best songs about New York City. However, the aptly named, “New York State of Mind” is extra special since it’s filled with ab-libs and free-form solos that make it feel very spontaneous.
Joel also apparently wrote and released this song in 1976 to pay homage to New York City upon moving to the city after a four-year stint in LA.
Supposedly, the lyrics to this classic tune just kind of came to him while he was on a Hudson River line Greyhound bus.
So, if you ever attend a Billy Joel concert at the Garden, you’ll probably hear this immortal New York City anthem.
Best Lyrics: “But I know what I’m needing. And I don’t want to waste more time. I’m in a New York state of mind.”
2. “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra
Easily one of the most famous songs about NYC on this list, this immortal ballad from the one and only Frank Sinatra was originally written in 1977 by Fred Ebb, composed by John Kandler, and sung by Liza Minnelli for the Martin Scorsese film, “New York, New York”.
Later, in 1979, Frank Sinatra recorded the song for his album Trilogy: Past Present Future. So, while it has an almost 1940s/50s feel about it, it was definitely written much later than that.
It’s also played at the end of basically every New York sporting ever (Yes, Yankees. I’m talking about you). So, I’m sure you’ll hear it at some point while visiting/living in New York City.
Also, listen closely because you’ll begin to understand that this is one of the best songs about New York City that has to do with a small-town musician who moves to the big city, with the hope that they can make it here and rise to any challenges that NYC may throw their way.
Yup, an inherently positive NYC anthem that you can’t help but sing along with.
Best Lyrics: “Start spreading the news. I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.”
3. “No Sleep til Brooklyn” by the Beastie Boys
Easily one of my all-time favorite songs about New York City, this classic party anthem pays tribute to one of my favorite boroughs.
It was also released in 1986 as part of the now-famous License to Ill album and is a fitting tribute to Motorhead’s similarly titled album, No Sleep Till Hammersmith.
Honestly, I just love how this song perfectly captures the very soul of NYC, particularly when punctuated with sick guitar riffs from Slayer’s Kerry King.
Yup, just an all-around excellent ode to the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle while simultaneously making fun of the excesses associated with the glitz and glam of the heavy metal rock scene.
Best Lyrics: “Cause I’ll be rocking this party eight days a week. No sleep ’til, No sleep ’til Brooklyn!”
4. “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
Easily one of the most recognizable and best songs about New York City on this list, this iconic tune has become a veritable NYC anthem since it features a great beat that is coupled with catchy lyrics – words that perfectly describe what it’s like to live in the Big Apple.
And that makes sense since this is one of the best songs about NYC that was written by Brooklyn native Jay-Z and New York local Alicia Keys.
So, if you want to rock out for yourself and get the party started with one of the all-time classic New York City anthems, then you can find it on the Blueprint 3 album by Jay-Z.
Also, fun factoid, Jay-Z was going to initially record this song with Mary J. Blige but then opted for Alicia Keys instead.
Yeah, apparently he was impressed by her wicked awesome piano skills – which was a solid decision since this song won a Grammy in 2010 for the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and the Best Rap Song.
You’ll also love that this song actually references another one of the top songs about NYC. Yup, none other than Frank Sinatra’s very own, “New York, New York” since the tune states, “Since I made it here, I can make it anywhere.”
Pro Tip: If you like this song, you might also like the slightly different version from Alicia Keys that is entitled, Empire State of Mind (Part II).
Best Lyrics: “These streets will make you feel brand new, Big lights will inspire you, Hear it for New York, New York, New York”
5. “Talkin’ New York” by Bob Dylan
This is another classic song that was written by an iconic musician who details his struggles to land musical gigs in NYC.
In fact, it’s the second song off Dylan’s debut album, Bob Dylan, which was released in 1962. It’s also a talking, blues-style song that recounts the artist’s feelings about moving to New York from Minnesota as he tried to play in local coffee shops without a record deal.
Apparently, his sound was way too unique for mainstream folk music, which thought of him as a “hillbilly”.
So, even if you’re not a musician, this song is still super relatable since it chronicles a pretty universal feeling.
Because as most everyone knows, NYC is an extremely difficult place to make a living, particularly if you’re in a competitive field like music.
Luckily though for Bob Dylan, he made it work after living in Greenwich Village at 94 MacDougal Street – a place that is continually referenced throughout the song.
Best Lyrics: “Thought I’d seen some ups and downs, ‘Till I come into New York town.”
