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The 50 best LA songs

We count down the top tunes about Los Angeles—hear them all and have your say

Perhaps one of the most well-known muses in musical history, Los Angeles has long inspired odes to its beaches and women, its hard city streets and its celebrity siren call. Many are love songs, some are full of more vitriolic verse and others still are die-hard, head-banging anthems: No matter how you feel about the City of Angels, there's a song for that. We've chosen the 50 tunes that best encompass the LA experience—be it good, bad or ugly—and ranked them accordingly. Dig in, listen up and let us know what we got right and wrong (or missed completely) in the comments section.

Listen to the best LA songs on Spotify

Written by Michael Chen, Evelyn Derico, Sara Fay, Gillian Glover, Michael Juliano, Adam Lehrer, Amanda Montell, Danielle Nevidi, Ramona Saviss and Kate Wertheimer


“Shangri-LA” by Yacht (2011)

Quite possibly the most endearing compliment to Los Angeles, Yacht's 2011 single paints the city as preferable to the Pearly Gates and the perfect place to build a utopia. Sure, Claire Evans and her band would be just as at home in Hell (their words, not ours), but we won't argue with calling LA a shangri-la—even if almost everyone else might. To borrow from the chorus, "if we can't go to Heaven, let us go to LA"—hallelujah.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Los Angeles is Burning” by Bad Religion (2004)

When the Santa Ana Winds begin to blow and fan the wildfire flames, Angelenos start to lose their minds. Greg Graffin and company are no stranger to the seasonal “murder wind," and the Valley-based punk veterans draw on the perennial inferno as a metaphor for our own deluded reality and media-induced paranoia. How very punk rock. That the animated track came less than a year after the colossal 2003 firestorm only adds to the imagery of when “Malibu fires and radio towers conspire to dance again.”—Michael Juliano

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“Los Angeles, I'm Yours” by the Decemberists (2003)

Leave it to Colin Meloy to fill a musically jaunty ode to LA with polite, old-timey wordsmithing about burnt cocaine and streetwalker style. The Decemberists songwriter tackles his love-hate relationship with the city—“An ocean’s garbled vomit on the shore”—as a relatable, alluring addiction. LA has its faults, but its whimsical charms keep you coming back, “wretched, retching on all-fours,” whether out of pure love or borderline addiction.—Michael Juliano

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“Lullaby” by Shawn Mullins (1998)

Remember when this song was all over the airwaves in 1998? Maybe you weren't living in LA back then, so you didn't quite catch all the lyrical love for (and jabs at) this city. Shawn Mullins’s scratchy, spoken verses tell the story of a woebegone LA native with famous parents and child stars for friends. We’re not entirely sure if his explanation of Angelenos’ ambition as “kind of like Nashville with a tan” is a dig or not, but Mullins keeps telling us that "everything is gonna be all right," and that's just about the most comforting thing to hear when you're stuck in LA traffic and running 35 minutes late.—Sara Fay

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“I Wish” by Skee-Lo (1995)

As an essential LA jam, "I Wish" is as perpetually underrated as the song's vertically challenged protagonist, South LA rapper Skee-Lo. Offering a more humorous and self-deprecating take on life in the concrete jungle than its mid-'90s Death Row counterparts, the 1995 Grammy-nominated single basks in a sun-tinged sample of Bernard Wright's "Spinnin'" behind Skee-Lo's rapid recitation of his genie lamp desires: "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller, I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her." Given that Skee-Lo reportedly measures in at five-foot-eight, might we suggest a game of 1-on-1 with Prince?—Michael Chen

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“Santa Monica” by Everclear (1995)

At first listen, Everclear’s catchy 1995 ode to the oceanside city sounds pretty nice. But in reality the song may hearken to something darker: Lead singer Art Alexakis’ girlfriend committed suicide when he was a teen, an act he later tried to duplicate by jumping from the Santa Monica Pier. With this in mind, the song turns into a poignant tribute, though one we still can't help singing every time we swim out past the breakers.—Gillian Glover

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“California Stars” by Wilco (1998)

