The 15 best New Jersey songs

If you’re heading to the Garden State, this playlist will get you there in toe-tapping style



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Thinking of crossing the Hudson? You should—there are tons of awesome things to do in New Jersey, in addition to the state's having a bunch of neighborhoods that match up pretty neatly to nabes you already love in NYC. Never ones to leave our apartments without the right musical accompaniment, we’ve created this playlist to see you through the (shorter than you think!) journey there. Expect some classics (come on, you can’t do this list and not have Bon Jovi or Springsteen on it—that’s technically illegal) but also some hidden gems and surprises. Now get yourself some spray tan and get moving!

Written by Michael Chen, Andrew Frisicano, Sophie Harris, Nick Leftley, Tim Lowery, Hank Shteamer and Carla Sosenko.

  1. 15–11
  2. 10–6
  3. 5–1

“99 Problems” by Jay-Z

Verse one of this immortal Black Album smash finds Mr. Carter issuing an all-purpose tell-off to critics and haters, but in verse two, he gets geographically specific, relating a Michael Mann–worthy 1994 encounter with the New Jersey police. Sure, the narrator has drugs stashed in his car, but he's pretty sure that's not why he's being pulled over. ("’Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low?" he ventures, when asked.) Jay-Z being Jay-Z, he got his revenge on Jersey by, you know, helping relocate its beloved Nets to his hometown. Garden State, we feel bad for you, son.—Hank Shteamer

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“Fake Blues” by Real Estate

With lazily strummed guitars and a swimming pool of slapback echo, the Bergen County boys—from the other Ridgewood, in Jersey—meditate on crappy postcollege jobs and getting out of the burbs. Unsurprisingly, since writing this tune for their 2009 debut record, they've decamped to Brooklyn.—Andrew Frisicano

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“Theme Song for a New Brunswick Basement Show” by Lifetime

The boardwalks and backstreets of the Garden State are already well documented; on this track, '90s pop-punk band Lifetime takes on DIY basement concerts. The short, sweet story tells of seeing a mediocre band and talking to a crush. You can almost feel the sweat-soaked white T-shirt of the guy standing next to you.—Andrew Frisicano

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“Night Falls on Hoboken” by Yo La Tengo

Cult favorites Yo La Tengo unfurled this slow-tempo tribute to their hometown as the album closer to And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (2000). Tribute might be a strong word, though, considering that lead vocalist Ira Kaplan sings, “Come on, let’s leave our misery / And crawl toward where we want to be.” Despite the downcast lyrics and moody atmospherics, the song has a sense of hope that the protagonists will eventually manage to escape their rut and find a place to “sleep one night peacefully” (tip: it’s not Manhattan). The track is nearly 18 minutes long, perfect for a twilight stroll from Fiore’s Deli to the Hoboken waterfront, where you can watch dusk creep up on the New York City skyline as you scarf down a roast-beef-and-mutz. Mmm…what were they complaining about again?—Michael Chen

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“Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits

Tom Waits is the gravelly king of cool—so what does it mean that one of his most beautiful songs is about a gal from the Garden State? (Granted, we have a feeling his titular Jersey girl was probably not of the Teresa Giudice variety.) Waits sings about crossing the river west to see his lady (sorry, whores of Eighth Avenue, this is not your night!), and we have to admit we’re a little jealous: It’s been a long time since anyone’s whisked us down the Shore, hugged us tight and taken us to a carnival. (Wait, that’s actually never happened to us.) Waits’s dreamy ballad (later famously covered by the Boss) is almost enough to make us seek romance in Jerz—just as long as we get to go to the Cheesecake Factory.—Carla Sosenko

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  1. 15–11
  2. 10–6
  3. 5–1

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Kyle C
Kyle C

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