Is there anything better than hitting the road and singing along to your favourite songs?
Music can be an intrinsic part of driving, and your own taste in genre and style will dictate the mood of your trip. Having said that, are there tracks that transcend subjectivity and enter the pantheon of legendary road music?
Car insurance provider Cuvva conducted a survey into 2,000 drivers’ preferred music to listen to while driving. Motoring brand Halfords analysed 300,000 songs on Spotify that are the most popular tracks to appear on multiple driving, car, and road trip playlists. In this article, we’ll look at the songs that are certified road classics. We’ve also included a few tracks that capture that road trip vibe, so you can build the ultimate driving playlist.
Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
The classics never go out of style, and nothing epitomises this more than Bon Jovi’s classic from 1986, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Featured in lists of best rock songs of all time, this track topped the Billboard charts in 1987. It even appeared in Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 greatest songs of all time. This classic anthem from the New Jersey natives tells the story of two working-class Americans in Tommy and Gina fighting to remain hopeful through hard times.
This is such a great road trip song, so we’re not surprised that it features so prominently on driving playlists. Whether it’s the build into the chorus, with Jon Bon Jovi singing “We’ll give it a shot!” to the beat of the drums, the chorus itself, or the key change later in the song, it’s an instant mood-booster no matter which road you’re on or where you’re headed – so you can feel upbeat even if you’re only halfway there.
Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
All the best driving playlists should fill you with the excitement to reach your destination. But you still want to enjoy the journey. ‘Don’t Stop Believin” is the San Francisco band’s most recognisable single. Released in 1981, the track saw renewed popularity after featuring in the final episode of The Sopranos and was covered on Glee in 2009. Both instances saw the track rocket back into international charts.
From the piano that opens the track to the key change that proceeds the chorus, this song makes for incredible listening when behind the wheel. The song features lyrics about escaping your hometown and discovering more about yourself. Truly, what better place is there to experience the euphoria of Journey’s classic rock ballad than on a drive? Songs like this on your playlist will make it feel like your used Audi has been transported from your morning commute to a highway between the Bay Area and California. The sense of adventure will be set firmly in your heart.
Eagles – Hotel California
California has historically produced many of the greatest rock bands of all time, and Eagles are no exception. Founded in Los Angeles in 1971, the band released ‘Hotel California’ as part of an album of the same name in 1977. It’s since become one of the most iconic rock anthems of all time. It has even made its dent in cinema, featuring in several film soundtracks, with the most recent being Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in 2021.
Is there anything better than a guitar riff that makes you want to air guitar along? You might not be able to do that while your car is in motion, but this song has appeared so regularly on driving playlists in the UK, stopping at traffic lights has never been more enjoyable than rocking out to the twinkling riffs.
The most popular tracks have an overlap within a genre that equates to classic rock, which makes sense due to their upbeat tempo and singalong-worthy lyrics. Drivers’ clearly want drum solos, consistent basslines, and guitar riffs to accompany them as they cruise down the motorway.
Foo Fighters would seamlessly fit into any road trip playlist with the classic rock sound. There are so many classics from their discography to choose from, from ‘Everlong’ to ‘The Pretender’, but we’d advise not overlooking ‘Monkey Wrench’. A song that mixes karaoke-able lyrics with bouts of fast-paced guitars that will make you bounce around in your seat.
Variety is the spice of life, and adding some Gorillaz to your playlist could help to revamp it and provide some breathing room between songs. Damon Albarn’s band of animated troublemakers have released eight studio albums covering several genres. Their back catalogue is so rich that you could pick a random song from each album to bolster your driving playlist, but classics like ‘Feel Good Inc.’ can’t be beaten. The mix of Albarn’s vocals and De La Soul’s interjecting verses, it’s sure to have you moving your head in time with the iconic bassline.
Everyone has their own favourite genre, so even with these tracks being listed as popular on driving playlists, they may not be for you. But that’s the beauty of a playlist, they can be entirely personal. Find your vibe while you’re driving on a motorway, and you’ll never need anything else.