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The Ultimate Moving to Chicago Playlist

Yvonne Boulay
A Chcago theatre at night.

When you told your friends and family you’re moving to Chicago, I’m sure they insisted you try deep dish pizza and visit The Bean. I’m here to tell you that exploring Chicago’s music scene should also be on your to do list.

Chicago is a global music leader, credited as the birthplace of gospel music, urban blues, and modern jazz. Also home to the Pitchfork Music Festival, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest, the city is no stranger to celebrating its own musical accomplishments.

If we were to make a playlist of songs dedicated to Chicago, we’d be here all day. Musicians from jazz and rock, to EDM and hip hop, have written love letters to the city’s soul and grit of its people – including Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley.

So, instead, we’ve curated a playlist of 10 songs on Spotify by Chicagoans about Chicago. That way we can attempt to scratch the surface of what it feels like to be part of such a remarkable city before you also call it home.

“Take Me Back To Chicago” by Chicago

There’s no other way to kick off this playlist than with the band whose name speaks for itself. Chicago dominated the Billboard charts from the 70s through the 90s, releasing an unprecedented 37 albums. If you listen carefully to the background vocals, you can hear Chaka Khan wailing her heart out.

“Only In Chicago” by Barry Manilow

So, Barry Manilow is from Brooklyn. However, this track squeezed its way onto the list because it’s written and composed by Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, a proud Memphis native whose band originated in Chicago. The song’s catchy piano riffs and brass instruments reference the city’s jazz origins.

“Back to Chicago” by Styx

Are you seeing the theme about wanting to be back in Chicago, yet? We’ll continue with some classic rock released in 1990. This upbeat ballad is about returning back home for true love and enjoying the sunrise over Lakeshore Drive.

“Walkin’ My Baby Back Home” by Nat King Cole

Famous for his song “L-O-V-E”, Nat King Cole sings about walking his lady home through Chicago. Listening to this song in your headphones will have you romantizing about falling in love or being in love in your new city.

“Chi-City” by Common

Common is one of Chi-town’s most famous rappers. Produced by another Chicagoan Kanye West, the sound of record scratches are reminiscent of 90s hip-hop. The lyrics delve into their personal experiences, touching on the city’s cultural significance, the struggles faced by its residents, and the pride they feel for their city.

“City In A Garden” by Fall Out Boy

Although the band may have a pop rock/alternative sound in recent years, the band originated from Chicago’s hardcore punk scene. This track is an upbeat love song to their city, stating that they owe everything to their hometown. No matter how big the band has become, they will always be grateful for their humble beginnings.

“California Songs” by Local H

If you’re having a bitter breakup with the West Coast during your move, this track will be your new anthem. From just outside Chicago in Zion, Illinois, this 90s rock band sings about the oversaturation of songs about California. Despite us having a playlist for moving to LA, we can’t help but to sing along.

“Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins

This music video was on heavy rotation on MTV when it was released. Lead singer Billy Corgan encourages listeners to find the strength to never lose yourself, no matter where you come from or what you’re going through. It also touches on the ambition often associated with the people of Chicago.

“Pulaski at Night” by Andrew Bird

Beautiful plucked violin and upright bass heard throughout this track is another nod to Chicago’s rich jazz history. “Half empty, half full,” lays the groundwork for Bird’s perspective of the city; there’s a good side and a bad side. Either way he looks at it, Chicago will always fulfill his need for a home. 

“Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah

We’ll finish this playlist with an ode to the famed Lakefront Highway in the Windy City. The song captures the experience of cruising along Chicago's shoreline and poetically describes its skyline as “concrete mountains”. Many believe the song has a double meaning also referencing the drug after the same abbreviation, but we’ll let you be the judge.

Curating this playlist was a challenge because there are songs from every genre spanning generations. I suppose it’s a good problem to have when there are so many artists you may or may not know that hail from the Windy City.

As you embark on your journey to the soul-filled city of Chicago, we hope this playlist can inspire you to explore all the city has to offer. Make sure you follow Ori on Spotify for more fun playlists about our favorite cities across the US and Canada.

Making a move to Chicago? Ori is here to make your new chapter easy with Semi-Furnished apartments that give you the perfect place to land and start your life in the Midwest. 

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