Even the most staunch West Coast cynics can’t escape the utterly sublime sincerity and enchantment of “California Stars.” Written (but never released) by Woody Guthrie during a late ‘30s stay in Long Beach, this 1998 recording manages to turn a couple of beautifully-penned stanzas—“I'd like to rest my heavy head tonight on a bed of California stars”—into a magically convincing acoustic argument for dreaming your troubles away in California. Thank Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett of Wilco for crafting a West Coast complement to “This Land is Your Land”: Nearly every syllable is perfectly engineered for a sing-along, and so it’s no surprise the song is a staple at Wilco shows and Tweedy solo sets.—Michael Juliano

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“Back in LA” by BB King (1991)

Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and electric blues hero BB King got his start in Los Angeles back in the late 1940s. Fifty years later, after recording over thirty albums, touring the world and amassing three lifetimes' worth of accolades, King was back. Gibson in hand, the icon started off this white-hot track from his '91 album, There Is Always One More Time, crooning "From Hollywood and Vine to the Sunset Strip, there's so much goin' on, you can lose your grip." As his electric guitar wails against a backdrop of brass, BB King serenades our relentless town, reminding us that in the same breath, LA will "do you so wrong" and then "do you so right." —Amanda Montell

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“Regulate” by Warren G (1994)

Warren G and Nate Dogg's hard-edged 1994 hip hop hit reps LA as a town full of girls and guns—from Long Beach to the Eastside, the rap duo find themselves facing firearms, thievery and hot babes. It soundtracked the '94 basketball film Above the Rim and maintains its G-funk throne today with a spot on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. There are one-liners aplenty in this track, but you can't be just any geek off the street to pull 'em off. —Amanda Montell

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“All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow (1993)

Sheryl Crow’s breakthrough hit from her ’93 debut album is the perfect soundtrack for a carefree girls’ night out. Her chronicle of escaping 9-to-5 obligations with bar buddy Billy was actually adapted from the poem “Fun,” by Wyn Cooper; Crow’s producer found a book of his poetry in a Pasadena bookstore and the rest is history. Crow’s fun-loving chorus is all her own, though, as is the song’s Santa Monica Boulevard setting.—Gillian Glover

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“Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang” by Dr. Dre (1992)

With its opening line still setting off crowds at parties, this ‘92 West Coast gangsta rap classic never goes out of style. Dr. Dre and a pre-fame Snoop Dogg rep their ‘hoods (“C-O-M-P-T-O-N and the city they call Long Beach”) and list off proof of how supremely G they are, all while remaining laid-back as can be.—Danielle Nevidi

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“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” by Father John Misty (2012)

Fear Fun is the most recent solo project of former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, and was recorded upon his relocation from Seattle to LA. The whole album, and this song in particular, embraces a black humor that Tillman says was inspired by LA's secretly miserable comedians. The concept of the song was based on a real-life romantic encounter Tillman had at the famous Hollywood graveyard, which happened just after he returned to LA from his grandfather's funeral on the East Coast. Tillman considers this "consummation" of his grandfather's death and the resulting song as a sort of memorial, and the weird fucked-up-ness of that makes this tune all the more intriguing.—Amanda Montell

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“Hollywood Freaks” by Beck (1999)

Maybe it was the imminent chaos of Y2K talking, but Beck got real experimental on his 1999 multi-genre album, Midnite Vultures. This gnarly funk track (featuring the likes of Hansen, John King and Michael Simpson) is like a wacked-out litany of '90s LA debauchery, including dance floors, talk shows, hot dogs, No Doz and hot sex in back rows... the list goes on. Beck—a born-and-rasied Angeleno who opened Spaceland (now the Satellite) and makes us think twice about bashing Scientology—is at his weirdest and most wonderful on this very LA track.—Amanda Montell

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“Los Angeles” by Frank Black (1992)

A guy from Boston criticizing your beloved hometown might strike a nerve with some. But when the song is this damn rockin’—and probably the best track Frank Black ever recorded in his post-Pixies career—who cares? In typical loud-quiet fashion, Black wrestles with LA’s multiple personalities and historical oddities in this 1993 track that’s as spacey and confused as the city it depicts.—Michael Juliano

