Grasping at Straws: Singing in the Car

Welcome to Grasping at Straws, the weekly blog where the unheralded, the underappreciated, and the long forgotten get their time to shine! Each week, I will “make the case” for an unpopular opinion regarding any topic or category of culture and life. Suggestions for future topics will be taken and considered at any of Sour Power’s social media channels, but please, keep it classy.

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Driving can be a stressful and potentially hazardous undertaking, and the roads are often filled with less-than-stellar drivers who are very displeased about their position behind the wheel among other less-than-stellar and displeased drivers. It can always be considered a success when an outing in your car results in you getting to your destination safely and in no worse of a mood. Plenty of things can happen while driving that can throw off your day, whether it be in a minor or major way.

However, there is one thing that can undoubtedly improve your day. It’s possibly the most cathartic activity that has ever been known to humans. It’s the ultimate no-judgment, no-holding-back action you can ever perform in your life. And that something is singing in the car, preferably when you’re driving alone.

Unfortunately, if you’ve read the title of this blog then that wasn’t much of a surprise reveal. Still, it felt very triumphant when you read it, didn’t it? That’s because everyone has positive emotions attached to singing in the car. Everyone does it, and everyone is the greatest singer ever when they’re belting out their favorite songs in an otherwise empty moving vehicle.

There are several different aspects of a fulfilling car concert. They are all very essential and perfectly ridiculous. You are probably already doing it without even realizing but, in order to consider yourself an expert car-singer, you must execute each of these with the precision of the singer of a-ha hitting the high note in “Take On Me” (a Hall of Fame singing-in-the-car track). Let’s run through some of them:

Automate Your Music

Safety is our #1 concern, so I cannot start this any other way than to say you should absolutely make sure your music will continuously play while you’re driving without the need for you to manually play something. Whether you have a playlist set up or you’re listening to the radio or anything else like that, under no circumstances do I advocate for fiddling with your phone while driving to find a particular song.

Volume Sweet Spot

Discovering the right volume for your music while singing in the car is paramount. You want it to be loud enough that your voice doesn’t overpower the actual artist, but not all the way up as to completely drown yourself out. Ideally, you want to create that perfect balance where it almost sounds like you’re a background singer to the lead vocalist. You want to be able to hear yourself just enough so that, in your mind, you’re hitting every single note perfectly and you sound exactly like the artist.

The bass setting is very important as well. Especially if you’re a hip-hop fan, you need that car to be knocking. I recommend 2 clicks above halfway, give or take 1 click. Do not be overly ambitious with the bass, trust me. The worst thing you can do is turn the bass up too much. If the vibration from the bass is approaching the volume of the vocals, you’ve gone too far.

Facial Expressions Are Your Friend

You know how I said turning the bass up too much is the worst thing you can do? I was wrong. The actual worst thing you can do is not make a bunch of dumb facial expressions that correspond with the words/feeling of the song. No one is looking at you. No one is around to ridicule you. This is your time to act like you’re starring in your own music video. Your face should be twisting and contorting and emoting like you’re in a soap opera.

If the song is getting super romantic and the singer is being very charismatic, don’t be afraid to shoot a wink along with a seductive grin. If it’s an aggressive/boastful type of song, get a snarl going, open your eyes wide, and work the eyebrows. If it’s a very mellow, introspective song, consider curling up your bottom lip and putting on that pre-cry sort of face but without the tears (you know exactly what I’m talking about). Drake songs seem to bring this out fairly often.

One thing I advise against is looking in the rear-view mirror while making your faces. It tends to shatter the illusion you’re creating in your head about how you look, which is about 124% cooler than how it actually appears. Making grandiose facial expressions is mostly about further placing yourself inside the song, so a disconnect from your rational self really helps accomplish that. Unless you want to just give yourself a good laugh. Then by all means, go ahead and look at yourself making those stupid facial expressions.

There’s No Note You Can’t Hit

The whole fun of singing in the car stems from its indifference to how good of a singer you actually are. As long as you’re jamming along and enjoying yourself, you shouldn’t care how you sound. This is why I strongly encourage reaching for a note that is absolutely out of your range every so often. I’m talking John Legend about 3:00 in on “Ordinary People” or Frank Ocean leading into the 2nd chorus on “Sweet Life.” Not only is it fun to make a fool of yourself from time to time (especially when no one else is around), but also it serves as a great bravery test in the moment. If you’re aware that a big note is coming up in a song, your brain will automatically start going back and forth on whether or not you’re going to go for it. Your vocal chords might be saying no, but your heart is always saying yes. And when you do reach back and let out that note with everything you got, it’s going to feel great, no matter how disastrously off-key you were.

A similar thing to this idea is attempting to recite an extremely difficult rap verse. Something I’m very proud of is my ability to nail Chance the Rapper’s verse on “Miracle” by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, and I primarily accomplished this by practicing many times while driving alone. It’s really fun to try to rattle off a verse like that, whether you succeed or not. Take advantage of the freedom that comes with singing in the car.


There’s plenty of other ways to capitalize on your car-singing experience, such as briefly turning the volume WAY up at a big moment in a song, such as a heavy drop in an EDM song, or a huge crescendo in an Adele song. Another fun thing is to spot someone else singing in their car and make glorious eye contact. Real recognize real.

Above all else, singing in the car is a sacred activity, one that you should never hesitate to do. Anytime you’re having a rough day, hopping in your car and driving to absolutely nowhere while cranking your favorite put-me-in-a-better-mood music is some of the best self-therapy you can ever perform. It’s also a great way to amplify the times you’re already feeling really good about yourself.

Whether you’re a great singer or not, something about knowing that no one can penetrate your little world in your car is unbelievably comforting. We all know that music is incredible in its ability to move us to emotions of all kinds, and singing along is the best way to let those emotions out and really feel whatever it is that’s going on with you at that moment. Singing in the car is almost like a cheat code we’ve found that allows us to strip down to our truest selves and behave exactly how we want without any inhibitions. It’s truly a miraculous phenomenon and it should be cherished at all times.

Or maybe, I’m just grasping at straws.