Gretchen Wilson – “Work Hard, Play Harder”

Juli Thanki | October 12th, 2009

gretchen-wilson-work-hard-play-harderThough she’s had pretty good album sales the past few years, it seems as though Gretchen Wilson’s may have worn out her welcome with country radio; her last two singles, “If I Could Do It All Again” and “The Earrings Song” failed to chart at all. But Wilson’s nothing if not a scrapper, so she’s back, and this time it’s personal–on her personal label, Redneck Records, that is.

“Work Hard, Play Harder” first gained attention last summer when used in commercials for cop drama Saving Grace. The Black Crowes promptly sued, stating that Wilson stole from “Jealous Again.” Whether this is true or not, it’s apparently all been worked out. Too bad the song didn’t get any better in the interim.

Everything you need to know about “Work Hard” is in its title; the rest can be inferred by anyone with the barest knowledge of Wilson’s body of music. But just in case you should somehow forget who the artist is, she helpfully provides some hints, singing “I’m a good-timin’ American daughter/Redneck, blue collar/And I’ll party down to my last dollar,” praising her “rough and rowdy friends,” and eschewing manicured nails.

Yes, it is catchy, and it’s far from horrible, but we’ve heard this song from Gretchen Wilson before. It feels like an attempt to recapture the wild success of similarly themed anthems “Here for the Party,” “All Jacked Up,” and “Redneck Woman,” only it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessors.

It’s nice to hear a mainstream female country singer who isn’t part of the Carrie vs. Taylor war, but at the same time, the failure of her past two singles also raises an important question: has country radio moved on to, as Vince Gill sang it, “the next big thing?” Has the listening public grown tired of Gretchen Wilson’s brand of rowdy party music?

Maybe it’s worn out its welcome a bit, but “Redneck Woman” is a good song. Wilson can also sing a fine ballad, as she proved with “When I Think About Cheating” and “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today.” Continuing to peddle “good enough” but otherwise unmemorable filler like this is doing her talent a disservice, especially when Wilson’s made it clear that she can do better.

Thumbs Down

  1. Linda
    October 12, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I enjoyed her set at Farm Aid. She is still enjoying herself, and puts on quite a show.

  2. Luiz
    October 12, 2009 at 10:16 am

    boring song

  3. Muzik
    October 12, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I personally think this is just the right song for her first release on her Redneck Records label. I believe a ton of core radio listeners are crowning tired of the Carrie/Taylor mania and really need a break..

    I really like this song so I hope is gets played.
    It’s up-tempo, fun, and great to sing along to on the way to and from work!

    She’s still have a ton of fans out there and really puts on great live shows!!

    A correction needs to be made in the blog. “The Earring Song” was never released to radio. It was pulled by her ex-label at the last minute and replaced by ” If I Could Do It All Again”.

  4. Liam
    October 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Man, Gretchen Wilson got intolerable after ‘Redneck Woman’. I never understood what the appeal was for her follow-up singles. Right, Gretchen, we get that you’re one tough redneck. But throwing that out there, over and over again, sounded more like a marketing ploy than an honest recording. And now we get another one? It’s just cruel!

  5. Waynoe
    October 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Another glowing critique and just what we expected.

    However, you missed a huge point Julie. First of all, I agree with some of your assertions but what you fail to elaborate on is why her ballads,, like “Come to Bed” and others failed to have chart success, or at least why they didn’t chart better than they did.

    In other words, she has put out songs that depart from rowdy rough-neck but radio ignored them.

    This brings us to what I feel is a better critique. Simply speaking, radio now is about personalities and the latest craze rather than songs. Yes I tire of hearing Wilson singing her rough barmaid songs, but her ballads, as you rightly mentioned, were very good.

    You see, radio has not turned from her songs, but from her. Nothing she puts out is good enough. However, it’s all Swift and other “pop-masquerading as country artists” that we have to put up with even though it makes us vomit.

    So the powers-to-be now cater to teeny-boppers that demand pop music. They go find artists that fit the bill and push them (Swift, Underwood, Urban, Sugarland,etc.).

    Marty Stuart, a genius by the way, said it is all in the song. Although music connoisseurs still believe that, sadly the corporate music industry doesn’t. It’s all about personalities and not particulars.

  6. Rick
    October 12, 2009 at 11:13 am

    The Top 40 mainstream country radio mindset definitely changed dramatically after Carrie Underwood hit the scene and the American Idol pop diva took dominance of the charts. Taylor Swift’s emergence as a teeny-pop culture tour de force led AirHead Country Radio even further away from rockin’, redneck female country artists (with the notable exceptions of Miranda Lambert and even Heidi Newfield). I’ve always liked Gretchen and just wish the quality of her recent music was up to the level of the “All Jacked Up” album. I hope this single does well at radio but the odds of it even getting some spins is remote at this point.

