When we first heard “This City”, the new single from Patrick Stump‘s forthcoming solo album Soul Punk, we realized it was entering an exclusive club. The song, which premiered on the A.V. Club and features Lupe Fiasco, is an ode to the city of Chicago, an underheralded American metropolis if there ever was one (musically, anyway). Certainly, the Second City has its regional anthems, like the Chicago-house dyad of “Can You Feel It” and “The Percolator” (not to mention Frankie Knuckles tracks like “Your Love,” which was sampled for Animal Collective‘s “My Girls”) and the gotta-dance juke-gone-pop freakout of Dude ‘N Nem‘s “Watch My Feet.” But while New York City, for example, has been a musical muse to practically everyone from Tin Pan Alley to the present (including the band Chicago), the city of Chicago is, for its size, lacking in crowd-unifying refrains.
Which is not to say that there are none. Chicagoans need not resort to the Chi-town rework of LMFAO‘s “I’m In Miami, Trick”; there is a small but significant pantheon of Chicago songs, which Stump’s new single joins:
5. Sufjan Stevens, “Chicago”
The centerpiece of Sufjan Stevens‘s 2005 concept album about Illinois, aptly titled Illinois, “Chicago” quickly became a fan favorite that closed out the artist’s live sets, despite never being a “single” as such. Stevens would release three alternate versions of the song on the b-sides collection The Avalanche. The song resonated outside the city as well: Snow Patrol mentioned the song in the lyrics of their own “Hands Open,” Little Miss Sunshine featured the song on its soundtrack, and Chiddy Bang sampled it for “All Things Go.”
4. The Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew, “The Super Bowl Shuffle”
Chicago sports fans have had a number of official and unofficial anthems?take the memorable mid-1990s CGI Bulls intro, or the use of the Fratellis‘ “Chelsea Dagger” as the Blackhawks’ goal song. Nothing tops this memorable clip, though?the Super Bowl contenders lip-syncing and air-guitaring their way through a late-1985 rap in full uniform. The single was a big success, all proceeds went to charity, and the Bears beat the Patriots at Super Bowl XX in January 1986. Everybody was a winner (except the Patriots, but they eventually got theirs, and then some).
3. Liz Phair, “Stratford-on-Guy”
Chicago is deeply embedded in Liz Phair‘s storytelling on 1993’s Exile in Guyville?which may be part of why many mistakenly presumed that the songs were autobiographical?but none of them address the city as directly as the description of the city as seen from above in “Stratford-on-Guy.” Bonus throwback clip: VH1 hooks Liz Phair up to a polygraph in the 1994 or 1995 clip “Truth or Phair.”
2. Kanye West, “Homecoming”
Speaking of misunderstood Chicago artists: Kanye has repped his city practically from day one, but into 2008 he poured all his love into a few verses and got Coldplay‘s Chris Martin to sing the hook, and thus “Homecoming” was born. “Homecoming” was actually the fifth single off Graduation, and some of the other tracks may have pushed harder out of the gate, but this one endures, especially for Chi-town Kanye fans.
1. Frank Sinatra, “Chicago”
The most memorable Chicago song, though, comes courtesy a New York City songwriter?Fred Fisher, who wrote the song in 1922?and Hoboken crooner Frank Sinatra, who re-popularized it in 1957. Despite its provenance, Ol’ Blue Eyes’s standard remains resonant for Chicago natives. Take, for example, WWE wrestler CM Punk, who sang it on the most recent Monday Night Raw:
We’re still not sure what a toddlin’ town is, but if the baseball evangelist couldn’t shut it down, we can understand why Patrick Stump (and so many others) love it.