Quick, name a song about New York City.
This one probably comes to mind first.
And why not this one first? It’s a classic. It’s probably the song most people think about when they think about New York City. Otherwise, it might be this one.
This is a good one too! Perhaps a modern classic (isn’t that an oxymoron?).
I find that songs about New York City tend to have a lot of bravado. I guess they deserve it. It’s the biggest city in the country. It’s got loads of history. It’s probably the first city most foreigners think of when they think of America. So many amazing things and people come from New York.
What about songs about Los Angeles? I feel like most people outside of L.A. wouldn’t be able to name a song about L.A. off the top of their heads. Oh, sure, there are plenty of songs about California, or Southern California, specifically. Name any Beach Boys song (“California Girls”) or maybe “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and the Papas. But what about L.A. proper?
Ask most Angelenos and you’ll likely get Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” which is funny considering the satirical message of the song. It’s very much about the extreme dichotomy of L.A. – it’s about the very rich and the very poor.
People like to put L.A. down a lot. The city’s kind of a punching bag. Everyone LOVES to say things like “Oh sure, you’ve got all that sunshine…but you’ve also earthquakes and traffic and brush fires and mudslides!” (insert canned laughter here)
Yeah, and the Pope is Catholic. So what? Tell me something I don’t know.
At least with songs like “I Love L.A.” we’re acknowledging the flaws along with the blessings. I think Angelenos have a good sense of humor about it all. The freeway system is a way of life here, and we laugh at anyone who complains about “traffic” anywhere else. We hardly blink an eye at anything below a 5.0 on the Richter scale (but we’ll probably still talk about it just to show how tough we are for living alongside the San Andreas Fault).
Anyway, what city is perfect? New York City gets flak for being dirty and crime-ridden, and New Yorkers for being pushy and rude. I’ve never been there, so I’m not about to throw out any accusations. I still dream of visiting one day when I hear songs like “Theme from New York, New York” and “Empire State of Mind.” They’ve painted this grandiose, exotic picture in my mind of what it must be like, which is the point of most songs about New York, I guess.
People like to scoff at L.A. or say that it’s fake. When they live here or visit, they like to complain about it (some Angelenos are guilty of this themselves). I just think they can’t handle it. Sure, Jay-Z sang about NYC as being the place where “half of y’all won’t make it” but what about L.A.? People can’t handle it, so they complain about the things Angelenos are used to. What’s their REAL beef with L.A.? I think Guns N’ Roses has the answer to that.
People call New York City a concrete jungle, but I think L.A. is just as likely to eat you alive. Again, we have a song about L.A. being honest about L.A. I think it’s a fantastic song to throw back at the complainers. Yeah, that’s right, you couldn’t handle it, so get out, run home, you crybaby.
Maybe these two songs about L.A. won’t go down in history the same way “Theme from New York, New York” already has. But that’s okay, because they’re a part of L.A. history. Just go to a Dodger game or Laker game and you’ll hear it over the speakers: “I loooove L.A.!” Say whatever you want about our city, it won’t stop the sun from shining and it won’t stop us from enjoying it.