I know some people find driving relaxing, but I am not one of those people — unfortunately, I actually hate driving. However, I do like the feeling of pretending I’m in a car. So for everyone who misses driving, or maybe wants to know what it’s like for those of you who have never been behind the wheel before, here’s a list of songs from my personal driving playlist to help you simulate the experience of riding in a car without actually having to be in a car.
- “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” – Taylor Swift
“Oh, your sweet disposition and my wide-eyed gaze
We’re singing in the car, getting lost upstate
Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days”
Even though I hate driving, there’s something about the leaves changing color that can’t help but make me miss the suburban days of driving around my neighborhood. It probably has something to do with the fact that I got my license in the fall, so autumn reminds me of the first time I got to drive alone. It also could’ve been the fact that I’ve listened to “All Too Well” all too many times. This just feels like a quintessential fall song, though I wouldn’t wish anyone the same heartbreak, unless of course you’re aiming for your own sad girl autumn.
2. “bon iver” – mxmtoon
“Playin’ Bon Iver on late night drives
My window, moon, and fireflies”
Maia, better known as mxmtoon, is a master of creating songs that feel just like lullabies. Her soft, soothing voice lulls me into a sense of security, making me wish that I too was taking a relaxing late night drive rather than staying up studying for my midterm tomorrow morning. Even though I hate driving at night because everything seems scarier and there’s always someone behind me trying to blind me with their high beam headlights, mxmtoon makes the whole idea sound so romantic. I don’t think Bon Iver can fix my late night panic, but it sure is nice to imagine.
3. “Subaru” – Curtis Waters
“In the back of the car
And I’m barely home”
I will be the first to say that this song does not depict being in a car as the most pleasant experience. The speaker is in the back of the vehicle, and he isn’t feeling well. If you listen closely, there’s a deeper meaning there, but I won’t be the one to spoil it. However, I do think that longing for home is something that most people can relate to, and Waters’ dejected voice perfectly illustrates that feeling. Perhaps it’s the memory of driving home from school after staying in the nurse’s office. Maybe it’s homesickness after being away for too long. Even if listening to this vulnerable song doesn’t feel so good, who’s to say you can’t be vulnerable in the back of a car. There’s something very freeing about the idea of letting out your emotions in a car, especially when all of the other songs on this list seem to sound more upbeat.
4. “Getaway Car” – Taylor Swift
“You were drivin’ the getaway car
We were flyin’, but we’d never get far”
I feel like this one needs no explanation. One of the first things I did after getting my license was create a driving playlist and put this song at the top. I wish I was joking. Aside from being my favorite off reputation (2017), there’s something in this song that creates a visceral need in me to have my own Bonnie and Clyde moment. Of course, this was also a time when I was still going 10 under the speed limit, so needless to say, I didn’t have one. At the very least, I wasn’t participating in any unsafe driving (though in my mind I was driving way past the speed limit, something which is still only a fantasy).
5. “drivers license” – Olivia Rodrigo
“Yeah, today, I drove through the suburbs
And pictured I was driving home to you”
It’s hard to imagine that it’s almost been two years since this song had everyone in an absolute chokehold. Not only was it Rodrigo’s debut single, it was a good one. She’s an incredibly talented vocalist, and the hurt really shines through in this song, which was probably why everyone loved it so much. I don’t think I’ve ever felt her kind of hurt, but I was partially inspired by Rodrigo to get my license. I had been slacking on my hours, but then this song came out and suddenly everyone was posting their licenses and I figured it was time. Plus, I’m Rodrigo’s age and suddenly felt very behind when she dropped this song. Still, regardless of the cultural relevance, there’s also just something about the feeling of driving home that resonates with me. This lyric was even good enough to be the title of Rodrigo’s Disney+ documentary, driving home 2 u (2022).
6. “Tokyo Drifting” – Glass Animals, Denzel Curry
“I’m back on my bullshit, like Jordan on Pippen
If this is my life then I’m Tokyo drifting”
No. This is not “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz from The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) soundtrack. Even if it’s not quite as popular, “Tokyo Drifting” is still plenty iconic and evokes a similar feeling of wanting to do some reckless driving. Glass Animals’ distinctive instrumentals with heavy percussion and sound effects always have me jamming in the car. I like to pretend that it’s my very own soundtrack, making me feel cooler than I am, even if I’m not racing on the streets of Tokyo and instead I’m just following the speed limit, being the safest driver I can be. This song allows me to revel in the thrill without any of the recklessness.
7. “Story of My Life” – One Direction
“The story of my life, I take her home
I drive all night to keep her warm”
This is a classic. Now, in middle school I tried to be “not like other girls,” so I didn’t appreciate One Direction in their prime (instead I hated on them to be edgy, which is so cringe now). But once the pandemic hit and I was stuck at home, I found myself wanting to listen to new-to-me old music. Needless to say, One Direction ended up winning me over (and I ended up in their top 0.5% of listeners of 2020 on Spotify). This song evokes exactly what they’re singing about: warmth. This lyric could be a reference to the fact that it takes some cars a while to heat up, especially when it’s cold outside, but it could also imply the time they are spending together during the drive is keeping the muse warm inside. Either way, when I listen to this song, I am transported to a mountainside road (not sure why I picked this scenery, but just go with it), desperately driving in order to save myself from the cold. I’ve never had to actually do this, but still something fun to imagine.
8. “Little League” – Conan Gray
“Swore we’d never move away
But now I’m going 95 on the interstate”
Though this song primarily focuses on the perils of growing up, driving away from home is a rite of passage on its own. Gray mentions speeding on the highway to in order to move away, presumably from his old house. This may or may not be relatable to some (since Georgetown’s campus is only a maximum of one hour away from my house in Maryland, I still don’t think I’ve truly moved away from home). Still, I can’t decide if that 95 mph speed sounds exhilarating or terrifying — probably both. Disclaimer, do not try this at home. Gray has a pass, because his home state of Texas does boast one of the highest speed limits in the U.S. at 85 mph. The highway is located quite close to his hometown of Georgetown (the one in Texas, not here).
9. “rEaR vIeW” – ZAYN
“I never doubted myself, but I doubted you
I’m tired of looking at myself in my rear view”
The true meaning of this track refers to Zayn Malik looking at past figures in his life and his old self, hence constantly looking in the rear view. However, even though driving is not the primary focus of this song, I still think this song counts, because I too am constantly checking my rear view mirror in the car while I’m driving. I think the motion of looking behind me, both metaphorically and literally, is one in the same. Malik’s silky smooth vocals also help to ease any stress I feel while driving, even if I do end up seeing a car tailgating me in the rear view.