100 best NYC songs
The greatest tunes about Gotham. Hear them all and watch exclusive performances. Edited by Steve Smith and Sharon Steel
Wed Mar 7 2012
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For as long as there’s been a New York City, Gotham has inspired odes to its majesty and danger, its punk vitality and all-embracing spirit. Love it or hate it, if you’re a musician living here, sooner or later you’re going to write about it.
It was in that spirit that we set about assembling our list of the 100 best NYC songs. Our jury of New York-proud experts—TONY Music staffers Sophie Harris, Marley Lynch, Hank Shteamer and Steve Smith; features editor Sharon Steel; Theater associate editor and cabaret maven Adam Feldman; Nightlife editor Bruce Tantum; and freelance hip-hop expert Jesse Serwer—combined longtime New Yorkers and more recent arrivals drawn here by the city’s ineffable allure. For more than a month, we searched far and wide for well-worn anthems and deserving obscurities alike.
One fundamental rule—a song had to be specifically and explicitly about some aspect of NYC, be it good, bad or ugly—led to some startling omissions: Whither Patti Smith, Blondie and Talking Heads? Weeks of heated deliberation and occasionally heartbreaking cuts followed as we parsed lyrics and contexts; even seeming no-brainers like “Positively 4th Street” got voted off the island as we pondered relative merits to wrestle out a ranking.
The result is a fascinating, illuminating and (we’re sure) potentially infuriating tally of the 100 best songs about the city we call home. We invite you to dig in, listen hard and tell us what we got right or wrong.—Steve Smith, Music editor
Listen to the best NYC songs on Spotify