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100 best NYC songs: Nos. 100-91

Watch music videos for iconic NYC songs by Tom Waits, XTC and more.


100. XTC, "Statue of Liberty" (1978)

Lady Liberty might seem like the unlikeliest of sex symbols, but XTC's Andy Partridge begged to differ on this banned-from-the-BBC power-pop classic, in which he reveals his desire to "sail beneath [her] skirt." Look beyond the prurience, and you'll find a tender regard for our torchbearing gatekeeper: "Your love was so big," quips Partridge, "it made New York look small."—Hank Shteamer

Statue of Liberty - Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles Collection (1977-1992)

Buy "Statue of Liberty" on Spotify

99. Charles Hamilton, "Brooklyn Girls" (2008)

Heat-seeking Harlem MC Charles Hamilton should have been as big as his peers Kid Cudi and Drake by now, if only he knew how to play the game better (his career took a sudden nosedive almost as soon as it took off, following a much-YouTubed clip titled "Gets punched in face by a girl"). Of course, Hamilton's authenticity, wit, and playfulness are exactly what make him extraordinary, as exemplified on nabe anthem "Brooklyn Girls"—a cut that makes most Brooklyn ladies want to give him a smooch instead of a knuckle sandwich.—Sophie Harris

Brooklyn Girls - Brooklyn Girls - Single

Buy "Brooklyn Girls" on Spotify

98. Le Tigre, "My My Metrocard" (1999)

Like many New York City transplants, the three rockers of Le Tigre moved here to pursue their artistic dreams. All are now stalwarts in the local arts, music and political scenes: frontwoman Kathleen Hanna and guitarist Johanna Fateman settled in Manhattan and keyboardist JD Samson resides in Williamsburg. This electroclash ode to the subway system comes from the band's 1999 self-titled debut album.—Marley Lynch

My My Metrocard - Le Tigre

97. The Insect Trust, "The Eyes of a New York Woman" (1970)

Despite hailing from an LP titled Hoboken Saturday Night, this quirky obscurity could hardly be more New Yorky—right down to lyrics adapted from Thomas Pynchon's debut novel, V. Singer Nancy Jeffries later became a talent scout at several major record labels; guitarist Bill Barth was a seminal blues preservationist; and clarinetist-saxophonist Robert Palmer made his name as an influential New York Times music critic.—Steve Smith

The Eyes of a New York Woman - 20 Greatest Hits

96. Phil Ochs, "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" (1967)

This cheeky single from an iconic '60s protest singer was inspired by one of the city's most notorious crimes: the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in Kew Gardens, Queens, witnessed by dozens of neighbors who failed to act. "Smoking marijuana is more fun than drinking beer / But a friend of ours was captured and they gave him 30 years," Ochs sings over Lincoln Mayorga's woozy saloon piano, riffing on media-saturated apathy. "Maybe we should raise our voices, ask somebody why / But demonstrations are a drag, besides we're much too high."—Steve Smith

Buy "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" on Spotify


Charles Hamilton, Death of the Mixtape Rapper review
Le Tigre's favorite NYC spots
Watch the trailer for documentary Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune

95. The Moldy Peaches, "NYC's Like a Graveyard" (2001)

Having built up their reputation in the proceeding two years, anti-folk stalwarts the Moldy Peaches released a self-titled debut featuring this punkish banger on September 11, 2001. Eerie coincidences aside, the song is an irreverent gem, taking caustic jabs at New York City while celebrating the classic garage-punk style to which the city gave birth.—Marley Lynch

NYC's Like a Graveyard - The Moldy Peaches

Buy "NYC's Like a Graveyard" on Spotify

94. Jerry Orbach and the Original Broadway Cast (42nd Street), "Lullaby of Broadway" (1980)

The ultimate Broadway self-love song is a nod to the late-night sounds of the city that never sleeps—"the rumble of the subway train" and "the rattle of the taxis" going strong into the wee hours. "Lullaby of Broadway" actually debuted in the movie Gold Diggers of 1935 (for which it won an Oscar for songwriters Harry Warren and Al Dubin). It was only years later, in the musical 42nd Street, that the song came to rousing life onstage.—Adam Feldman

Lullaby of Broadway - The Rosemary Clooney Show: Songs from the Classic Television Series

Buy "Lullaby of Broadway" on Spotify

93. Phosphorescent, "The Mermaid Parade" (2010)

If you haven't been sad on a happy day in New York, you really haven't lived here. Brooklyn-via-Alabama songman Matthew Houck situates this tale of heartbreak at Coney Island's Mermaid Parade; he's there, heart-in-hand, while his woman's out in L.A. with her "new older, old man." Houck takes in the sights and sounds—and undoubtedly the smells, thanks to Nathan's and the grotty ocean—and wonders, "Were you with me today / Watching those women waltz by in the Mermaid Parade?" She may not have been; but when the picture is painted this richly, you certainly are.—Sophie Harris

The Mermaid Parade - Here's to Taking It Easy

Buy "The Mermaid Parade" on Spotify

92. Judge, "New York Crew" (1988)

When Mike "Judge" Ferraro shouts out "old New York" in this rough-hewn chest-thumper, he has in mind the East Village of the early '80s, when combat-booted foot soldiers like Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front and Warzone defended the integrity of their scene with hair-trigger urban belligerence. Judge epitomizes the meta quality of NYC hardcore's second wave, when the genre's preferred subject was the genre itself. Specifically its supposed poseur contingent: non-violent spectators who "wore the right clothes" but could never grasp what it meant to be a part of what Ferraro & Co. called "the New York Brotherhood."—Hank Shteamer

New York Crew - What It Meant: The Complete Discography

Buy "New York Crew" on Spotify

91. Tom Waits, "Union Square" (1985)

"Well you spill out of the Cinema 14 / To that drag bar there on the block," Tom Waits howls over what might be clanking trash cans and bourbon bottles on this Rain Dogs cut. "Whizzin' on down in front of the East Coast / Bank rolled up on your sock." The truth is, Waits's vision of Union Square sounds a lot more enticing than the current vista of skater bois, tchotchke sellers and earnest NYU students with clipboards—especially set when the lyrics are backed by Keith Richards's stinging guitar and Ralph Carney's gassy sax.—Steve Smith

Union Square - Rain Dogs

Buy "Union Square" on Spotify


Watch The Moldy Peaches's Adam Green sing "Castles and Tassels" from his solo album Minor Love
Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck reveals his favorite view of the New York skyline
Live review and video: Phosphorescent at the Mercury Lounge

100–91 | 90–81 | 80–71 | 70–61 | 60–51 | 50–41 | 40–31 | 30–21 | 20–11 | 10–1

See the full list of 100 best NYC songs

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