  7. Kelly
    October 12, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Waynoe – I am sure this has been pointed out to you, and I can only assume you are playing games at this point. That said, if you would actually bother to do some rather simple research, you would see that there have been many 3+ star reviews and several “thumbs up” reviews in the last few weeks on this site…stop being that guy.

  8. Leeann Ward
    October 12, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    And, anyway, the purpose of these reviews isn’t to meet some positive quota, but rather, to call ‘em as they hear ‘em. If a song is bad; it’s bad. There’s no way around it, unless they’re supposed to lie in order to placate certain readers, which would negate the integrity of reviewing in general.

  9. Waynoe
    October 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Kelly – no reply warranted.

    Rick – Your comment is right-on and makes sense and is plausible for discussion. You at least grasp my point even though it may not be 100% agreeable. Kudos for being able to intelligently read and discern.

    Leeann – Nothing.

  10. Kelly
    October 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    “No reply warranted”…yeah, I guess actual facts get in the way of you replying.

  11. Nicolas
    October 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I disagree, I thought this song was one of her best! It wasn’t as over-the-top as some of the older material she had, like “Here for the Party” – which I really liked – this was a little toned down, in my opinion

    I really liked this song, and her last single “If I Could Do It All Again” =)

  12. Matt B.
    October 12, 2009 at 4:32 pm


    My grandfather usually says; “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up…”

    Perhaps this applies to Waynoe?

  13. Thomas
    October 12, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    not too long and not to short – actually, quite an agreeable and catchy tune.

  14. Dan Milliken
    October 12, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I agree that radio turned on Gretchen, and I think that’s dumb, because most of her singles have been no worse than the stuff certain male artists get spins with. But to be fair, most of it wasn’t what I would call ‘great’ either. “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today” was very good, and “One Of The Boys” was okay, but the rest of it was pretty forgettable. I think someone steered her in the wrong artistic direction after her first album, which hurt her momentum, and then she got completely shut out when Carrie hit. So I really think her commercial decline has been twofold – lackluster material coupled with unfair radio/label politics.

  15. Kim
    October 12, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I totally agree with you Dan. I think now would be the time for her to try and get back in it. I am sick to death of the Airhead country artists/crowd, and I don’t honestly see how it could last much longer at the level it is now. I think if Gretch has a good chance of coming back to the forefront she’s got a good chance to do it now, she just needs to take advantage of it. I think Miranda Lambert is on the right track.

  16. peaches
    October 12, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I think radio needs a song like this! Not everyone wants to hear the same pop-country CRAP that is put out by almost every label these days. It nice to hear something other than the typical Carrie-Taylor-Kellie-Julieann song! BRING IT ON GRETCHEN!

  17. Noah Eaton
    October 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    I happen to think “One Of The Boys” is her best album to date, despite one mis-step single release (“You Don’t Have To Go Home”).

    Her debut album was strong, surely, but John Rich pretty much spoke for her through all the songwriting to come out of that era. Same can be said with “All Jacked Up”, though that album was less effective at channeling Wilson’s brand of androgynous, homegrown charm (despite still being a decent album).

    “One Of The Boys” is really where Wilson stretched her artistic personality, I believe. I feel a more personal dimension of Wilson gracefully comes out on this album. She just as charismatically lifts more uptempo flair like “If You Want A Mother” and “There Goes The Neighborhood”than ever, yet at the same time really lets her more vulnerable side come out in greater length and I think she sounds even more convincing on ballads like “To Tell You The Truth”.

    So far, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by what I’ve heard in the lead-up to the “I’ve Got Your Country Right Here” era, but I believe she is capable of holding her own as an authentic songwriting personality…………even if radio never takes her back again.

  18. Steve M.
    October 12, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I have always thought her ballads were much stronger then her other songs. But I don’t particularly enjoy redneck songs sung by people other then David Allen Coe.

  19. Cathyjo
    October 12, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    I fell this is a very good song and hope it gets GW back on the charts i hear everyone talk about all her songs being the same but a lot of artist are like that Toby Keith for instance i am a huge fan of his also but his songs all have a certain sound to them to i think a lot of artist are this way i dont think that is a reason for radio to quit playing them

  20. Paul W Dennis
    October 13, 2009 at 9:17 am

    a little harsh – this is not a great song but it has its merits – I’d give it a C+ – and at least Wilson has a voice with some power to it

  21. Felipe
    October 13, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I just think it’s “funny” how we’re walking on a thin line… I mean, Sarah Buxton was judge for her diverse theme songs delivery through radio, and then we have Gretchen being judge for stayin’ the same. I’m not in nobody’s side, tough.

