The List: 8 songs about downtown

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by Daniel Wirtheim

1. Petula Clark — “Downtown”

With an orchestra playing one of the most infectious melodies ever written, Petula Clark’s telling of the endless possibilities within a flourishing downtown make this the quintessential downtown song. English writer and producer Tony Hatch wrote the melody to the international hit when he mistook Times Square for downtown NYC. But whatever, because he really nailed what a good downtown is all about.

2. The Pretenders — “Downtown (Akron)”

The Pretenders channel the raw, primitive stimulation that is downtown on a Saturday night. With a driving punk-rock rhythm and the aggressive whispering vocals of frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, the Pretenders command listeners to “get to the heart, baby, the heart of the city.”

3. Tom Waits — “Downtown Train”

Sometimes downtown is the place of longing, like in Tom Wait’s night-time ride on a downtown train, a yearning journey in which he hopes to run into the woman who’s captured his heart. Probably the most accessible and affectionate track from Wait’s Rain Dogs, a cover version of “Downtown Train” became an immensely popular hit for Rod Stewart.

4. Raveonettes — “Downtown”

Danish noise-pop band the Raveonettes prove that the key to a great downtown is collaboration, especially when it comes to vocal harmonies.

5. Hall & Oates — “Downtown Life”

In the daytime, downtown is only a mess of wound-up sexual energy ready to burst into the night with Hall & Oates’ “Downtown Life.” It’s a bass-driven love note to the part of the city that keeps these soulful guys hanging on.

6. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — “Downtown”

The Seattle-based hip-hop duo explores the downtown-theme by moped in their song “Downtown,” which dropped in August. With plenty of horns and musical changes, it’s an exhilarating ride through the part of the city concerned with speed, style and romance.

7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse — “Come on Baby, Let’s Go Downtown”

Neil Young shares a songwriting credit with Danny Whitten on this one. It’s a sort of joyful tune accompanying lyrics about scoring heroin when the night comes around. It goes to show that sometimes a good downtown song comes from the seedy underbelly.

8. KEM (featuring Snoop Dogg) — “Downtown”

Borrowing the hook from Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” KEM visit downtown as the master of classic R&B with the perfect windows-down cruising sound. Snoop Dogg is also on board for this sensual drift through the heart of the city.   

  • David Lybrand

    I know you didn’t want to feature Neil Young twice, but he has his own song “Downtown”, performed with Pearl Jam. Nostalgia all the way….