The phrase "rat race" comes from the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running in a wheel or around a maze. It is generally used regarding the unyielding struggle to get ahead of rivals, particularly in a competitive work context.
Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes wrote this song about how most people returned to the rat race following the first year of lockdown. "The pandemic was an equalizer for most humans," he told Apple Music. "When we get to the end of the pandemic, it's as if every rat has completed the race and now they've got a choice: Do you want to go back in the maze or do you want to go into something else? The sad thing is a lot of people will go back in the maze."
Carter takes issue over Boris Johnson's Conservative government during this song. "I needed a summary of the feelings of the past couple of years," he told The Sun in a 2021 interview. "It's been bleak and it kept finding its way back into my writing. Boris and his lot took an impossible and tragic situation and used it as an opportunity to get rich. They put profit before people, as the Tories always do."
Other artists that have recorded songs titled "Rat Race" include Bob Marley, Billy Idol, Enter Shikari, Andy Mineo and The Specials, the latter achieving a #5 placing on the UK singles chart in 1980.
Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes laid down "Rat Race" for their Sticky album. The band recorded the record in locked-down London with guitarist Dean Richardson acting as producer. "I was constantly writing about energy and everything that was lost," Carter told Apple Music. "I always wanted it to be more of a celebratory album rather than a lockdown album. That was the most fun part: figuring out what I wanted to talk about that I was really f---ing excited about getting back in my life - essentially all the ways that you can get sticky."
"The Way" by Fastball was inspired by the story of an elderly couple from Texas who drove to a nearby family reunion and kept going. Fastball's bass player imagined them taking off and having fun like they were young. The story didn't end well: the couple was later found dead after they crashed in a canyon.