Sometimes, life can be cruel. Andrew Mason was ousted of CEO of Groupon in late February and today he's released Hardly Workin', his debut solo album. I'd like to tell you it's one of the best debut albums of 2013, but it's not.
I don't want to belittle his accomplishment. Writing, recording, and releasing a collection of seven songs is nothing to scoff at. I'm sure it's hard work and Mason put his heart and soul into the project. It's likely one of the best, if not the best, such works by any former tech executive, at least until Microsoft founder Paul Allen's all-star album comes out in August.
But, by releasing the album on iTunes and putting it up on Spotify, Mason has set himself up for comparisons to some of the greatest music ever recorded, and Hardly Working isn't that, not even close.
Business Insider already did a fine job analyzing the album's lyrical content as it relates Manson's career in business, so I'll focus on the music instead.
The opening of the album's first track, "Look No Further," initially recalls a warmed-over Dave Matthews track, but when Mason's vocal comes in, it sounds like a commercial jingle. His vocals are too far up in the mix, have no flow, and sound clumsy. According to his Wikipedia page, Mason once interned at Electric Audio recording studio with noted engineer Steve Albini, who is supposedly an inspiration for his work ethic. Unfortunately, Mason's songs have none of the in-your-face attitude and rawness that are a hallmark of Albini's recordings.
"The Way to Work" sounds like some '80s throwback, sort like a bad Cars outtake with none of the mystery. It does, however, build to a nice celebratory chorus. This track is serviceable, but it's doubtful I'd ever choose to listen to it again on my own volition.
"My Door is Always Open" is a cringeworthy acoustic confessional. Not sure who the other vocalist is, but she makes Mason sound great by comparison. Ouch.
When I was a young lad, I really liked Kansas's 1977 hit "Carry on Wayward Son." Mason's "Risin' Above the Pack" sounds similar to that tune, except it's nowhere as good.
Sheesh, Mason really is taking me on a trip back to my childhood. The opening of "K.I.S.S." sounds like the "Sesame Street" theme. It doesn't get any better than that.
"Stretch" opens up like some lost Frankie Goes to Hollywood track with processed vocals, funk guitars, and female backing vocals. However, it goes completely off the rails with a weak rap segment.
When the album's last track, "It's Up to Us," wouldn't play on my Spotify player, I jokingly thought I'd write it's my favorite track on the album. But then I heard the minute-long sample on iTunes. It's an overwrought power-ballad with choir-like backing vocals. Again, if it's up to me, I'd never listen to it again.
Mason's Hardly Working, available for free streaming on Spotify or for $9.99 on iTunes, is hardly a bargain at either price. As Mason knows, time is money, and listening to this is a waste of your time — if you consider there are thousands of other superior recordings to enjoy. At least I got paid to do it.
Sorry, Andrew. I hope you don't take this personally and if our professional paths should ever cross, please don't hold this against me.