There’s a pretty great amount of songs that deal with cities, cities around the world. (Obviously, there are more dealing with states and still more with countries, but those also include national and state anthems which I’m not going to get into now, ’cause at some point that’s just silly.) Without further ado, here are my 5 favorites:
5. “I Love L.A.,” Randy Newman
While the songs original intentions panned the town it was singing towards (sort of like a negatively-tinged ode), Randy Newman’s classic song has taken on an angle that sort of embraces the Los Angeles’s kind of strangeness (LA, as all cities are, is a city of paradoxes). Furthermore, it’s become a veritably cliched song when used to celebrate L.A.’s many sports teams, which makes it the tiniest bit annoying. On the whole though, I love Randy Newman – his lyrical style, his kinda strange voice – which is why it takes the spot as #5 right here.
4.”New York, New York,” from On the Town
I’ll say it right now: I can’t stand Frank Sinatra’s “Theme to New York, New York.” I’ve heard it way too many times and have just gotten really tired of it. “New York State of Mind,” while I enjoy it, isn’t really a song specifically about New York, at least not New York City. I guess “Empire State of Mind” is the most descriptive of New York, but Jay-Z can be grating and the ‘Broken Down’ version Alicia Keys performs is at times somniferous.
Which is why I’m choosing this song from the classic musical On the Town, which features three sailors (one of which in the films was the aforementioned Sinatra) on shore leave in New York for one day. With “the Bronx up and the Battery down,” it’s not only geographically accurate, it’s a heck of a song.
(Plus, Gene Kelly’s singing part of it. I don’t think I have to explain myself further.)
3. “Via Chicago,” Wilco
While this song’s more going towards Chicago from San Francisco, it seems, and is at heart a murder ballad, I love the melody of the song, along with the bridge: “Just climb aboard the tracks of a train’s arm/in my private family tree/and watch me floating inches above the people underneath.” Those lines – and accompanying harmonica solo – are the ones I always think of when I’m on an elevated train, so in a way that kinda describes Chicago’s L.
2. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
This is simply just a really great song. Even if San Francisco isn’t explicitly said (though Redding sings that he “left his home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco bay”), it gives itself to that city. Plus it’s just a really laid-back, enjoyable song (even though the singer’s got “nothing left to live for”).
The number one song also stays in San Fran, as it’s…
1. “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Tony Bennett
I know people are going to disagree with me on this one, but I love Tony Bennett. Loved him since he was singing “Little Things” on Sesame Street when I was a kid. This song shows such great heart (no pun intended) and technical skill that it’s almost crazy.