This is a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote for Lychee Mag, an online lifestyle publication founded by my cousin Alexa (being a media mogul seems to run in the family!).
Sometimes when I listen to pop music, I wonder if I’m living in some postmodern iteration of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the story, some conniving weavers (record labels) make the emperor (‘musicians’ like Fifth Harmony) a new suit of clothes (‘music’ like Work From Home) that they say are invisible to those that are stupid. In reality, they make no clothes at all, and sit back and watch as the emperor parades around naked while his subjects (the listeners) pretend to admire the nonexistent clothing for fear of being labelled stupid.
Work From Home by Fifth Harmony was released in March 2016 and couples a forgettable tune with lyrics that make absolutely no sense. I immediately dismissed the track as another generic pop song that would be forgotten by the end of the year – an opinion I naively believed any reasonable human being would share.
“How terrible is this song?” I declared as Work From Home came on the radio while I was on a road trip with some friends.
My remark was met with laughter – but only my own. The other occupants of the car stared at me with a mixture of shock and rage. The driver of the car who, up until that moment, I had had a great deal of respect for, said “What are you talking about? Everyone loves this song!”.
He had a point, as I was soon to find out upon confronting the Internet in disbelief. Work From Home has garnered rave reception from many music reviewers. Critics laud the ‘sexiness’ of the song, which boggles my mind because it’s literally a song about workplace relations – and a grossly inaccurate one at that. A song where the word ‘work’, a word one does not usually associate with sexiness, is bleated at the listener 98 times.
“Go and watch the music video and all will become clear,” said my friend, who you can now safely assume is a heterosexual male.
I duly obliged, and upon watching the music video I subsequently became all the more enraged. The music video depicts the girls of Fifth Harmony pleading to some construction workers to work from home – the one industry where it’s literally impossible to do so. Sorry ladies, but until the building and construction industry becomes fully automated there will be absolutely no scope for your hubby to work from home. Your man will have to continue to ‘put in them hours’ in order to get the job done, unless robot tradies do get rolled out across the industry, in which case he can then definitely fulfil your desires to work from home – minus, of course, the ‘work’ part.
Upon deeper inspection of a song that, admittedly, was probably not made to be the subject of deep analysis, I began to wonder if there was something more sinister at play here. “Imma get you fired,” croons Camila Cabello playfully while dancing near a cement mixer. The music video later features her prancing about with a blowtorch, and all throughout the girls are wearing an irresponsibly minimal amount of safety gear. At best they are being massive attention-seeking nuisances distracting these workers from their jobs, and at worst they are putting themselves at severe risk of injury.
In this context, the line “Imma get you fired” suddenly has a much more nefarious undertone. For some inexplicable reason, these wonderful girls seem really hellbent on getting these poor hardworking construction workers fired from their jobs – and worse, potentially never rehired anywhere else ever again. I mean, your boss is unlikely to give you a good reference for breaching OH&S protocols.
We as a society urgently need to revisit the lyrics of Work From Home. While we have been assuming that the girls are singing euphemistically about getting their boyfriends to spend more time with them at home, the reality is that a literal interpretation of these lyrics actually paints a picture of a dark, dystopian future. It shows us a world where the richest 1% are trying to consolidate their position at the top of the food chain of capitalism by automating the blue collar workforce, and marketing it as a positive revolution through scantily clad women who actively encourage negligent workplace behaviour, thereby giving employers the right to fire workers without having to invent some pretext of cutting costs. The girls of Fifth Harmony wax lyrical about the virtues of “work work work work work work work” while cruelly taking it away.
The story of The Emperor’s New Clothes ends with a child who sees through all the pretence and points out that the emperor is in fact wearing no clothes at all, which galvanises the rest of the crowd to take up the cry. Well, my dear reader, mark the day you took the time to read this article because, like the (a?) child, this writer is going down in the history books as the revolutionary who was brave enough to call out Work From Home as the shambolic rallying cry for corporate greed that it really is.