Like any other widely watched television event, the NBA All-Star Game has become far more than just an excuse for basketball’s best to steal the Harlem Globetrotters’ swag for one fine evening. No, it’s now a massive pop-culture event in itself, one with celebrities in tow and performances from some of music’s biggest names. Last year Pharrell opened up the festivities, and this go-round Christina Aguilera has been tapped to kick things off with a sure-to-be-over-the-top NYC-themed performance with backing help from the Rockettes. This sort of thing gets the city thinking about which songs the pop star and Voice judge (and Staten Island native) would choose for her big showing. Here are some New York City songs that could work their way into Christina’s routine, from Sinatra to Stevie and even some Lovin’ Spoonful. It’s on you now, Xtina.
Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York”
Sure, maybe this choice goes without saying. After all, Ol’ Blue Eyes practically WAS New York City, and oh man, hearing Christina swirl her vocal prowess around some of those slow-strutting old-timey “New York!”s might be too much to handle. But importantly, while a more slinky contemporary singer’s voice might not translate to a semi-standard like this, Christina’s is tailor-made for this tune. And let’s be real: The Rockettes were invented for songs like this. Those legs will be a-flyin’ in the air and those translucent smiles will be mega-wattage. The tune is timeless, but this could be all Aguilera in 2015.
Taylor Swift, “Welcome to New York”
If you’re seriously thinking that the newly appointed Ambassador of New York City is going to willingly let Christina within city limits without forcing a jazzier treatment of her latest theme song, YOU ARE SORELY MISTAKEN. A Christina x Taylor duet would have all of MSG leaving with cavities from overdosing on pop confection, so we’re thinking Christina would take Tay’s high notes for a long, long walk around the court all on her own.
Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”
No, we’re not holding our breath that Hov is going to jump out of the stands and spit some bars about his old trap house. But let’s not forget that Alicia Keys included a solo version of this now-classic jam on her own album. We’re thinking this choice is almost a sure thing: modern, recognizable, and armed with enough vocal fireworks to keep Christina’s ego sated. We’d also be lying if we said we weren’t giddy to hear her give that old “Now you’re in New York!” hook a spin. The only question is whether she’ll upstage Alicia. You just know Mrs. Swizz Beatz could be in the crowd, probably with little Egypt and Genesis, giving a stink eye to Christina if she does. (Just kidding. We bet Keys would beam approvingly.)
Stevie Wonder, “Living For The City”
It’d only be fitting that a few days after the Grammys celebrated the one and only Stevie Wonder, the legendary singer would get something of an encore with Christina whipping out his classic take on the grind ode to surviving in the Big Apple. One only needs to listen to this song once and hear the way Little Stevie enunciates “the citaaay” before letting one’s imagination run wild as to how Aguilera will throw her greased-up growl onto this baby. With Wonder’s omnipresence as of late, who knows? Maybe the man himself will even show up for a duet. We can always dream.
You don’t have to be a Christina superfan to know the singer has a soft spot for those jazzy-type vocalists. (If you need proof, fire up her sent-from-above take on Etta James’s “At Last” at the late singer’s funeral.) It’s only right that we at least consider the possibility that Aguilera will take on the Ella Fitzgerald classic “Manhattan,” a breezy ode to the Bronx, Staten, Greenwich, and even an old-fashioned stroll through the zoo. Again, it can’t be overstated how much Xtina’s song selections might be affected by the Rockettes. And this song is nothing if not perfectly suited for their slightly campy shtick.
Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning”
OK, so a happy-go-lucky folk song originally conceived in Laurel Canyon might not be what initially crosses your mind for a Christina Aguilera NBA All-Star Game performance. Then again, Joni Mitchell is having a major moment right now, and “Chelsea Morning” is the perfect encapsulation of that feel-good, strolling-through-NYC-on-a-weekend vibe. We’re not saying that Ms. Aguilera gets as excited as Joni does by “milk and toast and honey” or even “a bowl of oranges, too.” But with the Rockettes shimmying behind her, and maybe some gentle acoustic strumming from, oh, Vance Joy (his label would totally put him up to this), it could be a wonderful mid-set treat.
The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer in the City”
“Hot night, summer in the city!” It’s already spiced with that noir-pop sensibility that defined Christina’s 2010 album Bionic. It would hardly be a stretch, then, for Aguilera to bust out some Lovin’ Spoonful deliciousness at MSG. Add some splashy horns, some church-like organs, and let the Rockettes strut their bad selves in a circle around the singer; it’s all adding up here. What’s that you say? Lovin’ Spoonful haven’t been relevant in more than a decade, since Chris Klein attempted to sing “Do You Believe in Magic” to win over Mena Suvari’s a cappella–loving heart? Fair enough. Still, we say it’s never too late for a Sixties camp-pop renaissance.
Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind”
Some folks might want to sing in Miami Beach or even Hollywood, but Christina will be right at home center court at Madison Square Garden, the Rockettes flanking her, belting out Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.” Tinged with just enough jazz and flair for the Rockettes, while undoubtedly still driven by pop-centric and recognizable vocals, this tune is a perfect choice for Xtina. Plus, Billy’s practically been living at MSG these days, so wouldn’t Christina’s ego just love it to be able to outperform the man’s song in his own house? Knowing this divine diva, the answer is a massive yes.