February 28, 2017
I listen to an unhealthy amount of Run the Jewels. Strike that. You can never listen to enough Run the Jewels. They are the best.
When you’re stuck in traffic, though, perhaps riot-readiness isn’t the best frame of mind in which to be. Like today, for instance, when I got caught in traffic driving to Center City from the East Falls estate.
The experience reinforced the beauty of pop music’s ability to serve as a distracting elixir. It also prompted me to brainstorm a list of the best pop songs to listen to when you’re stuck in traffic.
These songs are ranked in order. You are invited to suggest other songs, and I would love to see your suggestions, but this list is a definitive one, meaning that these are the best songs to listen to while stuck in traffic.
21. "Why Don't We Go There," One Direction: My co-worker, Daniel Craig, maintains that this band is criminally underrated. I don't listen to One Direction, though. I have standards. That’s why this catchy tune didn’t crack the Top 20. (Other co-worker suggestions: "Obsessed," Mariah Carey. "Car Wash," Christina Aguilera. "Wheel of Fortune," Ace of Base.)
20. "Problem," Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea: Haters line up to knock these two ladies down. Whatever. This song’s bouncy af.
19. "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys: An all-time great track, but a bit too slow to fire drivers and passengers up.
18. "Rather Be," Clean Bandit (feat. Jess Glynne): Kinda obscure-ish. Totally distracting, though.
17. "Everywhere" and "Breathe," Michelle Branch: There’s no way to pick one of these songs over the other. Pop-block is always called for.
16. "Like a Prayer," Madonna: Game-changing song before the performer picked up a fake British accent. Much respect for old-school Mads.
15. "In My Head," Jason Derulo: Jason Derulo, as he is wont to do, namechecks himself in this banger. Jason de rules, yo.
14. "Runaway Baby," Bruno Mars: This lil guy knows how to hit all the right notes.
13. "Live Your Life," T.I. (feat. Rihanna): Neither T.I. nor Rihanna have any time for haters. You shouldn’t either. Pop songs with a message make the commute world go ‘round.
12. "She Wolf," Shakira: Besides the fact that she has a FC Barcelona (read: best football team on earth) player as her boytoy, Shakira howling like a wolf is otherworldly.
11. "Double Dutch Bus," Frankie Smith: Old-school classic from an underrated West Philly legend. This song doesn't nearly get enough play. You should make an effort to change that.
10. "The Edge of Glory," Lady Gaga: Gaga owned the Super Bowl halftime stage. As such, it’d be a sin to leave her out of the Top 10 commuting pop songs.
9. "I Really Like You," Carly Rae Jepsen: This is a great song. This great song has a greater video. Not that you can see videos while driving safely. Just had to put that out there.
8. "Waking Up In Vegas," Katy Perry: KP is an American treasure. We are all better because we are alive in the KP era. Any KP song is good to listen to while you're in your car, by the way. This is just my barely-favorite.
7. "Percolator," Cajmere: It is always time for the Percolator. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that.
6. "Payphone," Maroon 5: This is one of the best pop songs ever, especially the explicit version with the bad words. Don’t @ me.
5. "Worth It," Fifth Harmony (feat. Kid Ink): This Fifth Harmony song > any Destiny’s Child or Spice Girls song. Again, don’t @ me.
4. "Stir It Up," Patti Labelle: Ms. Patti is a Philadelphia treasure and this song is as peppy as it gets. I’d really like to interview her. Patti, if you see this, please drop a line.
3. "Crazy in Love," Beyonce (feat Jay-Z): My bride and I walked off a Bahamas beach to this track moments after exchanging vows and rings. That kind of personal tie to a pop song – whatever it may be – never fades. (Plus, I think the Beyhive would have attacked if I didn't have her on the medal stand.)
2. "If It Isn’t Love," New Edition: This song is a testament to how New Edition weathered the Bobby Brown storm and reclaimed their spot atop the pop world. This song has made me want to pull over, get out of the car and dance on more than one occasion. I assume I’m not alone in that reaction.
1. "How Will I Know," Whitney Houston: This is not only the best pop song to listen to in traffic, this is the best pop song ever. Whitney – God rest her troubled soul – had the voice of an angel. And it’s a voice that turned in the most aggressive pop stylings I’ve ever heard. Listen to how she ramps it up around 3:06. She’s killing the mic like no one since has been able to kill a mic. Her vocals are less singing and more punching tf out of the air around her. I could listen to Whitney every time I’m in the car. Whitney was the best. (Runner-up Whitney track: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.)