The Ultimate Driving Playlist
The simple pleasure of driving around, windows down, with your favourite tunes on can often go unmatched as an experience. Be it because you’re in your own bubble just enjoying some great songs or because you are making a boring commute more entertaining, either way, the experience is almost universal when it comes to the joy of music whilst driving. But what makes the ultimate driving playlist and is there a difference in our tastes when going for a short drive compared to a more drawn-out road trip?
Using data from Spotify, Group 1 Automotive collated the top driving playlists on the popular music streaming platform and analysed the data to see what makes a great driving song, what our top tracks are, and which genres are the best for being on the road.
What is a Road Trip?
There’s no definitive way of clarifying the difference between a drive and a road trip, however, it can be likened somewhat to ‘going for a walk’ and ‘going on a hike’.
Cambridge Dictionary defines a road trip as “a long trip or holiday taken by car”, whereas the semantics of going for a “drive” is perhaps more in line with a leisurely outing, with less organisation.
Clearly, the separation is the length of the journey but what constitutes a long journey is subjective. As such, we’ve left this definition up to the users who labelled their playlists as driving or road trip playlists.
We explored playlists associated with ‘driving’ and ‘roadtrips’ to discover what constitutes the perfect ambiance for each.
The Best Driving Playlists on Spotify
We found 998 matching playlists with a total of 289,675 songs and picked out the 10 most listened-to playlists. The top spot is taken up by a playlist called ‘Drive Soundtrack – OST’, a reference to the movie soundtrack of the film, Drive.
However, with 357 tracks in the playlist, it is evident that it has become more than just the 19 songs composed for the film. This is followed by ‘Daily Drive’ in second position, and ‘Late Night Drives’ in third, both being compiled with the activity of driving in mind.
The Top Tracks for a Driving Playlist
We know which playlists are popular for driving, but why? Looking at the tracks that make them up we spotted which songs consistently crop up and found some surprising results. Rap, Hip Hop and R&B all have a strong showing in our driving playlists, perhaps because the insistent beats and rhythmic delivery help us focus on the road and psyche us up for the day ahead.
While researchers at the South China University of Technology found that music with a high tempo (over 120 bpm) has a tendency to cause erratic driving, both playlists show an average bpm of around 120, showing that they’re still popular with drivers on the day to day, as well as for longer drives.
In fact, Drake is a particularly well-represented artist as he appears three times in the top ten tracks found in Driving playlists even topping the charts with his song ‘Chicago Freestyle’ (feat Giveon) which appears in 67 playlists. ‘Teenage Fever’ and ‘Passionfruit’ come up 59 and 52 times as well.
UK Hip Hop artist Dave also has a strong showing with his song ‘Location’ (feat Burna Boy) coming in at number two with 65 appearances across our driving playlists and ‘Starlight’ rocking up in 54, putting it in sixth spot overall.
Other artists that make up the top ten include Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, with Arctic Monkeys being the only Rock band to break into it with their track ‘505’ being listed 46 times.
When it came to the top ten tracks in this playlist, around 40% of them were over 120 bpm, which is related to erratic driving.
When it came to the wider playlist, the worst offenders when it came to bpm were ‘Starboy’ by The Weeknd (186 bpm), ‘Wet Dreamz’ by J. Cole (176 bpm) and ‘Empire State of Mind’ by JAY-Z (174 bpm). These are potentially ones to avoid if you’re already aware of getting distracted by music while driving!
The Best Road Trip Playlists on Spotify
Interestingly, the top Road Trip playlists don’t seem to suffer from the same vagaries as the Drive playlists with the top ten all clearly being playlists with the specific act of going on a road trip in mind. However, there does seem to be some, inevitable, crossover between driving and road trips as Driving Anthems and 100 Greatest Driving Songs come in at fourth and sixth of the top ten of the Road Trip playlists.
The Top Tracks for a Road Trip Playlist
The marked difference between a Road Trip playlist and a Driving playlist is the choice of genres listened to. Whilst Rap and Hip Hop dominate our Driving playlists it would seem that people prefer to rock out a bit more when on a longer journey, with Rock and Pop filling out the top ten of road trip top tracks with the only exception to this being the Contemporary Country song ‘Life is a Highway’ by Rascal Flatts which holds the number four spot.
Vance Joy’s Indie Pop tune ‘Riptide’ comfortably sits atop all other songs with a whopping 116 appearances across Road Trip playlists, whilst its closest competitor is TOTO’s Soft Rock classic ‘Africa’ which only musters 93 appearances in comparison. Oddly enough, Riptide also made big waves in the Driving playlists with 46 appearances, putting it in a joint tenth position alongside the aforementioned Arctic Monkeys song.
Sitting at number 5 with the highest bpm out of tracks in the top 10, and 80 appearances across playlists searched, was ‘Mr. Brightside’ by The Killers. While its bpm certainly isn’t the highest out of all of the songs featuring on the wider playlist, the track has been reported as one of the most dangerous songs to drive to, surprising considering its popularity. The study found that ‘when listening to music faster than 120 bpm, drivers changed lanes twice as often as normal and increased their speed to 5 mph above the speed limit’.
Drive Vs. Road Trip
So, what parallels can be drawn between the two types of playlists and what conclusions can we see from these results? Well, as previously mentioned, whilst Hip Hop and Rap constitute over 25% of the songs on Drive playlists, they make up less than 5% on Road Trip. Alternative/Rock music has a respectable showing on with the Drive choices as 19 are chosen but this rockets up to 47 for the Road Trip offerings making it, by far, the most popular choice there.
Road Trip playlists also seem to have more of a social feel to them with more anthemic belters in their midst. TOTO’s ‘Africa’, Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, The Killers’ ‘Mr. Brightside’, AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’, Smashmouth’s ‘All Star’, and The Proclaimers ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ all have driving, powerful choruses that lend themselves to being sung along to and all find themselves in the top 15 tracks of Road Trip playlists. Perhaps, a road trip naturally encourages travelling with more people due to its length and purpose (holidays or other adventures?) so songs that everyone can sing along to.
We used the Playlist Miner tool connected to Spotify to scrape all playlists matching the keywords 'drive', and ‘road trip’ and used this to discover the top tracks.
The Playlist Miner aggregrates the top tracks from the most popular public playlists on Spotify that match your search criteria.
We then analysed the songs in these playlists by BPM and genre to understand what constitutes an ideal driving playlist.