When Billy Joel wrote “New York State of Mind,” he indeed meant the whole state, name-checking the Hudson River Greyhound and Riverside. As his “Empire State of Mind” video makes clear though, Jay-Z couldn’t care less about the rest of the state. It’s NYC, baby.
The third video for The Blueprint 3, “Empire State of Mind” ignores the gritty reality of Jay’s Brooklyn upbringing, using black and white cinematography to recall the glamour of ‘40s Hollywood. Times Square, the skyline, the Statue of Liberty…this is the Big Apple as only a tourist would envision it.
Joining the Jigga man in the Hype Williams- directed clip is fellow New York local Alicia Keys (as Bob Dylan sang in “Thunder on the Mountain,” “I was thinking ‘bout Alicia keys, couldn’t keep from crying / When she was born in Hell’s Kitchen, I was living down the line”). In the “Empire State” video though, Keys doesn’t venture far from the Naked Cowboy’s Times Square intersection, pounding on a NY-themed piano like a hotter Jerry Lee Lewis.
"It is a masterpiece video," Keys said in an interview with MTV News. "The way it's put together, it is so New York. You totally get it and understand it. It's artistic. It's hard. It's beautiful. And definitely getting to be in the middle of Times Square on my piano [with] Jay, representing our home city is a triumph. It was unbelievable."
While no one disputes that it was fun to film, constant swooping shots over the city come off like a Department of Tourism promo. Plus, Jay-Z raps in the New York streets in every video he does. For longtime NYC residents Jay may invoke a flicker of pride, but outsiders curious about the city would be better off watching a Woody Allen movie.
Verdict: 2/5 stars