After being relieved from his duty at Groupon following the company's epic fall from grace, former CEO Andrew Mason decided to take a little time off, tune up his guitar, and record Hardly Workin', a seven-song album of motivational business songs available on Spotify and iTunes. "This album pulls some of the most important learnings from my years at the helm of one of the fastest growing businesses in history, and packages them as music," Mason said.
Mason's album isn't terrible, if you think of his competition as tech CEOs rather than professional musicians. It's got lilting melodies, earnest and straightforward lyrics, and ultrarepetitive hooks. Think Raffi-meets–Jack Welch. Let's take a listen.
Track No. 1: "Look No Further"
In a sentence: Get your start-up ideas from nature, not school.
Representative lyric: "If you’re seeking business wisdom/ You don’t need no MBA/ Look no further than the beauty/ That surrounds us every day."
Verdict: B. The song is a C-minus, but the message is an A. Don't go to business school, kids.
Track No. 2: "The Way to Work"
In a sentence: Commuting is fun.
Representative lyric: "Driving through an urban forest/ 35 and the trees have blurred/ That’s when I find solutions/ To the problems that occur."
Verdict: D. Maybe businessmen in Chicago get good ideas while commuting to work; for the rest of us, it's Candy Crush and podcasts.
Track No. 3: "My Door Is Always Open"
In a sentence: Don't be scared of your boss.
Representative lyric: "Yeah I need you to come to me when something’s wrong, son/ My door is always open."
Verdict: B. Musically, the song is pretty good (if only because it's a near replica of "Rainbow Connection," a modern classic). The message isn't bad, either. Workplace transparency is important — just ask Ray Dalio.
Track No. 4: "Risin' Above the Pack"
In a sentence: Don't be a dick at work.
Representative lyric: "Always do what you say you’re gonna do/ Don’t bring people problems but bring them solutions/ Yeah with self confidence and humility."'
Verdict: C-minus. The song is good (nice gospel-choir cameo!). But the message falls a little flat. Why should I take advice like "make yourself indispensable" from a guy who did exactly the opposite?
Track No. 5: "K.I.S.S."
In a sentence: Steve Jobs was cool.
Representative lyric: "The skill in design is learning how to find/ Not what to add but what to take away."
Verdict: B. A song weighing in on the skeuomorphism debate would have gotten an A, but we can't fault Mason for trying to edge in on Kanye's Steve Jobs–worship.
Track No. 6: "Stretch"
In a sentence: Blah blah blah, workplace excellence.
Representative lyric: "You’ve got to stay focused and retain that hunger/ Or you’ll never ever be the next Charlie Munger."
Verdict: F. Andrew, let's have a talk. The thing we were most worried about, while downloading your album, was that it would have a rap song. Please no rap song, please no rap song, we pleaded with the universe. And yet, here you are, inviting a rapper named "Bishop Lamont" to guest on your album, with lyrics like "It doesn’t come easy you’ve got to stay determined/ It might look like magic but I’m not Merlin." I'm not sure why you thought it was a good idea to do this, but it wasn't. Please go to time-out.
Track No. 7: "It's Up to Us"
In a sentence: I don't know. Start a company, maybe? My ears were still too damaged from the rap verse on the previous track to give this one a fair listen.
Bottom line: Mason's debut album is pretty hokey, but it's not horrible as executive vanity projects go. (Again, the competitive set is tech CEOs, not musicians.) You can't exactly fault Mason for doing something for himself, after years of struggling to get Groupon's stock price out of the gutter. And it seems like he's having fun. And if his goal all along was to troll the media into taking a joke album seriously? Well, that worked out pretty well, too.