6. “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Taylor Swift. But, she apparently moved to the Greenwich Village/Tribeca area in 2014 and, as a result, made a lot of references to this iconic city in her album 1989.
Rumor also has it that Michael Bloomberg actually commissioned this song himself.
Regardless of why one of the best songs about NYC was written, it’s still an upbeat, electronic, pop song with lots of synthesizers.
And as you listen to the lyrics, you see that this tune examines the freedom that Swift felt after moving to the city.
Yes, many criticized this top song about New York City for its shallow lack of substance. But, some others hailed it for its tolerance and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community.
Pro Tip: There’s another song about New York City on this album that is named “Cornelia Street” since that’s where one of the singer’s homes was.
Best Lyrics: “Welcome to New York, welcome to New York. Like any great love, it keeps you guessing. Like any real love, it’s ever-changing. Like any true love, it drives you crazy.”
7. “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones
Less idyllic and devoid of the picture-perfect perkiness that is found in many Beach Boys songs about the beach, this is one of the best songs about New York City that talks all about Rockaway Beach in Queens.
It’s a very bare, no-frills kind of song that relates just how hot, humid, sticky, and overtly gross the city feels on a stifling, summer day.
So much so that even an overly crowded beach feels like a glorious respite from the concrete jungle that is the streets of New York.
Therefore, give this song written by bassist Dee Dee Ramone a listen since it debuted in 1977 as part of the punk rock band’s album Rocket to Russia.
It was also the group’s best performing song and is perfect for anyone who is a true beachgoer at heart.
Best Lyrics: “Chewin’ out a rhythm on my bubble gum. The sun is out and I want some.”
8. “Chelsea Morning” by Joni Mitchell
Part of her immortal, 1969 album Clouds, “Chelsea Morning” is Joni Mitchell’s ode to the veritable calm before the storm that is early mornings in the city.
So, rather than sing about the overwhelming, sometimes frantic pace of life in the aptly named city that never sleeps, Joni discusses the sunshine-laden and rainbow-filled skies of early dawn mornings in New York.
There’s a light and airy peace to this song that makes you want to curl up in your bathrobe so that you can read a good book and sip on a giant mug of coffee.
Yup, this is one of the best songs about New York City that perfectly captures why so many people find New York City just so dang inspiring.
Because at its core, this city is infinite and so to are the number of songs that you could write about this legendary metropolis.
Best Lyrics: “Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning. And the first thing that I heard, was a song outside my window. And the traffic wrote the words.”
9. “Alexander Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda EDIT
If you love Broadway musicals then this is easily one of the best songs about New York City for you!
After all, this is one of those sing-along New York songs that was made famous by the now legendary Broadway musical, Hamilton.
So, if you haven’t seen this production yet then definitely check it out because it’s an incredibly beautiful, super artistic show that was first created by Lin Manuel Miranda in 2016.
It also expertly pairs exquisite storytelling with fantastic choreography/music to create a compelling story about Alexander Hamilton and the other founders of the United States.
And although all of the songs from Hamilton are good, the opening song where the cast regales the audience with the incredible details of Hamilton’s life is pretty awesome and super inspiring.
I mean, think of everything that he overcame to become the icon of history that he is today. So, it’s no small wonder that it’s now a total New York City anthem.
Best Lyrics: “In New York, you can be a new man (just you wait).”
10. “ABCs of New York” by Princess Nokia
If you’re looking for a catchy little song to help you profess your undying love for NYC then this, my friend, is the best song about NYC for you!
After all, this tune by Princess Nokia was released in 2017 and is catchy AF. It also uses the alphabet as a guide to singing about all of the things that we love about NYC and all of the unique experiences people have here.
So, from bodegas to Tompkins Square to Woody Allen and the Village Voice, this song references it all since the artist lived in East Harlem and knows the city all too well.
This is also a super unique single since there’s no hook or chorus as it were. That’s why you should 100% give this song a listen so that you can better understand how a diverse array of people live in the city that never sleeps.
Best Lyrics: “Got a show, come and see, New York is the place to be. Here you go and live your dreams.”
11. “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Soundsystem
I’ll be the first one to admit that the next song on this list of the best songs about New York City is slower and kind of a downer.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing since living in NYC can sometimes feel less than awesome. However, I do think this song by Brooklyn native, and band co-founder, James Murphy is a bit more positive than it initially seems.
