Set the mood for your next date with Ohlala‘s top 20 New York songs.

Topping off reasons to love our city, are the legacy and cutting edge scenes of music. You could spend everyday of your life devoted to a date of historical sites, niche new venue openings or exploring the actual settings of the songs and never be left disappointed. We’ve included our all time favorite New York songs that exemplify the city’s character – a multi-tonal mix of depth, reflection, beauty and open-endedness. They are songs to enjoy on your next Ohlala date and either come from homegrown artists, describe the city, or are from bands once based here.

1. Jay Z & Alicia Keys: Empire State of Mind

Alicia Keys - New York Songs

2. Nas: New York State Of Mind

In terms of hip hop, New York State of Mind is considered “the gold standard” by many. This song is a philosophical reflection of Nas’ struggle to live in New York City with the rise in gang activity, guns and crime.

3. The Strokes: New York City Cops

4. The Beastie Boys: No Sleep ’til Brooklyn 

The repeating guitar riff heard throughout the song represents a shift in music that merged rock ‘n roll and hip hop. The Beastie Boys pulled it off with this battle cry song that all New Yorkers know and love.

5. Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson: Madison Avenue 

6. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo: Streets Of New York

In Streets of NewYork, G Rap’s elaborately rhymes about New York’s social issues from police corruption and gangs to poverty and drug abuse.

7. George Benson: On Broadway

8. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five: New York, New York 

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were an established New York City crew that had a gift for writing incredible hooks. New York, New York distinguishes insiders from outsiders, implying that a New York insiders’ point of view is closer to the truth than someone living outside of the city.

9. Sonny Rollins: The Bridge

10. Catey Shaw: Brooklyn Girls 

A tune that captures the light and almost apathetic trend of indie music currently being produced in NYC.

11. Bruce Springsteen: New York City Serenade 

12. Billie Holiday: Autumn in New York 

The crisp and chilly atmosphere of NYC during fall translated into a song through the smoldering and timelss vocals of Billie Holiday.

13. Duke Ellington Orchestra: Take the ‘A’ Train 

14. Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat 

A typical mournful Leonard Cohen song about a lost love told through the poetic descriptions of New York in the wintertime.

15. Rufus Wainwright: 14th Street 

16. Cam’ron: Welcome To New York City

A tribute track that seeks to lift up the spirit of the city post 9/11, reminding New Yorker’s to “raise up”.

17. Simon and Garfunkel: April Come She Will

18. Le Tigre: My My Metrocard

The ultimate retro throwback to 1960’s synth and 1980’s hard fem vocals underscored with local political critique.

19. Sunflower Bean: Wall Watcher

With gritty instrumental elements and and ethereal vocals, Wall Watcher is a song which depicts the NYC angst over failed and complicated relationships.

20. Joni Mitchell: Chelsea Morning

A folky and optimistic vocal rendering of waking up in one of NYC’s most enchanting neighborhoods, Chelsea.



NYC Songs Playlist