No matter how many years you’ve been working in the marketing or agency world, no one is immune to a creative block. We’ve all experienced that agonizing frustration of opening a document, typing a sentence, deleting and repeating it five times, then staring blankly at an empty page wondering how to get started. A creative block can hit any title, any department or any location — especially as many people are working from home and trying to find inspiration and motivation in the same places they eat, sleep, relax and work out. The reality is you can get stuck for a whole host of reasons — including no reason at all!
So how do you shake it off, push through that block and fuel a creative surge to meet your impending deadlines? When time is short and a leisurely nature walk just won’t do, go ahead and blast some “Freedom” by Beyoncé (or whatever your stand-up-and-scream song might be). But in the event your go-to playlists are even feeling a little stale or uninspiring, this blog has you covered.
For your listening pleasure, here’s an hour+ of songs to get your creative juices flowing, hand-picked by members of our creative and video production teams. From Billy Joel to A Tribe Called Quest, there’s sure to be a song on this playlist that can help inspire that next deliverable, or even a quick dance break.
Check out their recos below, and follow this Spotify playlist so you’re prepared the next time a creative block hits.
“New Shoes” by Paolo Nutini
Chase Downie, Graphic Designer
“New Shoes” is a song I’ve had on my playlists since probably 2008 or 2009. It’s fun and upbeat and hard not to dance to. If I’m feeling a little stuck, that’s the vibe I’m looking for. On top of that, it’s literally about changing your perspective and putting yourself in some “new shoes,” and how helpful this can be for your outlook on life.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel
Caitlin Gill, New Business Designer
I think it’s physically impossible not to try and sing along to this song when it comes on. Instantly energizes the room. And, of course, takes you down memory lane with some historical events. Love me some Billy Joel!
Dan Lawton, Copy Editor & Writer
COVID-19 has changed my inspirational tunes. While before it was something from Jon Pardi, Chris Young, Ryan Hurd, Morgan Wallen or Hardy, post-COVID-19 has required more energy. Think “Go Crazy” from Chris Brown, “Something New” from Wiz Khalifa or “Slide” from H.E.R.COVID-19 has required me to manufacture my own energy (which I did anyway, but the need has been heightened), so having some hip-hop and R&B where I can dance around like nobody’s watching has really helped keep my spirits up. Feeling loose lets the creativity flow for me, which high-energy helps to provide.
“Call to Arms” by Sturgill Simpson
Mike Gatti, Executive Creative Director
When I’ve got a big piece of work ahead of me and really need a kickstart to get it moving, this is my go-to. The slide guitar and steady, muted beat set the pace up front, then Simpson’s shouted, get-off-your-ass lyrics up the ante, and when the horn section hits around the two-minute mark, I’m no longer thinking about everything I need to get done; I’m flying through it at Mach 10. A slow burn to pure audio nitroglycerine.
Don Raymond, Associate Creative Director, Content
When my head is jammed up with a new brief or client feedback, I prefer to get lost in a sea of someone else’s syllables. You could say it helps push the garbage out and make space for something new. I’ve been leaning on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Ontheway!”or MAVI’s “Self Love” to help reset things upstairs or lock into a zone.
“Lex” by Ratatat
Drew DiSabatino, Senior Copywriter
Maybe it’s a “me” problem, but as a copywriter I find my brain doesn’t typically have the bandwidth to write my own words when I’m listening to someone else singing different words. When I do find myself in need of a musical boost, my compromise is typically to turn to something instrumental, and more often than not, that something is the 2006 album “Classics” by Ratatat. You can’t go wrong listening to the album straight-through, but “Lex” in particular is a great track for getting into a groove.
“Can I kick it?” by A Tribe Called Quest
Matt Doyle, Executive Producer
Maybe I’m an “old,” but for my money, hip-hop was at its peak in the early 90s. I especially loved listening to anything by Tribe and/or their cohorts De La Soul, Leaders of the New School and the Beastie Boys (“Get it Together” was a close second here).
