Two of our Most Popular Pop Songs Are About Work. Why?

Summer was supposed to be relaxing. But two of summer’s biggest hits were all about “work work work”.

Work, work, work, work, work, work…change sides…work, work work, work, work, work

Remember last summer when the anthem of the summer was Omi’s Cheerleader?

Or the year before when it was Sia’s Chandelier?

This summer — it’s technically still summer! — instead of spending our Friday nights dancing to songs about keeping our glasses full ’til the morning light, or a support system in significant others, we’ve had two huge pop hits about how we … spend 40 hours of our week?

It’s hard to go a full 8 hours without the Caribbean beats and addictive chorus of Rhianna & Drake’s “work, work, work, work, work” coursing through your head, despite the fact it’s that time of year where we usually hold ourselves accountable for taking a break.

“He say me have to / Work, work, work, work, work, work!”

Rhi Rhi and Drake topped the charts with “Work,” and Fifth Harmony introduced themselves to us with “Work from Home.” (Both songs were originally called “Work,” but when 5th Harmony realized they were competing for attention with “the queen”, they decided to rename their track.)

Certainly Americans have reason to be obsessing over work. We’re working longer hours than at any time since statistics have been tracked — and working longer than our counterparts in the industrialized world. Retirement is something that happens at a later age, if at all. And people are taking less and less vacation.

The lyrics on the Rihanna & Drake collaboration are less clear — though they seem to be about her doing some work, and also being in some sort of relationship with Drake, which may or may not be work.

America is the only country in the world with an advanced economy that doesn’t require companies to provide paid vacation for workers. Of course, when we are given vacation days, the majority of us don’t take them: Four in ten Americans don’t use all of their allotted time off, and in total nearly 200 million vacation days are unused each year.

We even spend our vacations worrying about work. When asked why people don’t take vacation days, nearly half of respondents said they feared returning to even more work than when they left.

In Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home,” they push against the daily grind, and sing about playing hooky. It’s safe to assume that the group is not rallying for privileges for working remotely — the song turns work into a metaphor for sex: “You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work. Let my body do the work, work, work, work, work, work.”

“Let’s put it into motion / I’mma give you a promotion”

The lyrics on the Rihanna & Drake collaboration are less clear — though they seem to be about her doing some work, and also being in some sort of relationship with Drake, which may or may not be work.

It’s no surprise that our infatuation with work has seeped into popular culture. Americans don’t just work to live, but live to work.

So while summer may be mostly behind us, on our next day off we’ll be toasting to Rhi Rhi, Drake & Fifth Harmony.


Rosie & Faris Yakob are co-founders of Genius Steals, an itinerant strategy and innovation consultancy, built on the belief that ideas are new combinations.

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