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“Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J (1988)

Before he started wooing ladies with romantic ballads, LL Cool J was a pioneering crossover rapper. Case in point, this 1988 Rick Rubin-produced, Cali-loving track, which became one of the first hip hop videos to play continuously on MTV. The chorus is still ambiguous as ever (“I’m going back to Cali, I don’t think so”: Are you or aren't you, Cool J?) but the rest is straight up, awesomely corny—“On Sunset it's a trip, where the AC's cold and the girls still strip"—replete with a surprisingly beautiful black-and-white music video showing off ‘80s LA at its finest.—Danielle Nevidi

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“Electrolite” by R.E.M. (1996)

Hop in your car, make your way up Mulholland Drive after dusk and stake out a clear vantage point from which to gaze upon the city of lights that inspired "Electrolite," R.E.M.'s 1996 farewell salute to the 20th century. In a 2006 Los Angeles Times interview, lead singer Michael Stipe explained that LA was the ideal backdrop for this song because "nowhere seemed more perfect than the city that came into its own throughout the 20th century." To this point, Stipe conjures up images of silver screen stars of bygone eras—Martin Sheen, Steve McQueen, James Dean: larger-than-life heroes to embody when looking out from high above in the Hollywood Hills. —Michael Chen

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“Girls, Girls, Girls” by Mötley Crüe (1987)

The hard rocking, girl-worshipping anthem from LA's resident '80s heavy metal band could put almost anyone in the mood to slap on a leather jacket, pack a wallet full of ones and head to the Sunset Strip. Tropicana, The Body Shop and Seventh Veil are just a few of Mötley Crüe's local hot spots for finding gorgeous women in nothing but a smile. "Dance for me, I'll keep you overemployed," Neil Veil shrieks in this 1987 hit. We can certainly give these boys points for directness. —Amanda Montell

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“Born In East LA” by Cheech & Chong (1985)

“Green card? I’m from East LA.” And so Cheech Marin is mistakenly deported in this 1985 cult-classic parody, which would inspire a full-fledged comedy film of the same name two years later. The song avoids the despairing pitfalls of immigration politics—an unsettlingly real issue thirty years later—thanks to Cheech’s sheepish fear of Tijuana and innocent love of the Eastside. In addition to the “Born in the USA”-borrowed tune, you’ll find more clever jabs at Bruce Springsteen (“Now I know what it's like to be born to run") as well as a Randy Newman callout toward the end—“Soto Street! We love it!”—Michael Juliano

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“The Recipe” by Kendrick Lamar (2012)

Kendrick Lamar's first major single plays like a nod to West Coast rap; the Compton rapper rhymes about his roots with a hypnotic mix by local producer Scoop DeVille and smug verses from Lamar’s legendary mentor, Dr. Dre. But above all, the 2012 track comes off as an unabashed LA anthem that praises this city’s most invaluable assets: women, weed and weather. We’ll let Kendrick have the last word on this: "What more can I say? Welcome to LA."—Michael Juliano

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“The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” by Jan and Dean (1964)

If you don’t live on the West Coast, you might mistake Pasadena for a coastal city thanks to Jan and Dean’s popular 1964 surf rock-inflected ruse. But if you do live here, you know your geography—we hope—and the archetype of an elderly driver in an overpowered car. In fact, “She’s the terror of Colorado Boulevard,” is all too relevant these days as Pasadena ranks among the worst cities in California for auto collisions. But we digress: The song’s ultimate staying power owes a bit to cars, but much more to the straight-faced “Go granny, go,” harmony and Dean Torrence’s soaring falsetto intro.—Michael Juliano

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“Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa (1982)

While Frank Zappa may have intended “Valley Girl” to be a takedown of well-off, Galleria-haunting ‘80s teens, the song instead created a nationwide lexicon of Valley girl slang—whoops. Though an uneventful composition by Zappa standards, his daughter Moon Unit elevates the song into stardom with Valspeak squeals like “grody”, “barf,” and “bitchin’”; her excessive use of “like”; and musings on the pronunciation of “Andrea.” Good luck pinpointing the origin of all the Valley hate, but something was clearly already brewing by ‘82: “But I live, like, in a really good part of Encino so it’s okay.”—Michael Juliano

