Top 10 Songs About Cities and Towns

Script written by Genevieve Methot. These songs’ll make you want to travel or yearn for home. For this list, we’ve chosen songs based on a mix of their popularity or iconic status, as well as their quality. We’ve focused on those in which the name of the city or town is in the title, and so that’s why you won’t be seeing Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” We’re also making sure that the tunes are actually related to the city or town in question, and are not being used as a metaphor for something else – like Duran Duran’s “Rio.” Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down the top 10 songs about cities and towns.
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Script written by Genevieve Methot.

These songs’ll make you want to travel or yearn for home. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down the top 10 songs about cities and towns.

For this list, we’ve chosen songs based on a mix of their popularity or iconic status, as well as their quality. We’ve focused on those in which the name of the city or town is in the title, and so that’s why you won’t be seeing Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” We’re also making sure that the tunes are actually related to the city or town in question, and are not being used as a metaphor for something else – like Duran Duran’s “Rio.”

#10: “Walking in Memphis” (1991)
Marc Cohn

If you’ve ever gone through a midlife crisis that required a bit of soul searching, you’ve probably listened to this song more than a few times. Based on the singer’s own experience of travelling through Blues City, “Walking in Memphis” tells of March Cohn’s claims to have felt a spiritual awakening within the four walls of an off-road diner. With its emotional piano-based sound, the top 20 soft rocker set Cohn on the path to win the Grammy for Best New Artist the next year.

#9: “One Night In Bangkok” (1984)
Murray Head

Written by Tim Rice and ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus for their musical “Chess,” “One Night in Bangkok” was a pop and new-wave smash for Murray Head. On the outside, its lyrics seem to be about a couple of chess players meeting in the city to compete against the backdrop of the sensual town. Yet, if you listen a little more closely, the lyrics also appear to warn you about the Thai capital’s allegedly seedy rep. The song may not be the ideal guidebook for your next trip, but it sure is good.

#8: “L.A. Woman” (1971)
The Doors

Who better to produce a song about Los Angeles than her loyal champions? This song guides us through the streets of L.A. and opens our minds to what sins she has to offer. It’s also the first time we hear of ‘Mr. Mojo Risin’,’ which is simply an anagram of Jim Morrison’s name. As the title track to the album of the same name, the blues and psychedelic rock track features vocals recorded by The Doors frontman in their studio bathroom. But it’s the song’s imagery and driving rhythm that’s really got us hooked.

#7: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” (1967)
Scott McKenzie

If someone asked you for a musical description of the Summer of Love, chances are good you’ll play them this psychedelic pop number. Though we could’ve mentioned Tony Bennett’s take on “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” to us it’s this 3-minute tune that perfectly encapsulates San Fran at the height of the hippie era. Written for the Monterey Pop Festival by The Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips and featuring Scott McKenzie’s tender vocals and a dreamy atmosphere, it’s no wonder the song was a chart-topper in the UK and a top 5 hit in the U.S.

#6: “To Live & Die in L.A.” (1996)
2Pac feat. Val Young

Another diehard champion of the west coast, Tupac brings out his pride in the song he describes as “California Love part motherfuckin’ two,” featuring Dr. Dre. Released on the last album he recorded before his murder, “To Live & Die in L.A.” famously includes a homophobic slur against Dre, though the radio version of the song edited this out. This single is smooth and oh-so-Makaveli.

#5: “Streets of Philadelphia” (1994)
Bruce Springsteen

While The Boss’ “Atlantic City” deserves a mention, it’s this slow classic written for the 1993 movie “Philadelphia” that lands here. As the only track on our list to win an Oscar for Best Original Song, the multiple Grammy winner is a moody masterpiece that captures what it feels like to be walking the streets of Philadelphia with a lot on your mind. A top 10 hit in the U.S., “Streets of Philadelphia” also topped many charts around the world.

#4: “Detroit Rock City” (1976)
KISS

You not might realize it but embedded in this hard rock and heavy metal tune’s catchy notes and fast-paced guitar riffs are pretty somber lyrics based on actual events in which a real KISS fan died in a car crash on the way to the band’s concert. The band was so moved by the horrific situation that lyricists Bob Ezrin and Paul Stanley adapted it into this fan favorite. Despite its subject matter, “Detroit Rock City” certainly rocks hard and fast, and makes us want to “move our feet and leave our seats.”

#3: “London Calling” (1979)
The Clash

There have been many songs about London over the years, but none of them quite stacks up to this punk rock classic about the city in its many possible states of disaster. From those first two instantly recognizable notes to the final fade out, “London Calling”’s lyrics embody the social fears of the time and, true to any punk song, the angst of discontented youth with the undertones of satire. A top 20 track in the UK, it’s also considered one of The Clash’s greatest compositions.

#2: “Viva Las Vegas” (1964)
Elvis Presley

Describing Sin City as the place to drown your troubles in all the bright lights, pretty girls and slot machines, “Viva Las Vegas” continues to be associated with The King despite the fact he never performed it in concert. Recorded for the Elvis Presley film of the same name, the rock and roll tune became one of his most well-known songs and has appeared in multimedia formats. And with its flashy imagery, upbeat pace and glamorous depiction of Las Vegas, is that really such a big surprise?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Miami” (1998)
Will Smith
- “New York State of Mind” (1976)
Billy Joel
- “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” (2005)
Dropkick Murphys
- “Drinking in L.A.” (1997)
Bran Van 3000
- “Englishman in New York” (1988)
Sting
- “Rome” (2009)
Phoenix

#1: “Theme from New York, New York” (1980)
Frank Sinatra

Though there are many contenders out there, no song quite captures the heart and soul of a city like this one. Although the traditional pop song was first recorded by Liza Minelli for the Martin Scorsese musical “New York, New York,” the song became even more recognizable when it was revamped into the jazzy version by Ol’ Blue Eyes two years later. The crooner’s effortlessly smooth voice, mixed with those memorable lyrics, makes it impossible to resist joining in and singing along. After all, “if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere…”

Do you agree with our list? Which song about a city or town is your favorite? For more entertaining top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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