Jay-Z’s New York anthem proved ubiquitous in the last half of 2009, the Alicia Keys hook blasting from every tourist joint, taxi cab, and ballpark in the city. It’s a strange mix of thug bravado and American-dream inspirational message. One moment Jay-Z reveals the location of his old drug dealing stash spot, the next he’s big-upping Frank Sinatra. It’s a street-level anthem from a man who’s seen the city from the top and bottom, pairing the chorus’ soaring optimism with the verses’ grit and grime.
Jackson Harris takes it the other way; this cover couldn’t be more white-boy proper. He filmed a video that hops around a series of modeling gigs and having brunch in the subway, all to the tune of a few acoustic guitars. Even with the scarf-sweater combo though, his sentiment seems no less sincere. He even adds the obvious-but-cute touch of throwing in some of Billy Joel’s original “New York State of Mind” in the bridge. Lighters out.