“New York Is A Woman” by Suzanne Vega
There are actually two main subjects of this “New York Is A Woman”. One is New York City itself which, as the title suggests, is personified in female form. And the other is a dude who is on his first business trip into the big city.
Concerning the latter, he was totally “startled” by what he saw, not only in terms of NYC’s “beauty” but also its “crime”. The Big Apple is like the women he has seen on “every movie” and “late-night TV” show he’s ever watched, all rolled into one. And despite not being a utopia, the city still fully embraces him.
But the vocalist is warning dude not to get caught up in the allure. For New York is also such that she will break you. In other words on one hand she may appreciate you alright, but ultimately “you’re just another guy”, i.e. one of the faceless masses, as far as she’s concerned. So it appears that what Vega is saying in that regard, especially for men it would seem, is that you shouldn’t expect any type of preferential treatment from the city. She may dazzle you in a way that nowhere else can, but at the same time she’ll also “make you cry”.
Vega talks about “New York Is A Woman”
Now according to the songstress’s own explanation of this piece, the intention is to present New York “as a woman who has a hard time but is still beautiful”. And such a notion is present, as alluded to earlier, via the male character noting both the good and the bad the locality has to offer. But said sentiment doesn’t really come through in the lyrics.
Rather as far as the thesis sentiment goes, it would appear Vega is more to the point putting forth an idea like New York City being impressive for sure. But simultaneously, surviving there isn’t easy. And as a side note having grown up in Manhattan herself, this is a reality she would be knowledgeable of firsthand. So it’s almost as if Suzanne is saying NYC may be a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to settle there.
Suzanne Vega was born in California but grew up in New York City and is known as an artist who regularly references the Big Apple in song. She has been professionally active since the early 1980s and has actually proven for the most part to be more popular in the UK than in the US. More specifically she’s had two albums, 1987’s “Solitude Standing” and 1990’s “Days of Open Hand”, that have made it onto the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart.
By contrast, none of the nine studio albums she has dropped between 1985 and 2016 have managed to do the same on the Billboard 200. However her most successful album in that regard has also been “Solitude Standing”, which peaked at number 11 stateside. And as far as singles go that same album produced her quintessential song, which is 1987’s Luka.
To note Vega’s seventh studio album, “Beauty & Crime”, won a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Engineered Album, Non Classical. Meanwhile Suzanne herself has taken home quite a few accolades throughout her career, such as a 1987 NME Award for Best Female Singer and a 2003 Glamour Award for Woman of the Year.
“New York Is A Woman”
Also to note, considering the name of this track and all, Suzanne Vega has also won a couple of New York Music Awards. The first time around was in 1993 for her fourth album, 99.9F° (1992). And in 2010 she earned Best Pop/Rock Compilation for her first acoustic album, which is entitled “Close-Up Vol. 1, Love Songs”.
Meanwhile “New York Is a Woman” came out on 17 July 2007 as part of the aforementioned Beauty & Crime project. And the label that put it out is Blue Note Records.
Suzanne Vega is the author of this song. And the producer of the entire Beauty & Crime album is the well-tenured Jimmy Hogarth.