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The Heat Beat: The Music of Phoenix Radio and beyond: Top five songs to avoid during a road trip 

by Jess Szabo’, Arts Writer

Warm weather is finally here in Utica, and warm weather means summer activities. Day trips and longer road trips are often one of those activities, as locals head to nearby festivals and fairs, or visit friends who accompany them back to enjoy our summer events. A single internet search can provide numerous options and ideas for songs to include on a car trip. But what about the ones you should avoid? Here are the “Heat Beat” top five:

Marconi Union: Weightless

Utica Phoenix readers may remember reading about ambient music artist Marconi Union and their song “Weightless” in the May edition of The Heat Beat. The song was featured in our mental health and wellness column, because it is known to be the most relaxing song around. This makes it the perfect song to listen to once you have gotten off the road. But it should never be played in a car or any other vehicle in a way that can be heard by the person driving. “Weightless” has been found to be so relaxing, it lulls people to sleep. 

Pearl Jam (or J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers): Last Kiss

A catchy retro pop tune, the music to this song would make a great accompaniment to a road trip. But the reason the couple is having a “last kiss” is because the girl is dying in the guy’s arms after a car crash. The contrast between the music and the lyrics’ subject matter has always made this song a bit difficult to listen to in any situation for me, but it would be especially uncomfortable to hear while riding in a car. The music search website Spinditty lists Pearl Jam’s version of this song as number nine on their list of fifty-three songs about car crashes. In the interest of keeping everyone’s anxiety under control and plain good taste, avoid all of them while on a road trip of any length. 

Richard Wagner: Ride of the Valkyries

Most people listen to Rock, Rap, or Country while on a road trip. Choosing Opera instead, or at least varying your playlist with some piece of Opera would certainly make the drive stand out. Just make sure to avoid “Ride of the Valkyries.” Think of it as the opposite of “Weightless,” both in genre and in effect. While “Weightless” will almost guarantee an accident due to the driver falling asleep, “Ride of the Valkyries” will energize the driver so much they are almost sure to end the trip with a speeding ticket. 

Rupert Holmes: The Pina Colada Song

This song tells the story of a man in the pre-internet days searching the newspaper personals with the goal of cheating on his wife. When he answers an ad, he finds that the ad he answered was written by his wife in an attempt to cheat on him. Rather than being angry or hurt by the mutual betrayal, the incident makes the couple realize they are each other’s dream date. The absurd story is not made any more enjoyable to listen to by the music or the vocals. While the previous three songs were selected for this list in the interest of safety and comfort for the driver and passengers, this one makes the list for being plain annoying. Nothing bad will happen to anyone if you play it during a road trip, it’s just cruel to play it in a situation where people can’t turn around and walk out of the room. 

Golden Earring: Radar Love

“Radar Love” probably seems like an odd choice for a song to avoid on a road trip playlist. While some fans speculate that the lyrics tell a story of driving while high, most agree that it is about driving on due to a special connection between the main character and his girlfriend. It is described on some websites as “the ultimate driving song.” However, this song has the same issue as “Last Kiss,” it’s just a bit harder to catch. Within the course of the song, the narrator’s special connection with his girlfriend causes him to drive carelessly, and die in a crash. In the song, everything is still okay. The special connection extends into eternity. But while the knowledge that we will see our loved ones in Heaven is indeed comforting, the song may not be ideal to listen to when you…and your passengers…have firm plans to remain on earth for a while following your trip. 

In addition to these songs, avoid any “road trip” songs that might distract the driver or seriously upset someone in the car. There is no need to play political correctness police and refuse to play any song that might bother somebody somewhere in some way someday. If you’re a passenger whose driver has invited you to select some music, remember that they still need to be able to watch the road. And everyone in the car is in a confined space with no way to leave. A quick “Any songs we should skip over during this drive?” and respecting everyone’s answers is a good way to avoid playing that song that would force the guy in the backseat to think about his ex for the four-hour drive or make people think about crashes instead of the scenery or their destination. 


Jess Szabo
Jess Szabo
Jess Szabo' is a novelist, writing teacher, and content writer for Utica area artists. Her online workspace can be found at

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