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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“I Like Jersey Best” by John Pizzarelli

No song namechecks Jersey locations like this one: “The Pinelands and the Vinelands / Seaside Heights, Margate / You can have Miami / I love the Garden State.” Released on 1999’s P.S. Mr. Cole, it takes listeners on a trip from Rutgers to the oil refineries, stopping briefly at Cherry Hill, Lake Hopatcong and a sat nav’s worth of other high points along the way. It even pays homage to the state’s most famous musician (sorry, Jon Bon Jovi): “Some states have their rock stars, but Springsteen beats them all.” Damn straight. —Nick Leftley

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“You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry

The greatest rock & roll stars know how to make anything sound appealing, and so it goes with Chuck Berry on this 1956 belter, where Berry suggests we race a souped-up "air mobile" down the New Jersey Turnpike. A premonition of Marty McFly's hoverboard, perhaps? Who cares, we'll take it! And so, as it happens, did the Rolling Stones, who covered the track in 1965, plus John Lennon, who was sued by Berry's publisher for ripping off the song in the Beatles' "Come Together" (get a load of the line "Here come old flattop" in Berry's original here), and Bruce Springsteen, who drops the line "New Jersey Turnpike in the wee, wee hours" on his haunting Nebraska album. Sure enough, it's a helluva song.—Sophie Harris

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“No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future” by Titus Andronicus

In the video for this epic cut from 2010, Andronicus frontman Patrick Sickles goes on a rant dispelling all the ugly stereotypes about his home state (Jersey Shore, bad smells, Real Housewives). Directed by fellow Jerseyite Tom Scharpling (The Best Show on WFMU), the road-trip footage—chronicling the band rocking out from the Pine Barrens in South Jersey all the way up to Jersey City—is a raucous love letter to the state. After a nod to Mahwah, the song’s final mantra (“You will always be a loser,” a sentiment anyone who grew up in the shadow of NYC can relate to) shifts from a lament to an embracing punk anthem.—Tim Lowery

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“Hackensack” by Fountains of Wayne

Most folks know Fountains of Wayne for its ultra-catchy ode to MILFs, “Stacy’s Mom,” but the power pop quartet—named after a kitschy lawn-ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey—has been spinning tales about underdog heroes of the tristate area for close to two decades. One of our favorites is “Hackensack,” a touching yet comical 2003 ditty about a perpetual dreamer who grows up in the titular northern New Jersey suburb, pining for the high-school hottie. She goes on to become a famous Hollywood starlet; he sticks around the hometown, working a dead-end job at his dad’s paint store. The years, the miles and the polar-opposite lifestyles do little to deter our indefatigable hero’s optimism, as he sends out a long-distance dedication to his would-be steady: “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you.” Keep the dream alive, bro!—Michael Chen

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“Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3

Some songs just have to be included, whether they’re technically about Jersey or not. Alabama 3 actually hails from Brixton in London, England, but its 1997 song—specifically the “Chosen One Mix”—is now indelibly linked to the Garden State thanks to its presence in the iconic opening credits of The Sopranos. It is literally impossible to hear this song now without picturing Tony’s cigar-chomping drive from Manhattan, through the Lincoln Tunnel, over the Pulaski Skyway and down to Caldwell.—Nick Leftley

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