Hit the road with the best driving songs from all genres

What makes a particular piece of music the ideal driving tune? Everyone has different ideas, but it seems there are some pretty universal themes when it comes to the best road trip songs: nostalgia, adventure, summer - and some tracks are just perfect for when you’re making tracks.
It’s all about the mood the music invokes, be it the beat, the melody or the lyrics. Hitting the road for a lengthy journey conjures up an unforgettable and amazing feeling of freedom and possibility, and some songs capture that euphoria exactly. It’s a mysterious alchemy, but it’s undeniable. 
There’s no particular genre this list focuses on, as the best driving music transcends such petty categorisation. Rock, pop, dance, hip hop and folk are equal when it comes to planning a road trip playlist. Our tip - if you're renting a car, make sure you ask about its audio capabilities: is there an auxiliary cable? A USB port? Or will you need to take it back old-school and make a mixtape?

Here’s our top ten:
1 . Born to Be Wild - Steppenwolf
You can’t go past this classic to start your adventure off on the right foot. It’s right there in the first few lines: “Get your motor runnin’ / Head out on the highway / Lookin’ for adventure / And whatever comes our way.”  What a perfect attitude to take on your way out of town!
The grunty guitar riffs and throaty vocals will propel you down said highway with aplomb - don’t forget to wind the windows down for added effect. Although considered a biker anthem, we think this song works just as well for a car trip.
2 . Drift Away - Dobie Gray
One of my all-time favourites, this soul number is perfect for when the atmosphere is a bit more chill - maybe late afternoon when your destination is drawing near. The lyrics don’t mention anything about driving, but the song has that laid-back, dreamy vibe and is a great one to sing along to, with a memorable and melodious chorus.
Drift Away has been covered by a huge range of artists, including a popular version by Uncle Kracker in 2003, so take your pick. I think the original is just fine!

3 . Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
If you’re travelling with someone, you have to put this one on the road trip playlist. Besides the “us against the world” vibe it gives off (see also: Hey There Delilah by the Plain White Ts), it is a wonderful acoustic tune. Tracy Chapman’s nostalgic lyrics tell a story of the American Dream, escaping current circumstances for better ones, and isn’t that what a road trip is all about? You can ignore the slightly less optimistic last verse.
This unique and distinctive tune has been a favourite since the late 80s when it was released, and has topped charts all over the world. It seems this one’s timeless!
4 . California Love - Tupac ft. Dr Dre
No road trip playlist is complete without some 90s hip hop, and this is one of the most iconic. Blast it during a sunny summer road trip, be it in California or anywhere else in the world. The distinctive hook by Roger Troutman (“California / Knows how to party”) puts you in the right mood to hit the beach with your crew, whoever they might be, once you arrive at your destination.
If your road trip tune preference is for hip hop and great beats, we also recommend Summer Love by Justin Timberlake. A little more modern, it’s just as infectious.

5 . Bravado - Lorde
There had to be something a little more alternative on here, and Lorde does it well. This track isn’t one of her better-known ones like Royals, but it’s a hidden gem. The lyrics are as hard to decipher as any of her work, but the rhythm has that certain something that makes you want to get on the road and drive.
Although it takes a while for the beat to drop, once it does you’ll see why it earns a place on the list. Lorde’s slightly eerie vocals aren’t your usual road trip fare, but they do make for a smooth and laid-back ride.
6 . I Woke Up In A Car - Something Corporate
Here’s a little something for the punk kids. Containing just the right amount of angst, it can take anyone back to their high school years when all they wanted was to get in a car and hit the road to see what the world had to offer. With the usual emotion-laden punk vibe, the song’s lyrics tell of spontaneity and adventure: “I’ve never been so lost / I’ve never felt so much at home / Please write my folks and throw away my keys / I woke up in a car.”
If you’re a fan of Blink 182, Taking Back Sunday, Green Day and that whole crew, you’ll love this for your driving playlist - and even if those days are in the past, you’ll be surprised at how fun it is to try out old favourites!

7 . Hotel California - The Eagles
“On a dark desert highway / cool wind in my hair / warm smell of colitas / rising up through the air.” Need we say more? The only question you might have is “what are colitas?” and I was wondering the same. The world may never know officially, but general consensus is that it refers to a particular part of the marijuana plant. Not something one should smell while driving, but this tune is an anthem nevertheless.
The lyrics weave a surreal and slightly spooky story, but they aren’t what we came for - it’s the feelings of hedonism and discovery the song evokes.

8 . Ignition Remix - R Kelly
I’m not sure that anybody remembers the original Ignition, but everyone knows about the remix. The driving theme is certainly there (“I’m about to take my key / And stick it in the ignition”) even if it is a blatant euphemism, but this jam is all about the groove. 
Many people love to hate it, but there’s no way you can resist singing and bouncing along to this smooth-as-silk R&B. Turn it on and turn it up when the atmosphere in the car needs livening up!

9 . The Great Escape - Boys Like Girls
This fast-paced rock song has a hint of punk about it, giving it that angsty edge which lends itself well to the excitement of a road trip, especially one which is just beginning. It’s all about freedom, leaving the past behind and making a great escape, just the state of mind a traveler wants to be in.
The best part of the song, and what earns it a place on the list, is the genius slight pause as all the instruments drop out just before every chorus. Banging on the steering wheel or an imaginary drum just as they all come back in is one of the single most satisfying music-listening moments you will ever experience.

10 . Sweet Child O’ Mine - Guns n Roses
Right from the beginning, this song draws you in and takes the excitement up a notch. The unmistakeable electric guitar riff followed by the beat building up to the exquisitely familiar and nostalgic “She’s got a smile that it seems to me / reminds me of childhood memories...” is a fantastic way to get your road trip started. Love song it might be, but its appeal goes beyond just that.
If you like guitars, this one is even more deserving of a spot in your lineup. Just make sure you get the original version with Slash’s full guitar solo unedited. Honourable mentions for similar songs go to Where the Streets Have No Name by U2 and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.

So there you have it: a road trip playlist of the best driving music from all kinds of genres. If you disagree with my picks, have your say in the comments below! Now the music’s sorted, all you need is a car rental and your epic road trip dreams can become a reality. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US are ideal destinations for the perfect road trip.

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