Especially since he sings about a city that has disappointed him countless times but that is still, “the one pool where I’d happily drown.”
So, at its core, I think this is a well-balanced love letter to the city that goes through a complex array of emotions, making it a great final song on the band’s 2007 album Song of Silver.
It’s also a piece that is oozing with nostalgia for a time when NYC was at its best – a time that the singer and most of his contemporaries will never know (aka the ’80s).
As you listen to the lyrics, you can almost feel the pain that Muprhy has about missing out on such an iconic period of musical and cultural change. It’s an almost fantastical version of the city that he will never know.
Best Lyrics: “Like a death in the hall that you hear through your wall. New York, I love you but you’re freaking me out.”
12. “First We Take Manhattan” by Leonard Cohen
Recorded in 1986 and then later released in 1987 as part of the Famous Blue Raincoat album, this song was originally performed by American singer Jennifer Warnes as a tribute to the immortal artist.
Later, Cohen would create his own version in 1988 as part of the I’m Your Man album and add a little European/disco flair to the tune.
Which is why I adore this track by Leonard Cohen. I mean, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard from him before – a feeling that you get right from the intro, which has an almost thrilling, spy-like quality to it.
Add in his intense, resonating, baritone voice and you feel like you’re in on a secret mission, which the lyrics suggest is nothing short of world domination.
Sprinkle in some somewhat, post-apocalyptic themes that include references to prayer, significant birthmarks, and signs in the sky and you’ll get a real kick out of one of the best songs about New York City.
Best Lyrics: “They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom, for trying to change the system from within. I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them. First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.”
13. “New York’s Alright (If you like sex & phones)” by the Gotobeds
Probably one of the less well-known top songs about New York City on this list, this tune by the indie-rock band the Gotobeds gives a pretty accurate, less idealized description of the city that never sleeps.
After all, there are a lot of pros and cons to living in New York City. So, it makes that a song captures the idea that while NYC is cool, it can still be really difficult to live here.
I mean, it’s one of those city’s that can make you feel totally alone in a crowded room full of people. And that’s something that makes you feel more alone than you already were.
They also definitely mock the music scene here at the start of the song. And, yeah, I can’t blame them for that since I’m sure it’s a real challenge to get your big break here.
Plus, they dis cellphones along the way, which I for one am not upset about.
14. “New York City Serenade” by Bruce Springsteen
Written and sung by no less than “The Boss” himself, this is one of the best songs about New York City that was released as part of the album The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle in 1973.
There’s a detached quality about this song that makes you feel like Bruce is looking out at the city from afar – which is pretty on point since the singer is a New Jersey native who has never actually lived in NYC.
So, as you listen to the lyrics, not only will you hear a great deal of jazz influence but you’ll also uncover a rambling, disjointed tale about Diamond Jackie, the junkman, the fish lady, and Billy in his Cadillac, as they travel all through New York.
And the serenade? Well, it’s brought to you by a rogue street musician playing the vibraphone, making this a quirky addition to our list of the best songs about NYC.
Fun Fact: Bruce earned the nickname “The Boss” because he used to collect all the money earned after a show and then distribute it among band members.
Best Lyrics: “It’s midnight in Manhattan, this is no time to get cute. It’s a mad dog’s promenade. So walk tall or baby, don’t walk at all.”
15. “New York Groove” by Ace Frehley
Sung by one of the original members and the lead guitarist of Kiss, this fun, New York City anthem was released in 1978 as part of Ace Frehley’s first solo album, Ace Frehley.
Apparently, his remake of this song, which was initially written by Russ Ballard, was inspired by an experience Ace had with some hookers in Times Square during the ’70s.
It’s also, by his own admission, a personal anthem of sorts since the artist is from the Bronx and celebrates partying in the city – a tune that was catchy enough to top the charts at number 13.
Best Lyrics: “I feel so good tonight, who cares about tomorrow. So, baby, you’d better believe! I’m back, back in the New York groove.”
16. “Spanish Harlem” by Ben E. King
This ethereal love song about New York City pays homage to the one and only Spanish Harlem, a section of Harlem with a large Puerto Rican and Latin American population.
In fact, it was recorded by Ben E. King in 1960 for Atco Records and features vibrant Spanish guitar, marimba, drum-beats, soprano saxophone, and string interludes that were arranged by Stan Applebaum.
