By Heather Muse, editor
FORTUNE — You know what ’90s alternative bands like Hootie and the Blowfish, Semisonic, Lit and Sugar Ray were missing? It wasn’t driving power-pop riffs, harmonic vocals and soulful acoustic ballads. No, what those bands were missing were lyrics about…business. Thankfully, former Groupon CEO Andrew Mason has sunk some of his severance into a vanity project that is supposed to be an “inspirational” concept album about succeeding in business while trying really hard.
And while the lyrics may inspire aspiring techies to reach for the startups, musically it’s stylistically inconsistent, moving from acoustic grooves with big backing vocals to distorted production and…rapping. (This is probably the first time Charlie Munger has been mentioned in a rap lyric: “You gotta keep that hunger/otherwise you’ll never turn into Charlie Munger.”)
“My Door Is Always Open,” an acoustic duet about manager-employee relations, is all about asking workers at all levels to reach out to management with any issues. It sounds like something left on the cutting room floor of The Muppet Show. “K.I.S.S.” name-checks Steve Jobs and the Mac’s famous one-button mouse. “Risin’ Above the Pack” features a guitar riff that is quite reminiscent of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” and is about making it to the top of the sales leader-board: “Know what’s expected and exceed it.”
The production on Hardly Workin’ is excellent but is lost on the material. It’s bland, saccharine and a prime example of “just because you have the means to do something does not mean you should do it.” Plus, Mason breaks one of the cardinal rules of music promotion — don’t ever shoot your promo photo in front of a brick wall. To quote a friend, “For once I am glad Spotify’s royalty payouts are awful.”
All told, Hardly Workin’ hardly works.
Score: 1.4 out of 10