History: This song would go on to be a huge commercial success, and not just in the United States, but all over the world. It has sold 5 million singles to date. On top of that the performers achieved what they sought out. They wanted the song to capture landmarks and things central to New York City. Keys even styled her voice to capture the grandness of what she felt regarding the city. The song was critically a success as well.
Vocals: Jay-Z has a nice rapping voice, but his part is really not the highlight of the song for me. I more prefer Alicia Keys' vocals. If nothing else you could erase the other parts, and just leave the chorus in and that would make the song for me. Her voicing just feels like she really wanted to capture the vibe of the city she is singing about. It doesn't need instrumentals or a pattern for her voicing to shine on the track. It does it all on it's own.
Instrumentals: I think the classification of soul and hip hop classifies this song very well. The instrumentals just have a lot more passion and rhythm them to them that some hip hop lacks. You can hear the texture in the sound. The piano sounds lively, the beats are created well, and regardless of how much it is engineered it's overall very well done. Plus, when Keys' is not singing they align the beats of their sounds to match the pacing of the rapping, so it backs the emotions of what he is saying well.
Lyrics: Depending on your lyrical preference you will the lyrics or you won't. They rely on some good rhymes and hooks, but I still think some of the lyrical wording could just use better words. There are just some things that have no place to be said. Plus, some of it takes a few seconds to read and make sense of. It isn't something that just flows with your ears and eyes and instantly makes sense, or at least not to me.
Most people have heard of this song. If you haven't you might be living in a box. If you're someone from that city, or someone who just loves the idea of it then this is for you. I find Keys' vocals appealing, but outside of that I couldn't think of a reason I might go back and listen to this tune once again. It's got talent though, I'm sure for those who have it downloaded you just went to listen to it.
Rating 5.5 of 10.