No Earbuds Allowed: 5 Songs For Commuting By Bicycle

NPR's soon-to-be London correspondent Ari Shapiro on his trusty steed. (NPR)

Ari Shapiro is wrapping up his tenure covering the White House for NPR and is about to make the transition to a new role as NPR's London correspondent. To distract him from readying himself for the big move, NPR Music asked him for this playlist.

I ride my bike to work every morning, and one of the scariest things I see is people with earbuds in their ears, but no helmet in sight. That's not me, I swear. I always wear a helmet, and I never wear headphones or earbuds. Cars are unpredictable! Bicyclists need to be aware of their surroundings!

But I confess that I sometimes tuck my iPhone into the inside pocket of my suit jacket and turn on the volume just loud enough for me to hear it as I ride. I love Morning Edition, but it doesn't carry over the sound of traffic. And I want to listen to something that will make me start the workday feeling happy. So here are five songs that make me pick up the pace and gird myself for a day of battles at the White House.

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Advisory: This video contains profanity.

Avan Lava

"Feels Good" includes the highly appropriate line, "What does it mean when you work in your dreams?" — a sentiment with which many Washington worker bees can empathize. If you ask me, it means you need to go to an Avan Lava concert and watch the singer crowd-surf on an inflatable raft.


This is the kind of pounding electro-pop cotton candy that makes you think you could smash your bicycle head-on into a car and the car would be the one to crumple. I have not tried this move, and neither should you, but still.

Shirley Bassey

Written by Rufus Wainwright for Shirley Bassey, "Apartment" is a trans-Atlantic collaboration that captures my life right now, as I prepare to move from Washington to London for a job on NPR's international desk. This flamenco-tinged product of a North American songwriter and a European singer speaks directly to my needs. As Dame Shirley belts, "If you've any leads on an apartment / Tell me please." Seriously. Tell me please, in the comments section.

Pet Shop Boys

"Vocal" is a song best suited for the ride home. I made it! The day is over! For the 15 minutes I spend in the bike lane, whizzing by cars as they inch through rush-hour traffic, this song lets me imagine that the night will be an epic adventure — as long as the iPhone doesn't interrupt the music, buzzing with a late-breaking news story.

Janelle Monae

This was my theme song for the government shutdown. If the American economy were to actually collapse, this is how I'd want it to sound.

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