Now, if you listen to the lyrics closely, you’ll hear the singer talking all about a red rose that he wants to take into his garden. And just in case you wondering, that flower 100% represents a girl. I
t was also a fairly popular song back in the day since it peaked at number 10 in pop music and was later re-recorded by music greats like the Mamas and the Papas and Aretha Franklin.
Additionally, it was featured as the B-side to “First Taste of Love” and marked the artist’s first solo hit independent of the group The Drifters.
Best Lyrics: “I’m going to pick that rose and watch her as she grows in my garden.”
17. “New York City” by John Lenon
Written by the immortal Beatles frontman in 1972 for the album Some Time in New York City, this song talks about John Lennon’s notorious move to New York City in 1971 with his partner, Yoko Ono.
While the famous musician was later murdered here in 1980, this is one of the best songs about New York City that reveals Lenon’s first impressions of the city upon his arrival.
In essence, it gives a rather straightforward account of recent events in John’s life, including a meeting with street musician David Peel, the Attica Prison Benefit, immigration issues, a concert with Frank Zappa, and a visit to Max’s Kansas City.
It also features a bit of “Chuck Berry style” guitar, making this an exciting rock sequel to the Ballad of John and Yoko, which was created when he was a member of the Beatles.
Best Lyrics: “We decided to make it our home. The man wants to shove us out. We gonna jump and shout. Statue of Liberty said ‘Come'”.
18. “I Love NYC” by Andrew W.K.
This incredibly upbeat, high-energy party song is from rock musician Andrew W.K., who eventually moved to the city from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
He wrote this song in 2001 for his album I Get Wet and uses it to talk about the various odd jobs he worked in the city before achieving success in the music biz.
All in all, this is just a fun, creative song about NYC that you and you’re friends will want to crank up every time you want to party like a rockstar and kick a little ass.
Best Lyrics: “I love New York City, Oh yeah, New York City.”
19. “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington
Come with me as we go back in time to 1939, when the lyrics for “Take the A Train” were written by Billy Strayhorn and performed by jazz icon, Duke Ellington.
It’s one of the best songs about New York City that is a largely instrumental ballad with a few signature lyrics performed by Joya Sherrill.
So, when you listen to the song, you’ll hear this beautiful singer talking about getting on the A train and taking it to Harlem, aka the birthplace of jazz.
20. “Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday
Originally a Vernon Duke jazz standard from 1934, this is one of the best songs about New York City that was later redone by none other than Frank Sinatra himself.
However, it’s the version from Billie Holiday that really stands out since her voice adds a great deal of depth and conflict to the lyrics – thereby clearly defining the good qualities of the city from the bad.
Somehow, she masterfully modulates her voice and seamlessly goes from extolling the city’s virtues to explaining how those very same qualities lead to great pain and heartache.
Equal parts overt grief and abject love, this New York City anthem is a classic that everyone should add to their New York City playlist.
In a way, it is her pulsating melancholy that transforms this piece into very her own piece of music, and no one else’s.
Best Lyrics: “Autumn in New York, the gleaming rooftops at sundown. Autumn in New York, it lifts you up when you’re let down.”
Other Picks for the Best Songs About New York City
As you probably already guessed, there are literally hundreds of songs about New York City out there today.
Therefore, I deffo couldn’t add each one of them to this list of New York City anthems and best songs about New York City.
Nor could I discuss each one of them in-depth here since that would easily be the contents of a hella long book.
So, if you’re looking for even more musical awesomeness, then feel free to add the songs listed below to your latest and greatest NYC playlist.
