Lead singer Michael Stipe described this ballad as a love song about one of his favorite cities in new world and how he sees it changing for the better since September 11, 2001.
Suggestion credit: Ian - Melbourne, Australia
This is a sequel to R.E.M.'s 1996 song "Electrolite," which sang the praises of Los Angeles.
According to Michael Stipe in the London Daily Mail October 8, 2004, "Leaving New York was written on a plane above the city. On a clear night, the city looks magnificent." Peter Buck added, "The song can be taken literally. On one level, it's just about leaving the city. For me, though, It's hard to hear a song with New York in the title without thinking about September 2001."
Suggestion credit: Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2
Peter Buck isn't a big fan of the Around the Sun album because he was tired of writing songs "in any traditional way, so the chord changes don't make any sense," he noted in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage. For this song, he added, "The chord changes are crazy, but Michael came up with such a great melody you don't really notice how bizarre the chords are."