Any time “Can I Kick It?” comes on, there’s a little switch in my brain that brings me right back to my bedroom desk in high school on a late-night cram sesh, trying to finish up whatever miserable physics or calculus homework I was trying to bullshit my way through on that particular evening. When I tossed that CD on (Google it, kids), I somehow managed to focus and slap something down on paper that would be marginal enough to not get yelled at by my teachers the next day.
Nowadays, I always go back to this track when I need to slap something down on my laptop that will be marginal enough to not get yelled at by Battista and/or Gatti the next day. Tribe still helps me get the job done, 25-ish years later. Respect.
“Open Eye Signal” by Jon Hopkins
Steve Friedman, Copywriter
Whenever there’s a deadline-induced need for creative inspiration, I’ve found I need music that makes me feel like I’m a hacker in a movie who’s completely oblivious to everything going on around him because he’s “in the zone.” For me, the song “Open Eye Signal” by Jon Hopkins does the trick. It’s instrumental, so I can write to it and hear myself think, it has a great sense of energy and momentum and most importantly, it makes whatever I’m doing feel cool and important.
“Light it Up” by One Republic
Vanessa Cardoza, Junior Production Designer
I’m a huge One Republic fan and have seen them twice in concert! Anytime I feel creatively stuck or just want to get amped to start a new project, I always listen to One Republic’s “Light it Up.” They’re a talented group and how they play the guitar and drums in this song blows.my.mind every time I listen to it. I get inspired and motivated, and something in me just clicks. When the three-minute mark hits and the instrumental solo starts, something in me literally lights up and nothing can stop me then!
“Record Year” by Eric Church
Andrew Harris, Creative Director
My go-to for creative inspiration is typically country music. For me, it’s not about the sound or mood it puts me in. It’s the use of language. I’m a sucker for words and phrases with a double meaning or flipping concepts on their head. It’s a great kick in the brain.
“The Birth and Death of the Day” by Explosions in the Sky
Scott Nicholson, Art Director
I’ve been listening to this band for 20 years or so and find most of the time it’s when I’m working. All of their stuff is instrumental, so it’s perfect background music. It’s dynamic and cinematic, and this one comes in at over seven minutes long. There are a lot of ebbs and flows, and they get pretty loud and intense at times, but I find it’s the perfect backdrop to wrangle all the stuff in my head and make any sense of it sometimes. There was one week where I fittingly listened to “The Birth and Death of the Day” every morning and right before I went to sleep during a new biz pitch. Pretty sure it made no difference, but we did win the business.
“Otis” by Jay-Z & Kanye West
Josh Drake, Senior Editor
Mostly anything from Jay-Z gets my creativity flowing, but specifically some of the Jay-Z/Kanye combos. This one always gets me in the right frame of mind.
“A Moment Apart” by Odeza
Cristin Barth, Creative Strategy Director
For the past two years, the only song that gives me not just creative inspiration or concentration, but a real creative SURGE is “A Moment Apart” by ODESZA. I double dog dare you to put headphones on, turn it up to 11 and just let it happen for three minutes and 54 seconds. It speaks for itself.
“Pools” by Glass Animals
Madison Umbrello, Senior Designer
This song is definitely perfect for those times I’m feeling creatively stuck: it’s like a palate cleanser, but for my brain. It’s upbeat enough that it keeps me energized and motivated to work through creative blocks, but it’s also super chill and vibe-y at the same time, which means it’s not too distracting that I struggle to focus. Definitely one of my faves to work to!
“Sacrilege” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
John Mathieu, Creative Director
When I’m deep into my work, I usually listen to classical music or something really mellow (folklore, anyone? … anyone?), but when I’m starting a new project and I want to get it going, I need something a bit more upbeat. I want to tell you that my go-to song is something like “Sicko Mode” (for obvious reasons), and sometimes it is, but throughout the years the song I’ve reached for most consistently is “Sacrilege” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I’m a sucker for a gospel chorus in an unexpected place.
And there you have it, folks — 17 songs to get out of a creative funk. Again, be sure to follow our Spotify playlist to be prepared to break down those blocks. Stay creating!