With the 2013 Billboard Music Awards coming up Sunday, May 19th at 8|7c on ABC live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, we thought it’s the perfect time to pay homage to the many songs that have been penned in the city’s honor. Some express the joys of hitting the jackpot and feeling grand. Others? Well, let’s just say that not everyone leaves a winner.
Give a listen to the best 13 songs about all the spoils Las Vegas has to offer.
13. Sara Bareilles’ “Vegas”
The age-old story of “trying to make it” is framed by the second track off of Sara Bareilles’ 2007 debut, her first Billboard 200-charting album, “Little Voice,” which reached No. 7 in 2008 and spent more than a year on the survey. Although the song drips of the painful sadness of shaping yourself in order to accomplish your dreams, Bareilles’ indisputably soulful voice goes a long way in making the song a lot more than just a sob story.
12. Elvis Presley’s “Night Life”
Although initially intended for the soundtrack of the 1963 film “Viva Las Vegas”, “Night Life” didn’t see release until 1968 on “Elvis Sings Flaming Star.” It’s a shame that the song was shelved for a while because it features a schmoozy (wonderfully so) lounge band anchored by an occasionally out-of-control solo guitar.
11. Clubstrophobia’s “Vegas”
Who knew a tune that originated in Bergen, Norway could so perfectly capture the atmosphere in a city thousands of miles away from Club Agora? The video is particularly fascinating, and was nominated for Best Music Video by the British Animation Awards in 2004 for its jazzy, colorful execution.
10. Faith Hill’s “Let’s Go To Vegas”
Nothing is more “country” than Faith circa-1995 gyrating in skintight PVC pants and a white t-shirt, just like in the video for the indisputably country and western tune about impromptu marriage. The uptempo, carefree track hit No. 5 on Hot Country Songs that year, marking one of her 22 career top 10s on the chart.
9. The B-52s’ “Queen of Las Vegas”
There is something romantic about gambling addiction—at least when it’s paired with a healthy dose of drum machine and punchy synthesizer. Cindy Wilson and co. returned to straightforward New Wave with 1983’s “Whammy” (following the David-Byrne-produced “Mesopotamia”) released a several delectable day-glo singles, including “Queen of Las Vegas.”
8. Gram Parsons’ “Ooh Las Vegas”
A perfect example of Parsons’ “Cosmic American Music”, this tune manages to convey the painful dilemma of a poor man gambling. Pair Parsons razor sharp lyrics (“the Queen of Spades is a friend of mine/The Queen of Hearts is a bitch”) with Al Perkins’ deft pedal steel skills and you have one of the finest songs about Las Vegas you could possibly ask for.
7. Cocteau Twins’ “Heaven or Las Vegas”
Elizabeth Fraser is unintelligible on the title track of the Cocteau Twins final release for 4AD Records, but apparently in a more accessible way, because “Heaven or Las Vegas” was the most commercially successful album for the band. It rose to No. 9 on Alternative Songs in 1991. While most tracks about Las Vegas are based on the inherent loud, glittery nature of the city, the Twins focus on the aesthetic beauty of a city isolated in the desert.
6. AC/DC’s “Sin City”
The old adage that “all AC/DC songs sound the same” is may be a bit true, but that doesn’t mean that their distinct sound isn’t impeccable. This track, off of the band’s 1973 album “Powerage” is a powerfully dopey tune that combines Bon Scott’s gritty vocals with a great pseudo-solo by bassist Cliff Williams.
5. Sheryl Crow’s “Leaving Las Vegas”
Before “All I Want” brought attention to “Tuesday Night Music Club”, Crow released “Leaving Las Vegas,” a supposedly autobiographical tune (either of Crow or the late John O’Brien, who can say?) that detailed a hard stretch of weeks in the famous Nevada metropolis. Crow’s debut single reached No. 60 on the Hot 100 in 1994. Despite its modest peak, the song introduced us to her talents, paving the way for her next six singles all reaching the chart’s top 40 through 1998.
4. Barry Manilow’ s “Here’s to Las Vegas”
For the past eight years Manilow has been headlining shows in Las Vegas, and this ode to the town is a pretty concise confession of his love of the city that has been hosting his performance almost exclusively for nearly a decade.
3. Katy Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas”
Katy Perry’s advice to “shake the glitter off your clothes” in her infectious 2009 single is a perfectly witty way to respond to a decadent night in Vegas and reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. The dance-rock hit cemented Perry’s place at Capitol Records, cementing the fact that she was more than a one-hit wonder, and gave the rest of us something to dance to all summer long.
2. Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas”
This song is one of Presley’s most iconic ones, even though it has long outlived its 1964 namesake film. It’s endured several covers (everyone from The Dead Kennedys and ZZ Top to The Residents) but it’s safe to say when you think of “Las Vegas”, it’s hard not to associate Presley’s practiced yowl with the city. The classic seems much bigger than its No. 29 peak on the Hot 100 in 1964.
1. Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady”
Frank Loesser penned this classic for the 1950 musical “Guys and Dolls” and it wasn’t until Reprise Records released a boxed set of Broadway musical tunes in 1963 that it became a Sinatra classic. Initially the song told the tale of gambler Sky Masterson, but Sinatra’s version becomes more about showcasing the crooner’s incredible talent.