Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tracy Chapman understands the freedom of a friend’s “Fast Car”

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In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of Car Seat Headrest’s new record: songs about cars.

Tracy Chapman, “Fast Car” (1988)

I never enjoyed owning a car. I’m bad at taking care of them and worse at driving them, which has little to do with my ability to do either of those things and more with my lack of interest in them. I do, however, love riding in a car. Even when you’re not the one driving, the sense of freedom, the possibility of escape—it’s all there, which is probably why some of my favorite memories are of road trips in the passenger seat, music blaring, the open road unfolding before me.


Tracy Chapman captures it best in her hit single “Fast Car,” when she perfectly hits on the most moving part of those experiences with, “I had a feeling that I belonged / I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.” In those moments, as her soft singing picks up and her guitar strumming quickens, it’s almost like the butterflies you get when a car speeds down a hill. It’s exhilarating how out of your control things can be as you put your trust in someone else and place your hopes in their hands. In Chapman’s case, she longs to “finally see what it means to be living,” to not only escape a place that makes her feel like an outsider but also, more importantly, find the spot where she can flourish.

The beauty of it is, a friend with a fast car is just the start you need to steer your life in a totally new direction.


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