When Groupon CEO Andrew Mason was ousted from the company he founded, few expected his next move to be an album of motivational rock tracks. Yet here we are, with Hardly Workin' now out on iTunes, Rdio, and various other streaming services.
In a blog post, Mason says that the album "pulls some of the most important learnings from my years at the helm of one of the fastest growing businesses in history," and that "executives, mid-level management, and front-line employees are all sure to find valuable takeaways."
"I've probably listened to the album over a dozen times now," he adds, "and with each spin I feel like I learn something."
It's not entirely sure how serious Mason is about his new vocation — this is, after all, the man who inserted a Battletoads reference into a memo acknowledging his firing. What is clear is that Hardly Workin' is a slick, expensive-sounding production with significant effort put into it. Mason enlisted the talents of producer Don Gehman, who has worked with John Mellencamp, REM, and Hootie & the Blowfish, and recorded the album with professional musicians in Los Angeles.
The result is a competent and unremarkable 80s rock record that gains a fair bit of individuality from Mason's unusual lyrical approach. "I was climbing Machu Picchu / I beheld that splendid view / An idea came for a hundred million of shareholder value," he sings on album opener "Look No Further," a country-tinged rocker with a sax solo to drive the point home.
"You’ve got to stay focused and retain that hunger or you’ll never ever ever be the next Charlie Munger."
The album does throw the odd curveball. "My Door Is Always Open" is a slightly creepy ballad where Mason assures what sounds like a small girl that he always wants to hear her ideas, and "Stretch" features a funk bassline, a vocoder, and a guest verse from former Dr. Dre protégé Bishop Lamont. "It doesn't come easy, you gotta stay determined. It might look like magic but I'm not Merlin," raps Lamont. "You’ve got to stay focused and retain that hunger or you’ll never ever ever be the next Charlie Munger."
Hardly Workin' is little more than a vanity project from an ex-CEO with money to burn; its relentless exuberance and positivity make it clear that Mason is having fun. So if you like the idea of Andrew WK fronting REO Speedwagon and singing songs about startup success, you've found your perfect album. For everyone else, it remains a curiosity that will at least make you laugh for one reason or another.