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“Jane Says” by Jane's Addiction (1987)

We love steel drums, we love Perry Farrell and yes, we definitely freak out when Jane's Addiction ends their live shows with this crowd-pleaser. The story behind the 1987 song is basically this: When the band was first forming back in the '80s, Farrell rented a group house in Hollywood (convincing his landlord he was a gay interior decorator rather than a punk rocker), and had a housemate, Jane, who fell in love with a heroin dealer, Sergio (of course) and couldn't kick her habit. Hence, the band's name.—Kate Wertheimer

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“The Only Place” by Best Coast (2012)

Best Coast’s saccharine, sunny love letter to LA has all the subtlety of a romcom—seriously, just imagine the song playing over a movie intro with Amanda Seyfried jogging through palm tree-filtered sunlight. But as singer Bethany Cosentino rattles through her list of SoCal’s finest features (Ocean? Babes? Sun? Waves? Check.) it’s difficult to disagree with the unabashedly LA-loyal song. “Why would you live anywhere else?” she repeatedly asks, and well, good question. There’s only one acceptable response: “This is the only place for me.”—Michael Juliano

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“Life in LA” by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2003)

Hailed as the godfather of chillwave, Ariel Pink has earned a permanent spot in the LA music scene with his muddy yet melodic oeuvre. His ode to a lonely life in LA is perfectly captured in this haunting lo-fi gem, a 2003 track that finds the moody multi-instrumentalist somewhere between a ‘70s TV show theme and Joy Division.—Evelyn Derico

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“It Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube (1993)

What may be gangsta rapper Ice Cube's greatest hit chronicles pretty much the best 24 hours a young dude in LA could ever have. Cube starts his day by having sex, shooting hoops and smoking a little weed. Later, he has a couple drinks, hangs out with his buddy for a while and then bags a girl he'd been "trying to fuck since the 12th grade." Classy, Cube. Finally, he engages in a before-bed ritual of 2am fast food and a wee-hour cruise through South Central. Chill song, smooth vibe and a good day indeed. —Amanda Montell

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“Surfin' Safari” by the Beach Boys (1962)

The marine layer must’ve been thick in 1961 to infect a bunch of boys from Hawthorne with such a surfing obsession. A year and one anthemic verse later, the Beach Boys cemented their place in SoCal and surf history with a feel-good jangle and Chuck Berry-inspired guitar solo. We might not go cruising in “woodies” looking for “honeys” anymore, but the Brian Wilson and Mike Love-penned ode to local surf spots—Huntington, Malibu, Rincon, Laguna and Doheny—still breathes life into a storied salt air Shangri-La.—Michael Juliano

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“Redondo Beach” by Patti Smith (1975)

We wistfully envision a foggy South Bay morning when our rock & roll lady crush croons, "On Redondo Beach, everyone is so sad, I was looking for you, are you gone?" The easy, reggae beat belies the 1975 tune’s painful story of a lovers’ quarrel turned suicide. This isn’t your typical beach bum anthem, but we suppose this track from Smith’s landmark debut, Horses, sets the tone for the laid back but sometimes distant beach city.—Michael Juliano

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“Low Rider” by War (1975)

Referred to as the “Chicano National Anthem” by LA native George Lopez, this 1975 song by War pays homage to LA’s low rider car culture. Today, the widely played 14-line song is a staple at Los Angeles sporting events and is continually used in popular TV shows and movies. Lead singer Charles Miller (who grew up in Long Beach) is the deep voice behind the catchy beat—with lyrics reflecting the souped-up, hydraulic cars that cruise the streets of LA—and sang this timeless ode to Cali’s hot rods long before rim sizes were rapped about. —Ramona Saviss

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“California Love” by 2Pac (1995)

"Let me serenade the streets of LA," raps 2Pac—and serenade us he does. The rapper made a glorious return from his '90s prison stint with this comeback smash, which strikes gold with its irresistibly funky vibe and catchy hook, alongside the talents of fellow Californian Dr. Dre and an oft-repeated declaration that California knows how to party. —Amanda Montell

