A Different Kind of Road Trip Playlist

By Alex Johnson

I love a road trip; I don’t even care where I’m going. I love the sense of exploration that comes from a road trip; I love the gas station coffee, the conversations, and most importantly, the music.

There are a lot of places I want to see and, ideally, I’ll get to drive to them. My favorite part of a road trip is the time spent in the car; the destination is just a bonus. I like listening to music and singing along (poorly) while I drive, and road-tripping gives me long stretches of time to do that. Over many different trips, I’ve built up my own little list of songs that MUST be played, sometimes multiple times, on a road trip.

I considered doing an official “best of all time” top 10 road trip songs but I figured another list naming Born To Be Wild the best driving song would be redundant. So, instead, I decided to list 10 of my favorite road trip songs. Some may be cliché, some may surprise you and at least one will disgust you.

In no particular order…

Don’t Look Back Into the Sun – The Libertines
The Libertines are an English rock band with a distinctly English sound. This song is light and airy but also very energetic and up-tempo. I like to use this song to set the “road trip mood”. This song also gives a nice indie-movie feel to anything you do, which only enhances the kitschy idea of road tripping. Don’t be surprised if you see Michael Cera in your rearview.

Firework – Katy Perry
I try not to call things a “guilty pleasure”. If I like something, I like it; you shouldn’t be ashamed of your tastes or what you enjoy. Firework is a guilty pleasure song of mine. Whenever my spouse and I are on a road trip this song is played multiple times so we can perfect our car-specialized choreography. It’s also happy and upbeat which is great when you’re wired on that 40 oz coffee you pounded to get through rush hour.

2000 Light Years Away – Green Day
I’m a long time Green Day fan (I’ll have to get my opinions on Father of all Motherf*ckers out another day). 2000 Light Years Away reminds me of when I first got my license and I would listen to Kerplunk (the album this song is from) on repeat in the car; it reminds me of driving around at night with my friends. This one might have me blinded by nostalgia, but it’s also punchy and fun and will definitely pep your road trip up.

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
This is the perfect song for car sing-alongs and (passenger) air guitar-ing. This might not be the first Queen song most would pick for driving (I see a little silhouette of a Wayne’s World reference) and that’s fair, Bohemian Rhapsody is perfect for road trips. Of course, Under Pressure is a good choice too. For this entry can I just say “Queen”?

We’re All Dudes – Less Than Jake/Kel Mitchell
This song was written for the Nickelodeon movie Good Burger. It’s performed by Less Than Jake and sung by Kel Mitchell (who played one of the lead characters, Ed, in the film). This is a silly feel-good song that’s a blast to sing along to. A healthy dose of nostalgia, easy to follow lyrics and positive vibes make this a great road trip song.

You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid – The Offspring
Maybe this song is better for a cannonball than a road trip because it’ll make you want to drive fast. Too fast. This is for when traffic lightens up, you have some open space and you want to make up time. Just watch for speed traps.

Summer Girls – LFO
Remember when I said at least one entry would disgust you? This is it. This song is so bad that I don’t even want to link to it. The lyrics are stupid, the beat is repetitive and they felt it necessary to reference gastric distress in a “love” song. I know just a few entries ago I had this big thing about liking what you like and owning it, but I’m embarrassed to say that I know almost every word to this song. My spouse does as well. Every road trip we have to take a moment (or two) to bask in the terribleness of this 90’s pop catastrophe.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) – R.E.M.
This might fall under “cliché road trip songs” thanks to the movie Tommy Boy, but there’s nothing wrong with a cliché if it’s as good as this one. Not only does this song move, but it also provides a great game: how long can you sing along? If you’ve got a really long trip you can play this one multiple times and see how many verses you can sing through (I still can’t make it all the way through one without a mistake).

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant
A mix of folk-like slide guitar and an almost hip-hop lyric cadence make this song unique. It’s punchy, driving rhythm makes you feel like… well, driving. It’s a very “open desert road” song and great to pop on right as the sun starts setting and the GPS is saying there’s still three hours till your destination.

Ghost Town – The Specials
This 2-tone classic is a great way to close out a road trip. It’s a little bit more mellow so it can wind you down as you’re getting ready to check into your hotel. It was also featured in Guy Ritchie’s film, Snatch, so I always feel like I’m up to something when driving around listening to this one.

What are your favorite road trip songs? We want to know! Really, we do!  Write your own list (or even just one or two suggestions) and we may feature them on TheLCBridge.com!


Cover photo by Alex Johnson.


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