  22. Rose
    October 13, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I’m going to get in line with the people who are blaming radio here; if the radio had played more of her ballad stuff, she wouldn’t have to resort to one-trick pony songs like this one (even though I kinda like this song…it’s just nothing new, that’s all).

    Also, I don’t think she (or anybody else who does songs like this) totally has to scrap the redneck theme – just go somewhere more interesting with it. I think there’s a lot more to be said about that lifestyle than, “I like to party,” you know? Nobody’s willing to step it up a little, though.

  23. Joe
    October 13, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    It seems both Wilson and Big & Rich entered the mainstream country music scene with perhaps a bit too much attitude, acting as though they were igniting a movement when, it seems, the industry (and who knows who I’m referring to here: radio? the record label?) wanted other parts of the industry to “discover” them, the way it had done with virtually every country star the industry has “developed” since developing country stars became the way it’s done around here.

    Trouble was: “Redneck Woman” and “Save a Horse” were just too good to ignore. Note that “Save a Horse” was released first, missed the Top 10 but is still heard on radio today; “Redneck” was therefore undeniable, #1 for four weeks, yet in both cases, the powers-that-be, those points in the industry that can step back and let a single die without being too obvious about it, patiently waited until the music lost its new-ness and appreciated the power of this machine when those careers inevitably toppled.

  24. 1953
    October 14, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    i listened to the song, expecting to like it. ms. wilson’s “one of the boys” is a go to cd for any trip i take. but this song seems to be a rehash of all that has gone before. she has proved herself as an artist but inspiration is not a ready tap. maybe now with her own label, she can wait until real songs are there.

  25. JustMe
    October 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I like it! I’m glad she’s started her own label and can release what she wants and not have to put up with all the BS that goes on a a big label!

    I’m with a few others who posted comments, it seems that a lot of you take this way to seriously. Music should be fun, entertaining, a small place to go to escape the real world for a little while. As I read some of these posts and others written on this site, I can’t help but think that some of you have lost site of that, and it’s not about enjoying the music anymore its all turned into a job or chore, and the pure enjoyment is gone.

    Life is way to short to spend it nit picking everything to death! Chill out and have some fun!

  26. Theresa
    October 15, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I think Gretchen is the best female singer-songwriter-performer,that country has seen in a long time.I’ll buy anything that she sells.To me every song from all 4 cds could have been hits!One of my favorite songs was,Painkiller,from one of the boys cd.You have to buy her stuff and see her live before you can realize just how good she is.And she is down home I got lucky enough to meet her!I hate hearing negative things about her!But somebody always puts down the Great ONES.

    October 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Man, Gretchen Wilson got intolerable after ‘Redneck Women’. I never understood what the appeal was for her follow up singles. Right, Gretchen, we get that you’re one tough redneck. It seems to me that if you have the overconfidence to comment out here about Gretchen being a tough redneck. Then you really have no clue as to the rest of her REAL country music. She sings from a Female perspective of those powerful womanly blues. Gretchen Wilson is a unique female performer with a whole lot more traditional songs than most Country music artist of the Southern music culture.

    Waynoe Look further into her music catalog and you will find traditional country ballads that rightly should have been hits. Waynoe you simply ignored the fact of Gretchen’s “WHEN I THINK ABOUT CHEATIN” the song became a strong chart topper.

    Southern Rock is a strong part of the southern music culture and it is really very rewarding to hear some of that music surfacing again. “Free Bird, Heard in a Love Song, Jessica, Cant you see, were some of the many chart topping Southern Rock songs that are still played on Radio today. I look forward to a CHANGE and I hope Country Radio gives Miss Wilson an opportunity to be heard on Country radio. In the near future I hope people will remember that music is for enjoyment and fun. Id like to think that We all have the need to escape from our work routine and enjoy life with peace and harmony.

  28. Trish
    December 2, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I think everyone is getting tired of Gretchen Wilson and that is why her album sales have tanked. Does every song have to tell us again and again that she’s a redneck? We get it by now and it is really getting old and tired. She even names her record company Redneck – please stop! Gretchen just doesn’t have close to the vocals of a Carrie Underwood and that is why her albums aren’t selling and performers such as Carrie are having monster success. She could still have success but she needs some big time changes in song choices and it better happen quick.

  29. Thomas
    December 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

    …perhaps hot-pants might help too.

  30. JimmyJ
    December 2, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Trish.. We all know you are a total Carrie freak and post you’re negitive thoughts about others all over the blog sites. Your content bashing of musicians (other then Carrie) and their music, is not only uncalled for, but childish.

  31. Jeff
    February 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Sorry JimmyJ but Trish is 100% correct.

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