From Beyonce to Macklemore, these artists were all inspired by famous cities.
Whether it’s the foggy, mysterious streets of a far-flung town after dark, or the colorful underground music club of a party city, music is the universal language that can take you on a tour of a famous place with just a few well-chosen words or melancholy notes. If you’re hitting the road (or want to relive an emotional moment from somewhere you’ve been), here are the tunes you to blast through your headphones so you can be transported to anywhere your heart is longing to go.
Thrift Shop by Macklemore
Inspired by: The thrift shops of Seattle, Washington
If there’s one tune you want blasting through your headphones as you trawl the busy shopping strips of Seattle, it’s this one. The famous Macklemore smash hit is a catchy earworm about ‘popping tags’ in second hand stores all through Seattle. Take your own tour of the locations where the video was filmed, including the Unicorn/Narwhal Arcade Bar and the Northwest African American Museum.
Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn
Inspired by: The historic sites in Memphis, Tennessee
This famous track name-checks many of Memphis’ most well-known places, such as when Marc Cohn sings that he “saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue, followed him up to the gates of Graceland.” It’s the perfect soundtrack for a trip through Tennessee, especially good to listen to as the plane touches down on the tarmac just as your hear the opening phrase “Put on my blue suede shoes, and I boarded the plane, touched down in the land of the Delta Blues.”
Bow Down/ I Been On by Beyonce
Inspired by: The street-smart style of Houston, Texas
Queen B is a born-and-bred Texan, so it’s no surprise that much of her music pays tribute to her home town. This 2013 song was inspired by Bey’s super-strong sense of “southside, Texas pride,” and the hard-hitting lyrics gave us the immortal phrase ‘bow down’. The track takes you on a trip through the famous streets of Houston as seen through Bey’s own eyes, from when she ‘had braids on her dome’, and will make you want to ‘hit the boulevard so hard’ just like B.
Homecoming by Kanye West
Inspired by: Downtown Chicago
If you’ve ever yearned to return somewhere, you’ll understand the inspo behind Kanye’s song Homecoming. In the recording you hear the Chicago native sing, “Do you think about me now and then?/ ‘Cause I’m comin’ home again” with all the emotion of anyone who’s moved on but can’t let go. It’s obvious Chicgo has a hold on Kanye (after all, he named his baby girl Chicago West) and his clear love for the city makes you want to see it for yourself, especially the ‘nighttime downtown’ scenes he describes with such passion.
I Wish I Was in New Orleans by Tom Waits
Inspired by: The music scene of New Orleans
With the grace of a poet, Tom Waits may be one of the world’s greatest lyricists, so it makes sense that he turned his skills to one of the world’s most fascinating cities. His beautiful ode to the ‘Dixie moon’ of New Orleans paints a poignant picture of a city with a rich and dark history that will compel any visitor to explore. “Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen to that tenor saxophone calling me home,” he sings “And I can hear the band begin When the Saints Go Marching In.” He highlights the wandering spirit of New Orleans so well that you’ll expect to meet many lost souls like Tom’s at tables in the historic pubs and cemeteries throughout the town.
Move to Miami, Enrique Iglesias
Inspired by: Crazy clubs in Miami
If anything is going to make you want to move to Miami, it’s hearing Enrique crooning that “if you look you’ll fall in love” with the beautiful people on the dance floor in Miami. Miami Beach is brimming with nightclubs to visit and this tribute to the party culture was clearly inspired by more than one cocktail at the club! But be careful, because as Enrique warns, “When you see her dance there’s a chance/ you might not come home from vacation”…!
9 A.M. in Dallas by Drake
Inspired by: The bar scene in Dallas
Despite being Canadian-born, Drake has fallen hard for Dallas, Texas! His song 9.A.M in Dallas, widely considered one of his standout tracks, was composed exactly as it says in the title- at 9am in Dallas (the cover art for the song even has the Dallas co-ordinates in the artwork). The song covers off the struggles of the rap and music scenes, but to really appreciate the inspiration behind it a tour of Dallas and its many bars (where Drake wrote many of his other songs) is a must. Sitting at booth after booth and talking to locals, you’ll see why Drake is so drawn to Dallas and its culture.
The Nashville Scene by Hank Williams Jr.
Inspired by: The musicians of Nashville
There’s no city more steeped in music history and heartbreak than Nashville, Tennessee, and this song by Hank Williams Jr. sums it up in one evocative song. Inspired by
“The streets are paved with tourist and the record companies flourish,” he writes, adding,
“Lord knows every singer wants to be the king.” This hopeful, haunting track should be a staple listen for anyone travelling to Nashville or dreaming big dreams of their own about seeing their name up in lights. The lingering lyrics will return to you as you tour the stages and theatres of Nashville, thinking of Hank’s lament that “Some of them couldn’t take it and some good one’s didn’t make it/ that’s the way it goes on The Nashville Scene.”
Rosalita by Bruce Springsteen
Inspired by: The café culture of San Diego
It’s pretty clear exactly what area inspired Bruce on the track Rosalita- “A pretty little place in Southern California, down San Diego way,” he sings. That’s how we hear about the vibrant San Diego scene in the hometown of Rosalita, the senorita at the centre of this story. In the song, Bruce’s memorable lyrics draws a clear picture of the “little cafe, where they play guitars all night and all day,” where he hangs out, inspiring us to want to do the same and perhaps find our own Rosalita (or Bruce!).
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