21. “New York Minute” by Don Henley
22. “New York City Cops” by The Strokes
23. “New York, New York” by Ryan Adams
24. “A Punk” by Vampire Weekend
25. “NYC” by Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans, and Jadakiss
26. “Tompkins Square Park” by Mumford and Sons
27. “My My Metrocard” by Le Tigre
28. “New York’s Not My Home” by Jim Croce
29. “Heaven’s in New York” by Wyclef Jean
30. “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions
31. “Snow is Falling In Manhattan” by Purple Mountains
32. “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues
33. “Brooklyn Bound” by The Black Keys
34. “53rd & 3rd” by The Ramones
35. “New Killer Star” by David Bowie
36. “I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City” by Harry Nilsson
37. “Bells of New York City” by Josh Groban
38. “Safe in New York City” by AC/DC
39. “I’m Waiting for the Man” by The Velvet Underground
40. “Born in New York” by Papoose
41. “Across 110th Street” by Bobby Womack
42. “Ever Since New York” by Harry Styles
43. “Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen
44. “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
45. “Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten
46. “New York” by St. Vincent
47. “The Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon and Garfunkel
48. “Downtown Train” by Tom Waits
49. “Drop Me Off in Harlem” by Duke Ellington
50. “Englishman In New York” by Sting
51. “In the Heights” by Lin-Manuel Miranda
52. “Hello Broadway” by Four Tops
53. “NYC” by Interpol
54. “Subway Train” by New York Dolls
55. “Manhattan” by Ella Fitzgerald
56. “Cornelia Street” by Taylor Swift
57. “Hard Times in New York Town” by Bob Dylan
58. “Brooklyn on a Saturday Night” by Neil Diamond
59. “Blue Belles O’ Harlem” by Duke Ellington
60. “Central Park Blues” by Nina Simone
61. “Fell in Love with New York” by The Zolas
62. “Back to Manhattan” by Norah Jones
63. “East Side of Heaven” by Bing Crosby
64. “Funky Apple” by Dave Matthews & The Electric Birds
65. “Cruise to Harlem” by David Cassidy
66. “New York New York” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
67. “Back to the Bronx” by 2 Live Crew
68. “On Broadway” by The Drifters
69. “Another Rainy Day in New York City” by Chicago
70. “City Love” by John Mayer
71. “NY State of Mind” by Nas
72. “Harlem Blues” by Nat King Cole
73. “5 Boroughs” by KRS-One with Bounty Killer, Buckshot, Cam’Ron, Keith Murray, Killah Priest, Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Redman, Rev. Run, and Vigilante
74. “Grand Central Station” by John Coltrane
75. “All The Way From New York” by Wilson Phillips
76. “Angel of Harlem” by U2
77. “Avenue B” by Iggy Pop
78. “An Open Letter to NYC” by The Beastie Boys
79. “Big Man on Mulberry Street” by Billy Joel
80. “Goin’ to New York” by Jimmy Reed
81. “Back to Brooklyn” by Neon
82. “Hello Brooklyn” by The Beastie Boys
83. “Broadway” by The Clash
84. “Copacabana” by Barry Manilow
85. “Bleecker Street” by Simon & Garfunkel
86. “Bone to Bone” (Coney Island White Fish Boy) by Aerosmith
87. “Brooklyn Blues” by Barry Manilow
88. “Going Back” to Harlem by Mase
89. “Chelsea” by Counting Crows
90. “Dodgers Were in Brooklyn” by The Great Divide
91. “Brooklyn’s Finest” by Jay-Z feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
92. “The City” by Fleetwood Mac
91. “Girl from Harlem” by Bandwagon
92. “Coney island” by Death Cab for Cutie
93. “New York City Is Killin Me” by Ray LaMontagne
94. “Coney Island” by Van Morrison
95. “Dance in a New York” by Tristan Palmer
96. “New York As A Muse” by Yoko Ono
97. “New York City Rhythm” by Barry Manilow
98. “Leaving New York” by R.E.M.
99. “New York” by Ed Sheeran
100. “My New York” by Irving Berlin
101. “I’m Singing Broadway” by Bette Midler
102. “King of New York” from Newsies
103. “I Love New York” by Madonna
104. “Diana (From N.Y.C.)” by Lee Moses
105. “Hotel Roosevelt” by Augustana
106. “Empire State Building” by Randy Newman
107. “Midtown” by Tom Waits
108. “The Girl From New York City” by The Beach Boys
109. “A Letter to the New York Post” by Public Enemy
110. “Flatbush Avenue” by Weird Al Yankovic
111. “Everybody’s Shakin’ Hands On Broadway” by Luv’
112. “New York City” by The Chainsmokers
113. “Get A Hold” by A Tribe Called Quest
114. “I Can’t See New York” by Tori Amos
115. “Harlem” by Bill Withers
116. “Lovers” in New York by Johnny Mathis
117. “L.E.S.” by Childish Gambino
118. “Jenny From the Block” by Jennifer Lopez
119. “The Night That the Lights Went Out” in NYC by The Ataris
120. “Macy’s Day Parade” by Green Day
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Saturday 1st of October 2022
59th Bridge Song. Simon and Garfunkel. The happiest NY song of all I suspect. Denis from Sydney Australia
Saturday 7th of January 2023
Thanks for sharing.