31 Best Songs That Are Good to Drive To: Pop Edition

by Tom Garback
songs that are good to drive to

This summer, you’ve probably listened to your favorite artists in search of some comfort and familiarity in the midst of an evolving sense of normal. Maybe you’ve searched for the best Spotify playlists to listen to while taking a hike or reading a book. But even better are playlists of songs that are good to drive to. That’s why we’ve collected our 31 favorite road trip songs.

We’ll take you through our ranking of popular feel-good music from the past sixty years. The next time you get antsy at home and need to make a quick escape, we’ve got you covered. These are top-tier songs you can sing along to. They’ll keep your spirits high so you can feel like you’re really riding the wind.

31. The Monkees: “I’m a Believer”

You might associate this one with a certain green ogre, but the song, composed by Neil Diamond and released by Colgems Records, has been around for a while. Yet, it only took two days for the track to be certified gold. With an advance order of 1,051,280 copies, “I’m a Believer” kicks off this feel-good list.


30. Corinne Bailey Rae: “Put Your Records On”

The Idle Studio released Rae’s self-titled album, which included this song, her biggest hit to date. The track was nominated for “Song” and “Track of the Year” at the Grammys. Another memorable release from this British artist is “Like a Star,” the lead single from the album.


29. Elton John and Kiki Dee: “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

Don’t be misled by the title; this song, from the Rocket Record Company, will have you swooning. The number one song was his sixth in merely four years, and was a stand-alone single following “Philadelphia Freedom” from the year before. You can hear numerous films cover this song, from “Sherlock Gnomes” to “Ella Enchanted.”


28. Ace of Base: “The Sign”

The Swedish album title “Happy Nation” was switched in North America, where it was certified Platinum nine times, for the same name as this popular single from Mega Records. The record, however, did not originally include “The Sign,” which was added for its relentlessly catchy chorus. That’s why critics say the song holds up to the changing pop landscape.


27. CeeLo Green: “Forget You”

Originally titled more bluntly, this single comes off of “The Lady Killer” from Elektra Records. Most don’t know that Bruno Mars was one of the collaborators on this track. Throwback appeal and a metaphorical middle finger of empowerment earned this song a sustained presence on the charts. “Time” even ranked “Forget You” first on its list of best 2010 songs.


26. Katrina and the Waves: “Walking on Sunshine”

This song’s off the debut album of the same name and came out of the independent Attic Records. As a result, it wasn’t until the track was re-recorded two years later on the group’s self-titled album and re-released as its second single that Katrina and the Waves met wild success. The original conception of the song would have stopped it from making this list; it was written as a ballad. Today, it’s a terrific good song to drive to.


25. Florence and the Machine: “Shake it Out”

Our next pick is the lead single off Florence and the Machine’s sophomore effort, “Ceremonials,” with Island Records. For a more serious moment during your drive, this British band will get you to throw out the junk that’s been weighing you down. A necessary chore, a necessary track. Immortal lyrics and grandiose instrumentation make this song a unique hit in pop and alternative circles.


24. The Emotions: “Best of My Love”

Off their fourth studio album “Rejoice,” from Columbia Records, this track alone won a Grammy and an American Music Award for “Favorite Soul/R&B Single.” Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire served as composers on the track. Starting out in Gospel, the group put out music that’s been sampled by the likes of Kanye West, Notorious B.I.G., Mariah Carey, and Janet Jackson.


23. Wilson Phillips: “Hold On”

The start of the decade found this uplifting song from SBK Records on the groups’ self-titled album. While popularized recently by its inclusion in “Bridesmaids” (2011), “Hold On” was the best-selling song of the year. Chynna Phillips says the lyrics came from her experience overcoming a toxic relationship and substance abuse. 


22. Jackie Wilson: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”

The “Higher and Higher” came out of Columbia Studios, Chicago to high praise. Wilson himself is nicknamed “Mr. Excitement” because of his dynamic approach to performance in genres ranging from pop and R&B to rock & roll. Before going solo in 1957, he was a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes.


21. Wham!: “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

From “Make It Big” and Epic Records, the idea for the song’s title came when George Michael mistakenly wrote down “Wake Me Up Up Before You Go” when first drafting. Notably, the single sold two million copies and was certified Platinum. When Wham! completed a rehearsal of the song, they were so pleased with the take that they selected it for the album.


20. Michelle Branch: “Breathe”

“Breathe” is the second single from “Hotel Paper,” out of Maverick Records. This song will make you feel like you’re on the top of the world, though the initial success was only moderate, as a result of its limited release. Branch is also known for “Everywhere,” from two years prior, and the country duo The Wreckers, which formed in 2005.


19. Maxine Nightingale: “Right Back to Where We Started From”

From the album of the same name, this song’s a top-tier slice of disco from United Artists. It was the British artist’s first international success. Nightingale almost sang the demo as a duet with one of the songwriters, J. Vincent Edwards, but he went on to other projects. The track samples “Goodbye, Nothing To Say” released in 1974.


18. Lorde: “Perfect Places”

The acclaimed “Melodrama” from Universal Music New Zealand brings us this track, which Lorde says was written in a fever of inspiration driven by youthfulness and ambition. The song will get you in your feels, whatever they be and wherever you find your perfect place, and that’s why it’s the perfect song to drive to when you need some reassurance of spirit.


17. Mama Cass: “It’s Getting Better”

From popular group The Mamas and the Papas (“California Dreamin’”), Elliot released this bit of sunshine pop through Dunhill Records. The lyrics detail the kind of relationship that favors authenticity over superficial showings of romance and extravagance. The song followed Elliot’s first solo success, “Move in a Little Closer, Baby.”