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“California Sun” by the Rivieras (1964)

Covered many times over by everyone from punk legends the Ramones to current buzz band Palma Violets, "California Sun" is essential listening for a day's frolic on the sandy beaches of LA. The most famous rendition of the song, recorded in 1964 by the Rivieras, became a surf rock classic that surely inspired impressionable teenagers across the country to pack their bags and head out West. So infectious is the track's signature guitar riff that we'll forgive the throwaway line about the frisky girls in old 'Frisco. To the beach!—Michael Chen

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“Los Angeles” by X (1980)

At just under two and a half minutes, X’s “Los Angeles” (from their 1980 debut album of the same name) is a classic punk rock anthem. The lyrics tell the story of a woman beaten down by "Hell-A" who begins to lash out at others—a telling commentary about the city’s diversity and the intolerance it can breed. The in-your-face racial lyrics were a reflection of the time and early punk scene in LA. It’s gritty and real—just like X, and Los Angeles.—Gillian Glover

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“Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty (1989)

No, this classic LA tune was not conceived while Tom Petty was riding the old Freefall coaster at Magic Mountain. Rather, "Free Fallin'" nostalgically recalls a childhood sweetheart in Petty's home state of Florida whom the singer left behind when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue rock & roll stardom. Packed with numerous references to everyday life in the Valley and complemented by an iconic video shot inside the Westside Pavilion mall, the 1989 hit evokes for many Angelenos the feeling of taking a leap into the great unknown in a city of myriad possibilities. If LA songs are to be judged—and they should be—by how uplifted we feel when we crank them up in our cars and sing along at the top of our lungs (see Maguire, Jerry), "Free Fallin'" rises to the top. Well, the top 20.—Michael Chen

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“Hooray for Hollywood” by Doris Day (1958)

Nothing rekindles the circling spotlights of Busby Berkeley-era Hollywood quite like this immortal earworm. But even in 1937, lyricist Johnny Mercer was already lodging enduring complaints about Midwestern transplants, phonies and short-lived fame. That last point, in particular, was even more apparent two decades later when Doris Day’s sauntering, twinkling rendition ditched mentions of Shirley Temple and Aimee Semple for Lassie and Marilyn Monroe (or, more specifically, her chassis).—Michael Juliano

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“Going Back to Cali” by the Notorious B.I.G. (1998)

We love this song because of the numerous mentions of buttering ladies up at fast food joints. It's hilarious to imagine Biggie (anyone, really), "flossin' hoes" at Roscoe's or treating a girl to Fatburger in order to "squirt her"—although we're sure the late, great rapper did all that and more. Also, this is the song we all sing on our way home from road trips, when the sprawl of city lights comes into view and the inevitable traffic jam is still a twinkle of red taillights in the distance. And it's always good to be back.—Kate Wertheimer

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“Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)

Anthony Kiedis—LA's own unofficial king of rock—pays homage to his city in this heartfelt track from 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The song is named for a drug deal that took place under a bridge Downtown, which Kiedis considered to be a low point in his life. In times of isolation, however, he felt that his only friend was—you know it—the City of Angels. The song almost failed to be, however; Kiedis felt the emotional theme of loneliness didn’t fit the band’s tone, but producer Rick Rubin persuaded him to pursue it. The song became a hit and a RHCP classic, earning itself a spot in our top 20.—Gillian Glover

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“Straight Outta Compton” by N.W.A. (1988)

“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.” And so began LA’s reign as the stronghold of West Coast gangsta rap. The tinny hi-hat ticks and shock lyrics in the 1988 hit sound tame today—and Compton itself isn’t quite the AK-filled ‘hood that N.W.A. described—but there’s still a legitimate thrill from that opening, “Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube.” The group packs so much raw personality and attitude into four minutes that it’s no wonder the song blasted a previously ignored region and culture of LA onto the national mainstage.—Michael Juliano

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“Screenwriters Blues” by Soul Coughing (1994)

