After being ousted from Groupon and writing one of the most candid farewell letters ever, Andrew Mason decided to grow a beard and record an album.
The result is “Hardly Workin‘,” a soft-rock album and workplace manifesto that sounds about as good as that description implies. Lucky for you, I listened to it so you don’t have to. Here are my first impressions:
- It seems odd to me that Mason says “You don’t need no MBA” in the opening track “Look no Further,” considering that Groupon’s stock price has risen considerably since his ouster. While “vivid life experiences” may have helped him create Groupon, they didn’t seem to help his business sense.
- “My Door is Always Open” is an ode to office transparency, complete with young kids singing the part of potentially disenfranchised workers before being reminded by Mason of how important it is to share ideas. It seems a bit disrespectful to compare employees with children, though.
- “Risin’ Above the Pack” sounds like exactly the sort of song a manager would want to play to his or her employees in order to motivate them. For precisely that reason, I’d wager that they’d all probably hate it.
- Mason should have taken his own advice in “K.I.S.S.” and foregone the attempt at a country twang. My English major side appreciates the irony in a song about simplicity being made worse by its singer trying to be overly complex, but that still doesn’t make it better.
- “Stretch” could have been made significantly better by Mason replacing the nearly three-and-a-half minute song with him chanting “push yourself when setting goals.”
- “It’s up to us” really wants to be the great innovation anthem for the tech industry. It was up to Mason to make it actually work. He didn’t pull it off.
Overall, “Hardly Workin’” is a cheesy mess. I think the album’s greatest sin, more than any of the goofy lyrics (seriously, who actually uses “shareholder value” in a song?) or its overly self-congratulatory tone, is the poor engineering. Mason may have worked with Steve Albini prior to founding Groupon, but the vocals are often muddy or hidden behind instruments.
Since “Hardly Workin’” is so dominated by lyrically complex songs, the fact that the lyrics are buried half the time hurts whatever feeble attempt at a message Mason is trying to get across. And while the album claims to be insightful, the songs are big on platitudes and short on well-explained advice.
In the end, I think the success of “Hardly Workin’” may be in a different part of the self-help section: weight loss. Its corniness is enough to make me lose my appetite.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.