16. Martha Reeves & the Vandellas: “Dancing in the Street”

The group’s biggest hit is found on their 1965 “Dance Party” album. Before fame, Reeves worked as a secretary at Gordy Records (later Motown Records), recording lyrics for backup singers. Two of the songwriters, Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson, were inspired by Detroit in the summer, where people cooled off under the water springing from fire hydrants. 


15. Mariah Carey: “Always Be My Baby”

For a slower-tempo break, try this classic off Mariah’s fifth studio album “Daydream,” from Columbia Records. At the time, this single tied her with Madonna and Whitney Houston for female artists with the most number-one singles. The song is helmed as one of her greatest, notable for its relaxed and nostalgic style.


14. Modern English: “I Melt with You”

Included on “After the Snow” and released by Sire Records, this song has been sustained by its presence in prom culture. Though the band is British, “I Melt with You” was most popular in the United States, where it made for the band’s biggest commercial success to date. Most surprising of all, perhaps, is that the lyrics are not inspired by high school tradition but the fear of nuclear war.


13. OutKast: “Hey Ya!”

The fifth studio album from this duo, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” was its biggest success greatly because of “Hey Ya!” From LaFace Records, the track won the Grammy for “Best Urban/Alternative Performance.” The music video won a BET Award and an MTV Video Music Award, among a few other top accolades. 


12. The Pointer Sisters: “I’m So Excited”

This song springs from the aptly titled “So Excited!” album, the group’s second. The Planet release was met with popularity before re-release as a remixed version in 1984, when it climbed even higher on the charts than before. “I’m So Excited” was included on “Songs of the Century”, a National Endowment for the Arts project by the RIAA.


11. ABBA: “Dancing Queen”

Perhaps their most iconic hit, “Dancing Queen” is on the Swedish group’s fourth studio album “Arrival,” from Polar Music. This song makes most listeners today think of the 2008 film “Mamma Mia,” but the original lends itself to the legacy of one of the best-selling musical groups ever, with nearly 400 million records sold. Think of that as 400 million cars filled with “Dancing Queen” and other songs that are good to drive to.


10. Grouplove: “Tongue Tied”

This landmark in indie rock can be found on the album “Never Trust a Happy Ending,” from Canvasback/Atlantic Records. It topped the “Billboard” alternative charts. Ironically, critical reception was generally negative, but covers by pop culture monoliths like “Glee” certified the song’s impact, which continues strong today.


9. Beyoncé: “Love on Top”

From her fourth studio album “4” with Columbia Records, this song is joyful. We could have picked a bunch of different songs from Beyoncé, but “Love on Top” is one of her feel-good best, and that must be honored. The track is noted for its high range and throwbacks to the uptempo R&B of the ‘80s. This became Beyoncé’s second most successful lead single.


8. Natasha Bedingfield: “Unwritten”

The title track off her debut album, “Unwritten” was the most played song on the radio in 2006 across the States. The Phonogenic Records hit became the theme song for popular TV show “The Hills.” You likely know Bedingfield’s other notable title, “Pocketful of Sunshine.” Both songs peaked at number five on the “Billboard Hot 100.”


7. Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose: “Too Late to Turn Back Now”

Re-released two years later to chart success, this single came from the Platinum label and followed “Treat Her Like a Lady.” You may recognize the track from films like Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” which came out back in 2018. The track sold over one million copies, winning a gold disc award along the way.


6. The Spice Girls: “Wannabe”

A mega-mega-hit off their debut album “Spice” out of Virgin Records, this song has probably not gotten old yet. The track went through two re-do’s in the studio before it was deemed ready for release. The success launched the “Spicemania” that permeated the final years of the century. Other hits include “Say You’ll Be There” and “Who Do You Think You Are.”


5. The New Radicals: “You Get What You Give”

From MCA Records, off the album “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too,” this single was most popular in the US, Canada, and New Zealand. A controversy surrounds the closing lines, where Gregg Alexander makes celebrity disses with the intent of testing what the media would focus on: these petty call-outs, or the greater political themes carried in the rest of the lyrics. Take a guess at which one garnered more attention.


4. Whitney Houston: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”

The lead single off her self-titled album “Whitney” from Arista Records, this is a must-play at any party event. Two members of Boy Meets Girl wrote this hit. They also wrote “How Will I Know.” You might find it hard to believe that upon release, critical reception was mixed. Nevertheless, the song won “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” at the 1988 Grammys. 


3. Rascal Flatts: “Life is a Highway”

This song became a bonus track on the album “Me and My Gang” from Lyric Street Records, after it’s notable appearance on the Disney film “Cars” soundtrack earlier that year. Most don’t realize that it’s a cover of Tom Cochrane’s 1991 original. Other covers come from Home Free, Chris LeDoux, and Jerry Jeff Walker.


2. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

Written by Motown newcomers Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, this song went on to be notably covered by Diana Ross three years later in 1970. Gaye and Terrell recorded their parts separately and later went on to later release a string of successful duets, including “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”


1. Lizzo: “Good As Hell”

The best of the best songs that are good to drive to. It is hard to believe Lizzo released this song all the way back in 2016. There was also that iconic 2019 remix featuring Ariana Grande. But the original is our personal favorite, as well as our favorite in this ranking. After all, you simply cannot have a feel-good road trip without this track.

Make sure to check out the whole Spotify playlist on songs that are good to drive to:


About the Author/s

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Tom Garback is currently pursuing a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College, where he is a Staff Writer, Blogger, Copy Editor, and Reader at various on-campus magazines. His fiction, poems, and essays have been featured in Thin Air, Blind Corner, Teen Ink, Oddball, The Magazine, Generic, Polaris, Gauge, and Sonder, among others.

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