Soul Coughing front man Mike Doughty was actually living in downtown Manhattan, attending Eugene Lang College, when he came up with this ode to LA in '94. He'd taken a short visit to LA the previous summer, which inspired him to craft this spoken word piece interwoven with a lounge-y industrial backdrop and Los Angeles-laden imagery. Doughty told the LA Times in 2007 that he feels no connection to the song now, having become frustrated with constantly being associated with LA when he was in fact a New Yorker. Whatever.—Adam Lehrer

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“LA” by Elliott Smith (2000)

The sorely missed Elliott Smith recorded his last album, Figure 8, in Los Angeles in 2000. The record displayed an upbeat and accessible yet refined quality that many critics deemed his best effort to date (or his best effort ever, as it would turn out). The album's dreamy track "LA" juxtaposes the city's beautiful weather and relaxed scene with the profound anxiety and loneliness fostered by a city where everyone wants to be a star. "Things I've never done, cars parked in the sun, living in the day, but last night I was about to throw it all away." If only he hadn't.—Amanda Montell

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“Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger (1978)

Consider this 1978 track an ode to the transplant: An innocent Midwestern boy gets caught up in the big city with an irresistible girl, only to find he’s wandered too far from home. But this isn’t a sob story; Seger pushes the narrative forward with a locomotive rhythm and shout-it-from-the-hilltops chorus. At the end of the day, LA (and its rocky romances) may spit you out and abandon you, but it sure is hard to resist “those Hollywood nights in those Hollywood Hills.”—Michael Juliano

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“Desperados Under the Eaves” by Warren Zevon (1976)

With both humor and compassion (not to mention background vocals from local Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys), Zevon perfectly captures what it is to be an alcoholic in LA. A transplant from Chicago, Zevon’s up-and-down career is the epitome of chasing stardom in the City of Angels. And for all the talk of gorgeous beaches, perfect weather and Hollywood glitz, "Desperados" tells of the overwhelming sense of seedy sadness that lurks beneath the glistening façade of the city. —Adam Lehrer

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“Los Angeles Blues” by Peggy Lee (1962)

Is there a cuter song out there about our fair city? We're pretty sure not. Lee moved to Los Angeles at the age of 17 and was discovered while working at the Doll House in Palm Springs—where, instead of singing loudly over the crowd to get their attention, she perfected a sultry purr that would eventually make her famous, as in this 1962 hit. Lee boasts about LA's best offerings: sunshine, beaches, mountains, desert—and the kind of living that's blues-proof: BBQs, baseball games, surfing, skiing.... Does the LA tourism board know about this song?? —Kate Wertheimer

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“Walking In LA” by Missing Persons (1982)

We're not sure who references this song (off 1982's Spring Session M) more—the people in LA who really don't walk, or the defiant ambulators who mock them. We're pretty sure it's the latter, but either way, this must be the most-referenced song in the city, at least on sidewalks or while running for one's life during inexplicably short crosswalk lights. Only "lame" joggers might boycott it—nobody likes name-calling.—Kate Wertheimer

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“California Girls” by the Beach Boys (1965)

Written by Brian Wilson during an LSD trip in 1965, this catchy song reached number three on the Billboard charts and has since been covered by numerous bands (most famously by David Lee Roth in 1985), payed homage to by the Beatles and semi-stolen by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg (Lion? Tiger, bear, whatever). It's hailed as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and is Saved By the Bell principal Mr. Belding's favorite tune. We can't argue with that.—Kate Wertheimer

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“To Live and Die in LA” by 2Pac (1996)

This ballad, released shortly after 2Pac’s death as a single from his last recorded album, is a loving tribute to the artist's adoptive hometown. The '96 song pleads for better race and gang relations in the city and alludes to local staples like the scene on Sunset and ghetto birds above. (It also has a pretty incredible music video, culminating in a chicken-and-waffles food fight outside of Roscoe's.) Sadly, however, Pac breathed his last in Las Vegas, not LA.—Danielle Nevidi

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“It Never Rains in Southern California” by Albert Hammond (1972)

