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Pandemic Playlist: From Alicia Keys to LCD Soundsystem, 5 songs about NYC's resilient spirit

Need something to keep you entertained since you can't go out and play? Let our daily Pandemic Playlist give you some company
UPDATED MAY 12, 2020
New York City (Getty Images)
New York City (Getty Images)

We hope you've been holding up okay as the coronavirus lockdown eases us into yet another week of restlessness and cabin fever. Although some sections of the globe are attempting to creep back to normalcy, things are still up in the air as far as we can tell. This could take another few weeks or even months to clear up completely, so it's up to us to sit tight and keep ourselves occupied until the Covid-19 threat blows over. One of the biggest events on May 11 was the recently-concluded Rise Up New York! benefit, which featured a host of A-list stars joining together to raise aid for New York.

The state of New York has been one of the worst regions impacted by the coronavirus, with over 20,000 deaths and 335,000 confirmed cases. Numerous music stars such as Alicia Keys, Barbra Streisand, Ben Platt, Bette Midler, Bon Jovi, Jennifer Lopez, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mariah Carey, Sting, and Billy Joel all made appearances at Monday night's fundraiser, which ended up raising over $115 million for NYC workers battling the coronavirus on the frontlines. So in honor of the modern metropolis that is New York City and its indelible impact on popular culture, here are our Top 5 songs about The Big Apple. 

Pandemic Playlist - New York Edition

'Empire State Of Mind' - Jay-Z & Alicia Keys


This 2009 track is undoubtedly at the top of any playlist that talks about New York. This loving ode to the great sprawling city, its world-famous locations, and numerous celebrity inhabitants became a smash hit after the rapper Jay-Z roped in the popular R&B singer Alicia Keys to sing the iconic chorus. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks, making it an anthem that captures the essence of New City in its prime. "Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There's nothin' you can't do / Now you're in New York/ These streets will make you feel brand new / Big lights will inspire you / Let's hear it for New York."

'Englishman In New York' - Sting


This sublime worldwide hit was composed by Sting, the illustrious frontman of The Police, way back in 1987. Although many people assumed that the titular Englishman in question was Sting himself, it was actually written about the eccentric entertainer Quentin Crisp, who also appears in the music video directed by David Fincher. The gay icon had recently moved from London to Manhattan and had personally confided to Sting that he looked forward to receiving his naturalization papers so that he could "commit a crime and not be deported." Sting, however, managed to turn that throwaway remark into an enduring song.  

'No Sleep Till Brooklyn' - Beastie Boys


The Beastie Boys might have been fun-loving rappers, but they were dead serious about their love for their home, New York City. This 1986 hit about The City That Never Sleeps became one of their signature tunes off their multi-platinum-selling album 'Licensed to Ill', and the trio often used this fan-favorite track to close out their sold-out shows. That was probably an intentional choice, as the single talks about how exhausting the touring life could get for the hard-working Beastie Boys, but they also insisted that they would never relax until they were back on their home turf of Brooklyn, New York. That's how you keep hustling, homie.  

'New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down' - LCD Soundsystem 


The gorgeous genre-blending sounds of the alternative band LCD Soundsystem were all the rage in the noughties. Usually known for their uptempo dance-worthy numbers, this 2007 love letter to New York City was penned by their genius bandleader James Murphy and it immediately struck a chord with New York natives upon its release. This ballad filled with biting social commentary and unconditional love interpolates 'Twist And Shout' by the Beatles and also directly references it in the lyrics "New York, I love you, but you're freaking me out / There's a ton of the twist, but we're fresh out of shout." However, Murphy made it clear that he dearly loves New York City, warts and all, with the lines "But you're still the one pool where I'd happily drown."   

'NYC' - Interpol


Interpol were one of the most popular bands of the post-punk revival scene, along with fellow New York natives like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and TV On The Radio. This anthemic guitar-strummed paean to New York City was released as part of their debut album, 'Turn On The Bright Lights', which was rapturously acclaimed by fans and critics alike in 2002. The appeal of this poignant and enduring song is even more compelling when you realize that the popular dance artiste Moby listed it as his eighth favorite track of the entire decade. The lyrics are pretty dark and arresting as well - "The subway is a porno / Pavements, they are a mess / I know you've supported me for a long time / Somehow, I'm not impressed / But New York cares (Got to be some more change in my life)."

Pandemic Playlist is a daily list of songs that will keep you entertained instead of feeling drained while you're isolated at home. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day!