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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  1. 15–11
  2. 10–6
  3. 5–1
5

“Jersey Bounce” by Ella Fitzgerald

This irresistible ditty originally hit the No. 1 spot in 1942, as performed by Benny Goodman and his orchestra. But despite that success (and the legion of others who’ve covered the song since, including Glenn Miller and the King Sisters), it’s still most associated with the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald, who scats adorably throughout. It’s the perfect song for a warm night’s drive in the Garden State, because, quite simply, “No town makes it sound the same as where it came from.” And remember, “If you don’t feel so hot / Go out to some Jersey spot / Whether you’re hep or not / The Jersey bounce’ll make you swing.”—Nick Leftley

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4

“Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon

One of the best summer songs ever (ever, we say!), Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon’s 1962 ode to the sprawling, long-gone Bergen County amusement park overlooking Manhattan finds the singer cruising for girls, eating hot dogs and making out on the Ferris wheel. Not a bad way to spend a day on the other side of the Hudson.—Tim Lowery

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3

“Atlantic City” by the Band

Nobody evokes the whole “we’re doomed, so we might as well live it up” scenario better than the Boss. Add in the inimitably lived-in drawl of the Band’s late, great Levon Helm—who turned in a definitive version of the Springsteen tune on the group’s 1993 comeback disc, Jericho—and you’ve got existential pop at its finest. “We’re goin’ out where the sands turn to gold / But put your stockings on, 'cause it might get cold,” sings Helm, portraying Jersey’s titular gambling hub as a new El Dorado, and hinting at the unsavory element of organized crime lurking below the surface.—Hank Shteamer

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2

“Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi

There was, obviously, no way that this song couldn’t be on this list. “Livin’ on a Prayer” (from 1986’s Slippery When Wet) manages to encapsulate the hardworking, blue-collar lifestyle of the state better than almost any other song—better, even, than anything on the Jov record New Jersey. Under the hair-metal bombast, it’s actually a kinda depressing song (“Gina dreams of running away / When she cries in the night, Tommy whispers, ‘Baby, it’s okay’”), but then, if there’s one state that excels at covering its troubles in a sheen of grinning, party-ready glitter, it’s Joisey.—Nick Leftley

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1

“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” by Bruce Springsteen

Really, who else could top this list? The first name that springs to mind when you think of the Garden State has written too many Jersey anthems to count—“Born to Run,” “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).” But our biggest soft spot is for this peppy live staple from 1973, where the Boss—all get-me-out-of-here working-class gumption—gets “stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey” and gives the ultimate fuck-you to his sweetheart’s disapproving dad: Taking his daughter away and, rocker attitude and all, coming into some big money through a record deal. Jersey boy for the win.—Tim Lowery

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  1. 15–11
  2. 10–6
  3. 5–1

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