Ask a 16-year-old: A car is everything. From that euphoric moment walking out of the DMV with a freshly-printed license and the thought “These suckers say I can drive!” to soul-sucking rush hour bottlenecks, cars are a more significant presence in our lives than some family members. They’re an odd mix of utility and luxury, freedom and adherence to the rules. In many cities in this country, it’s impossible to function without one. That’s why even though it’s only been a hundred years or so since the Model T made maybe the most successfully invasive product debut that century, the songs that we sing about cars are every bit as culturally important as love songs, murder ballads, and other major topics that earn prominent spots in our lore.
That said, we thought we’d take a look at exactly what we’re talking about when we sing about cars. Call it a taxonomy, an attempt to condense an entire subject matter into its smallest parts. When we sing about cars, we sing about the cars we race (the Daytona 500 is coming up, after all), the cars we want, the cars we have (which are seldom as awesome as the cars we want), the cars we cruise, and the cars we flaunt (frequently for wooing purposes). Whatever your speed, there’s probably a car song out there about you.