When asked once about his beliefs, This American Life creator Ira Glass replied that he believes “the car is the best place to listen to the radio.” That seems to be a culturally supported perception, or at least it has been in over the past half-century in America. But does it hold true in other countries? Does listening to the radio in the car feel as good in London, Buenos Aires, Mumbai, and Tokyo as it does in Chicago, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles?
You can see and hear for yourself with the wealth of virtual urban-driving-and-radio-listening experiences on offer at Drive & Listen, where you can take your pick from any of the aforementioned cities and 40 others besides. The site makes this possible by bringing together two forms of media that have come into their own on the internet of the 21st century: streaming radio and streaming video.
In most every major metropolitan area, radio stations now make their broadcasts available online. At the same time, Youtubers have by now shot and uploaded a great many through-the windshield views of all those places, creating the once-unlikely entertainment genre of the driving video.
Here we’ve included some prime examples from popular Youtube driver J Utah, whose scope includes American cities large and small as well as such world capitals as Tokyo, Paris, Singapore, Hong Hong, and São Paulo. All in 4K video.
Click on one of the cities on Drive & Listen’s menu, and chances are you’ll see one of J Utah’s videos. It will come with a streaming-radio soundtrack, sourced from one of the stations in the city or country on display. Your virtual Havana drive may be accompanied by announcements of the news of the day, your virtual Istanbul drive by Turkish rock, your virtual Chicago drive by an NPR affiliate (perhaps even WBEZ, home of This American Life), your virtual Guadalajara drive by soccer scores, your virtual Miami drive by straight-ahead jazz, your virtual Berlin drive by Patti Smith.
Each time you select a city, you’ll get a different combination of radio station and driving footage. As every driver knows, day driving and night driving — to say nothing of rush hour versus the wee hours — feels completely different, and so the drivers of Youtube have shot at all possible times. Some of their routes thread right between downtown skyscrapers, while others stick to freeways along the outskirts. As a resident of Seoul, I can tell you that Drive & Listen accurately conveys the experience of riding in a cab through that city — provided you first crank the video speed up to 2x.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.