The New York media varsity internet outrage squad was in full effect this week declaring the new Taylor Swift song “Welcome to New York” as alternately the gentrification anthem no one asked for and the wispy blonde straw that finally made loving New York “basic.” But for us, arguing that a song by a 20-something white pop lady ruins a city of 8 million diverse people seems about as useful as declaring that Disney’s Frozen has slandered the Norwegian blue collar labor market beyond repair. It’s an empty, pretty thing by a lady who makes empty, pretty songs.
So this is not going to be your New York City anthem, unless maybe you’re a 22-year-old college grad whose visions of moving to the city are all frozen yogurt shops and Chop’t salad lines. But it brings up a good point: we all do have a New York City or Brooklyn anthem of some kind. Whether you grew up here or moved here to do the dream-chasing thing, everyone’s got a song they cue up on the iPod for that tracking shot while your plane is pulling back in over the city skyline after a particularly torturous family or business visit in some Other State, the song’s refrains drilling into your head the question with no good answer: “why did you ever leave in the first place?” So what’s your anthem? [UPDATE: Check out the Spotify playlist playlist here!]
There are, of course, obvious choices here: your Beasties Boy, your Simons Garfunkel, your Jays Z. And even the most cynical among us can recount a winter day, some five years ago, walking through Manhattan after ice skating at Bryant Park, arm in arm with old friends, slightly tipsy and no specific destination in mind other than New York, when we broke out into Sinatra’s “Theme from New York,” all smiles and cheese and tipped fedoras.
As for me: I’ve got to go with the 2010 song “Meet Me in the City” from Brooklyn’s The Babies. Its frenetic pace captures the eager antsy-ness I felt back then, when things finally started to click for me and I went from sideline observer of New York City life to catching the stride and joining the pack. “Hey pretty girl you are awful hard to meet/make me weak right in my knees,” the band sings, directly to the city itself in my mind. [That song replaced the white boy standard “New York, New York” by Ryan Adams for me, a fine song but one that is drenched in the post-9/11 glow of a different era].
What’s yours? This is a judgement-free zone — every anthem is personal, and the songs don’t have to be about New York City, or written in New York City, they just have to capture the spirit for you in some way. So share your best NYC/Brooklyn anthems in the comments; we’ll add them to a Spotify playlist and share it with you, just in time for whatever awful leaving-New York Thanksgiving travel may be in store.
Team Brokelyn and friends share theirs too:
“It’s the transplant’s anthem. It’s all about how you’re more or less insignificant here and the best you can do is just live here and not much else.”
Azealia Banks – “Jumanji”
“It”s tempting to go with Azealia Banks’ ‘212’ as an NYC anthem, but the self-assured swagger of ‘Jumanji’ is a breezier celebration of not giving a single fuck.
Lou Monte- “Lazy Mary”
“Since they always play it at Mets games, and the Mets could use the support. Gotta give a shoutout to the bits of Italian heritage non-Italian NYers like me will always claim.”
Catey Shaw – “Brooklyn Girls”
“I choose the song everyone hates. How’s this for my reasoning? Fact: Brooklyn Girls do rule the world. The end.”
Leonard Bernstein – “Come Up to My Place”
“I like Come up to My Place because it’s sung by a female cab driver who wants to take her sailor passenger home instead of taking him to see sights. (When he asks to see the Hippodrome, she says: ‘I may not have 5,000 seats but the one I have is a honey! Come up to my place.’) It’s spirited and saucy and Brokelyn loves female cab drivers. Also, it’s a love letter to bygone New York places like Cleopatra’s Needle, Wanamaker’s, Lindy’s, Luchow’s and the Hippodrome itself. And it reminds me of Mr. Brokelyn, who got me to love musicals.”
Queen Latifah – “U.N.I.T.Y.”
“It’s important to have a couple empowering songs in my back pocket for the countless missed opportunities to tell harassers off.”
Clare and the Reasons – “Alphabet City“
“This song is beautiful and haunting in that makes-you-want-to-kill-yourself-in-the- best-way-kind-of-way. I listen to it when I’m sad about a boy and wanting to really feel my youth. Even though I have no Alphabet City memories, listening to this song imbues me with a nostalgia for an older New York that I wasn’t around for, in a sweet, longing way, not in an overdone, 8,000 think pieces about the ‘bad old days’ kind of way. ‘I loved you when I was a waitress/and I remember when the clock ticked/3 AM in Alphabet City/A B C D just you and me.’ KILLS ME”
Oriana Leckert (founder of Brooklyn Spaces):
LCD Soundsystem – “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”
“I know the song is kind of a bummer, but it’s definitely the best depiction of my relationship with this crazy city. I spend a lot of my time writing about underground / cultural / DIY spaces—and saying goodbye to them as they close one after the other after the other. But then, on one of the greatest nights of my New York life, I went to a wild dance party in an abandoned subway station and one of the performers did a hauntingly stunning a cappella version of this. So it’s just the best combination of wonderful and tragic for me.”
Add yours below and help us build our Brokelyn NYC anthems Spotify playlist!