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Jay-Z: The next Frank Sinatra?


Here's hoping you're not yet tired of "Empire State of Mind." The Times' Geraldine Baum writes in this Sunday's Calendar that the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys hit appears to be ready to stand the test of time.

The question Baum raises: "Can any hip-hop song prove as universal and enduring as Duke Ellington's 'Take the A Train' (written by Billy Strayhorn) or Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 'Manhattan'? Or, for that matter, that other easy-to-whistle 'New York, New York,' by Leonard Bernstein and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, which explains, 'the Bronx is up and the Battery down, the people ride in a hole in the ground'?"

You'll have to read the story to explore the varying answers to the question, but Pop & Hiss is here to give you the music. Take a listen to some of the songs explored in Baum's piece -- or just revisit your favorite East Coast anthem -- below. 

First, of course, is the song Jay-Z and Keys brought to the World Series in October. Baum writes that in New York, the song "has become something of a cultural phenomenon. The lyrics are mapped in the blogosphere and have been translated into a suburban boast by Stephen Colbert disguised in a hoodie. The local Madison Square Garden Networks re-aired Jay-Z debuting the song at the venue on Sept. 11 at a concert in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack back-to-back with a performance there by Sinatra in 1974; the concerts were promoted together as 'Two Generations of Cool' or 'Bada Bling!' "

Next up is, perhaps, the song most associated with New York. Baum writes, "For the last three decades, Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York,' from the songwriting team of Kander and Ebb, has ruled as the city's sentimental favorite -- in ballparks, at weddings and to signal determination." Baum spoke to composer John Kander, who is described as being "intrigued" by Jay-Z's anthem. "I thought it was kind of interesting because it juxtaposed totally different styles of music," Kander says in the piece.

New York has proved to be an alluring topic for many a songwriter. Baum writes, "There are generations of songs that capture New York's magic and allure, its extremes of wealth and poverty, of uptown and downtown, of private misery and public joy. Most date themselves by casting the city in a moment; others hang onto enduring ideals. Bob Dylan, in 'Talking New York,' reveals it through the eyes of an outsider; Billy Joel's 'New York State of Mind' is about a native coming home."

Here's Dylan:

And here's Billy Joel:

The Ellington classic:

There's plenty more mentioned in Baum's piece, and plenty, of course, that isn't. Take this recent, albeit far lesser-known -- at least when compared to Jay-Z -- entry from dance-rock genre hoppers LCD Soundsystem, "New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down." There's plenty of videos lying around YouTube, but we're most fond of this one, for obvious reasons:

And one doesn't even need to live in New York to write a classic ode to the city, as London's Irish punks the Pogues proved:

What's your favorite New York song? Tell us below. And it doesn't necessarily have to present a romantic version of the city, as evidenced below.

-- Todd Martens


Is 'Empire State of Mind' the new 'New York, New York'?

Photo: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. Credit: Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (6)

Ryan Adams - New York, New York

simply putting on a tux does not put one in the same category as Sinatra. Jay Z is certainly talented, but people will not be using JAy Z music to seduce women 40 years after his death.. people will be listening to sinatra in 500 years because the music is about relationships, which all humanity can relate to

Jay Z is a very talented musical artist, but to call him the next Sinatra is ubsurd.

When Jay Z records over 1500 Amerocan Pop Standards, and creates over 60 albums of which about 20 are the greatest conceptual albums ever recorded, then we can have this discussion.

All this talk about Jay Z as the new Sinatra should beembarrassing to Mr. Jay Z. It positions him as a 'wanna-be". He simply is not even in the same ball park with an artist who close to 95 years after his birth is still in many ways "the soundtrack to our lives".

Frank Sinatra's talent and artistry is simply irreplaceable. He will be a part of our music legacy as long as there is a love of good music and the forces of human emotion.

If you dont believe me, just go outside today and listen. You will somewhere hear the haunting voice of this great storyteller. After all of these years, he and he alone is still singing the definitive songbook of life. What makes Mr Sinatra a great musician is that through is talent and sheer charisma he allows you to inhabit the lyric of a song like no else.

I won't lie -- the headline pulled me in to this post. Though, I'd have to agree with a post underneath that Jay-Z should not be compared to Frank Sinatra. I won't argue any further because I know your headline did the job.

Though, this isn't what your post is about. These songs about NY are great.

Thanks to LA radio, I've heard this song about 25 times since Friday. If radio and TV could lay off a bit, I think this song will definitely become a classic. Also, LA needs its own new anthem. Though a lot of fun, "We Run LA" doesn't count.

How can you possibly leave the Beastie Boys' "Open Letter to NYC" out of this discussion?

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqDueq0LH6Y

Sample lyrics:
Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten
From the Battery to the top of Manhattan
Asian, Middle-Eastern and Latin
Black, White, New York you make it happen


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