In just three years, “Empire State of Mind” has become – if not the unofficial city anthem of the Big Apple – the go-to song for TV, radio, and movies that want to quickly let you know a scene is set in New York.
Of course, the version used in public is the clean one – Jay-Z is known to have a bit of a mouth on him when he starts rapping.
I think it’d surprise people to learn that the version we know isn’t the original. Two female singer/songwriters from Brooklyn wrote the song while away from New York for a while – after a few rejections, they presented the song to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. Jay-Z liked the idea, but almost completely rewrote the rap part of the song, keeping only the chorus.
Stories vary over who suggested Alicia Keys for the hook, with the songwriters saying Jay-Z asked them who to bring in, while Jay-Z says that Keys was his “second” choice. As far as we know, he never contacted his first choice – Mary J. Blige.
There have been at least two songs following on from “Empire State of Mind”. Keys released her own sequel, “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down”, while Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” is reportedly an answer to the song.
Tomorrow, we cross the Hudson for one of New Jersey’s favorite bands.
Other songs that reached #1 on November 28:
1960 – “Are You Lonesome To-Night?” by Elvis Presley with the Jordanaires (his fourteenth, 6 weeks)
1964 – “Leader Of The Pack” by the Shangri-Las (their first, 1 week)
1987 – “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley with Jennifer Warnes (his first, 1 week)
1992 – “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston (her tenth, 14 weeks)
1998 – “Lately” by Divine (their first, 1 week)