The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which we determine the quintessential New York musician—launches this morning with a series of polls. This time out: Fame-and-equality-obsessed pop shapeshifter Lady Gaga takes on legendary songwriter Laura Nyro. Check out the arguments in favor of each contestant below, and then cast your ballot on Facebook.
Let’s put it this way: Lady Gaga is the quintessential New York musician because there’s no musician in the city, country, or world who wants that title more. After breaking out with some head-turning outfits and a pair singles as catchy as “Just Dance” and “Poker Face,” Gaga has spent the last four years drawing from and then adding onto the myth that surroundings the city, reminding you again and again that she came of age on Manhattan’s Lower East Side then playing Madison Square Garden and filling the stage with its street signs. Meanwhile, when last year’s Born This Way relented on its four-on-the-floor and pedal-to-the-metal reinterpretation of downtown house, it was only to channel singers like Bruce Springsteen, one of the few singers whose anthems—and claim on the city’s heart—remain larger than hers.
Laura Nyro is where Café Wha? meets Tin Pan Alley, a perfect representation of New York’s simultaneous drive for authenticity and commercial success. After selling songs to Peter, Paul and Mary and The 5th Dimension, she embarked on a solo career marked by its musical adventurousness and compositional wizardry. “Stoned Soul Picnic,” from Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, sums Nyro up well: it sounds like a complete late-’60s NYC montage, starting in the early dawn at Central Park and tracking through steam-soaked streets, then picking up to a sunny midtown bustle and transitioning effortlessly to a triumphant groove. Nyro’s so ridiculously talented you almost don’t know what to do with her, and she’s influenced generations of unclassifiable musicians.