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Tracy Chapman - Fast Car (1988)

  • Video Views 47,460,324
  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 1.89
  • Find this song on: Music Stack

“Fast Car” is a song written and recorded by American singer Tracy Chapman. It was released on April 6, 1988 as ...

“Fast Car” is a song written and recorded by American singer Tracy Chapman. It was released on April 6, 1988 as the lead single from her 1988 self-titled debut studio album. Her appearance on the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute was the catalyst for the song’s becoming a top-ten hit in the United States, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100. In the United Kingdom, it peaked at number four on the UK Singles Chart. “Fast Car” received two Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, as well as a MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Female Video in 1989.

Music and lyrics

According to Metro Weekly critic Chris Gerard, “Fast Car” tells a grittily realistic story of a working poor woman trying to escape the cycle of poverty, set to folk rock music. The song’s arrangement was described by Orlando Sentinel writer Thom Duffy as “subtle folk-rock”, while Billboard magazine’s Gary Trust deemed the record a “folk/pop” song. Dave Marsh said it was perhaps an “optimistic folk-rock narrative”, whose characters are in a homeless shelter.

Critical reception

Rolling Stone ranked the song number 167 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is Chapman’s only song on the list (and the highest ranking song performed and solely written by a female artist). Pitchfork placed the song at number 86 on their list of the 200 Best Songs of the 1980s.

Chart performance

In April 2011 the track entered the UK top ten for the second time at number 4 after Michael Collings performed it on Britain’s Got Talent. The single was certified Platinum in the United Kingdom by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in 2014, based on digital downloads and streaming. The song has sold 661,500 copies in the United Kingdom, as of January 2016.

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