info 05.18.05

Tune Out

We're not sure they're still there, but for a long time on the walls at Penn Station were small, framed photographs. You'd miss them if you were rushing to your track, but if you were stymied, once again, by Amtrak, and finished the puzzle, and felt a little restless, you might have noticed them, with puzzled surprise. That's because they were the one thing in the world that should not have been on those walls: namely, photos of the old Penn Station.

We can all agree that there are more serious matters afoot than the choice of the city's theme song. But the new one, commissioned by City and Co., the city's tourism bureau, and concocted by Frank Wildhorn and Jack Murphy, is so derivative, so cheeseball, such an egregious pablum-spew, that it deserves the loudest, rudest Bronx cheer we can muster. That it, like the walls of grubby Penn Station evoking better days, dares to quote a bar of music from Kander and Ebb's "New York, New York," is gall of truly Star-Jones-ego proportions.

Mr. Wildhorn, perpetrator of such Broadway fare as "Dracula" and "Jekyll and Hyde," has churned up "New York: For the Time of Your Life," a tune that wants to swing but can't summon up anything more than a desultory wibble-wabble. And despite Mr. Wildhorn's penchant for repetitious bombast, this melody is wan and utterly unmemorable.

As usual, Mr. Wildhorn has teamed up with a lyricist (Jack Murphy) commensurate with his own skill set. Mr. Murphy's lyrics are insufferably amateurish: nonsensical ("It's a bagel and schmear, it's a whole other gear"), they scan badly ("Fifth Avenue") and induce cringe after cringe:

It's the lights in Times Square,
It's the moments you share
Summer breaks. Paint the town
Paint it up, paint it down.

To dumb it up, dumb it down further, it's sung by a Sinatra simulacrum. What you get is New York as seen by Las Vegas. The now-ankled I Love New York theme (which is still the official state song) was written by jingle man Steve Karmen for a campaign designed by Wells, Rich and Greene in 1977. Even after more than two decades, we never tired of those four notes or the inventive narrative variations that made each round of commercials seem fresh.

What was NYC and Co. thinking when they commissioned this pair to write the city's theme song? With all the genuine talent in our five boroughs, this embarrassment is the best we can do? Get rid of it before it drives visitors into the arms of Toronto.

You can hear the thing via The Observer, which had it first. [Listen]
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