London-born and Gibraltar-based Albert Hammond (father of Jr., the Strokes guitarist) released this soft rock hit in 1972. The song sounds plenty cheery with a flute riff and sunny title, but pay closer attention and you’ll find it takes a dark turn. "It never rains in California, but girl don't they warn ya. It pours, man it pours," Hammond croons, imparting the tale of a musician who moves to LA with high hopes of fame and fortune, only to end up hungry and lost, begging a friend not to “tell the folks back home” of his failure. At least the weather’s nice! —Danielle Nedivi

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“Celluloid Heroes” by the Kinks (1972)

This tender Kinks fan-favorite from 1972 finds frontman Ray Davies namedropping iconic Hollywood stars left and right, trying to understand their successes and tribulations by putting himself in their shoes as he walks down the iconic boulevard. “Don’t step on Greta Garbo,” he warns, but “stand close by Bette Davis.” Davies both idolizes and humanizes the actors—a refreshing point of view for both tourists traversing the Walk of Fame in awe as well as locals who trample the stars daily. Unsurprisingly, the immortalizing tune is a go-to for radio stations when paying tribute to an actor who’s passed.—Gillian Glover

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“California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & The Papas (1965)

Arguably the best—and definitely the most recognizable—song about lusting after the Golden State, “California Dreamin’” was written by John and Michelle Phillips after John heard it in a dream while living in New York in 1963, pre Mamas & Papas. Between the alto flute solo, the dreamy harmony and the band’s lament that "I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA,” the song is a hypnotic tout for SoCal. Rolling Stone has named the track #89 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and it’s been covered by everyone from the Beach Boys to Alvin and the Chipmunks—even Meat Loaf got in on this action. Surprisingly, the song didn’t catch on right away in LA, but instead became a hit in Boston. Maybe it makes sense… the track’s message resonates more with people, indeed, dreamin’ of LA than with those of us living in the thick of it, possibly even taking it for granted.—Gillian Glover

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“Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N' Roses (1987)

Blender says it's the greatest LA song of all time; VH1 says it's history's greatest hard rock song, period. "Welcome to the Jungle" is an aggressively sexy encapsulation of '80s metal culture on the Sunset Strip and the cutthroat pursuit of fame. During the year it was written, in 1987, the Guns N' Roses brethren shared a coke-filled mansion in the jungle of West Hollywood, infested with groupies and fondly named the Hell House. Was anyone more qualified to capture LA rock & roll in the mid-80s? Doubtful. —Amanda Montell

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“LA Woman” by the Doors (1971)

During the making of Jim Morrison's last album with The Doors—before he joined the untimely 27 club—the chisel-jawed rocker recorded the vocals for "LA Woman" in the bathroom of the band's makeshift WeHo studio. He liked the room's "natural reverb"—almost as much as he liked ladies from LA—and we can't argue with him. The song is an absolute classic: a '71 rock record that would speak for LA girls for generations to come: the lucky little ladies in the City of Light, the lost angels and everyone in between. It keeps our mojo rising and earned our number two spot.—Amanda Montell

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“I Love LA” by Randy Newman (1983)

It may not be the most, ah, complex composition, but Randy Newman's 1983 anthem has a simple message you can't mess with—overwhelming love for the city (while having a shitload of fun). As he dismisses the Frank Sinatra anthem towns of New York and Chicago, a crunchy synth kicks in—‘80s production be damned—and a nasally proclamation that “we was born to ride” inspires a sense of, dare we say, pride in LA, Santa Anas blowing and all. Of course, this is still the same sardonic songwriter as always, so Newman’s love of big, nasty redheads and the Beach Boys is balanced by a line like, “Look at that mountain, look at those trees, look at that bum over there, man he’s down on his knees.” Unlike pretty much every other ode to Los Angeles, “I Love LA” doesn’t tie itself to any one trope—the industry bubble, gangsta cred, beach bum life—and instead professes the crazy idea that LA as a whole, the very condition of living in this weird and wonderful city, is a cause worthy of celebration (and a rousing chorus). LA is too sprawling and disjointed to ever have a schlocky communal anthem, but after two decades “I Love LA” is still the closest thing we've got. And we love it!—Michael Juliano and Kate Wertheimer

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Listen to Time Out’s 50 best LA songs playlist on Spotify