I’ll be honest, I have this love-hate relationship with driving, and one of the things that make or break a ride for me is the soundtrack.
I need an entire playlist of road trip songs to fend off-highway hypnosis, regular clock checking, and especially drowsiness.
The other deciding factor on a long road trip is whether or not I have passengers. If I’m sharing the road with good company, great, but if not, that playlist has to carry even more weight.
Good road trip songs will help you stay sane and alert on long, empty roads.
I used to take the same silent 3-hour drive from campus several times each semester when I was in school, and let me tell you, well, singable music is a must when you have 130 miles until your next shift. Interestingly, I am planning another trip there soon to see some old friends. So this is what I’ll be listening to.
Pop Songs for Road Trips:
Memories – Adam Levine
Am I the only one who can’t believe this song only came out in 2019? No? Because I feel like this song has existed in my subconscious for at least the last 5 years. Regardless, it’s a great start to our playlist as a nice throwback, maybe not to a time that was literally that long ago, but it sure feels like it was.
Just the way you are – Bruno Mars
This 2010 gem is at the peak of Bruno Mars. This pop ballad is perfect for a long, introspective journey between the fast pace and an oddly old-world feel. You can guarantee that everyone in the car will instantly recognize and sing along to this one.
Talking to the Moon – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars makes our list again here with another song from 2010, but we’re slowing it down a bit with this entry. I can’t make all the songs on my car ride playlist high-energy fast-paced. I burn out. This is a great palette cleaner that breaks out some faster-paced pieces.
Night Changes – One Direction
Full disclosure, I don’t really like One Direction, but I’d be remiss not to include some of their music on this list. The folkloric feel of this song is perfect for sharing with your fellow travelers or for enjoying nothing but the road to keep you company. This is another one of those songs that feels like it’s from a different time.
Good as Hell – Lizzo
Alright, after a few slower songs, it’s time to speed things up. Energizing and upbeat are great things to have in a piece once you’re hours with hours to go, just as your lower back starts to rebel against that awful car seat. A must-have for any car ride when you need a quick wake-up call to get you through the next leg of the journey. What if you have passengers? The whole car will be dancing and singing.
Send my love to your new lover – Adele.
This 2015 song by Adele was an instant classic when it came out and has only gotten better with time. Adele is the kind of singer whose voice transports you, and anything that takes you away from freeway hypnosis is a plus in a long car ride. And you can bet this won’t be Adele’s only entry on this list.
Someone like you – Adele
This is a true throwback to simpler times. When the madmen shouted from the rooftops that the world would end everything, the Mayans did not write their calendar to last a thousand years after being eliminated. This one takes back to car trips from a decade ago, and that nostalgia will get you through this one too.
This song is another familiar emotional ride from Adele. Hello has achieved legendary status since its launch in 2015, and with good reason. Frankly, if you’re not required to sing along with the choir on this one, then you have more restraint than I do. This is an excellent addition to any long car ride.
When We Were Young – Adele
Ok, I said there would be some Adele songs, but I promise this is the last one from her 25 albums. It’s crazy to look back at 25 Today. It was powerful when it was released, but many of its songs have achieved iconic status since then. When We Were Young still resonates today with its highly memorable lyrics that are sure to evoke strong nostalgia on that long open road.
Say you won’t let go – James Arthur.
Ok, we’re done with Adele, but we’re not done with the iconic songs of the mid-2010s. Say You Won’t Let Go by James Arthur is another one of those songs that came out a few years ago but has somehow gotten lost. Infiltrated some of the deepest recesses of memory. Both recent and classic, James Arthurs’s 2016 song is singable, soulful, and memorable.
Before You Go – Lewis Capaldi
There’s something weird about listening to Lewis Capaldi’s Before You Go these days. It’s only been out in the last two years. This song gives me this weird, otherworldly feeling. Thus, one came from a recent time, but very different. It’s a good feeling, letting the pre-Covid voice of Lewis Capaldi take you and your fellow travelers back to a different world that wasn’t that long ago.