In 2016, former girl group Fifth Harmony dropped the superhit “Work From Home,” a power anthem and extended euphemism for the sexually submissive community with a 9-to-5. Miss Normani and company told us that once we’re off the clock, they’re on: “You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work / Let my body do the work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work.” Respect to your local lazy bottom.
Accompanied by a music video of the group gyrating and hip-shaking all over an active home construction site, “Work From Home” is bombastic pop fun. The group even pretended to drill and hammer all over a backhoe while performing the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Four years and 2.3 billion YouTube streams later, “Work From Home” is an injection of chaotic good in the 2010s pop music catalog. It is still a bop — and, today, a timely one.
In a pandemic, “Work From Home” takes on a whole new meaning. Amid the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, with offices closed, “Work From Home” isn’t just about sex — it’s about labor rights and the perils of an overworked, underpaid working class. With this in mind, it’s only right “Work From Home” gets a new review.
To that end, I asked a variety of workers — builders, carpenters, a copywriter and even a chandler — how well the “Work From Home” lyrics adapt to their professional lives. Because when Camila Cabello sings “I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’ / I ain’t wearin’ nada,” she tells half-truths. We’re all deeply stressed out right now, but most of us in office chairs are dressed only from the waist up.
“I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’ / I ain’t wearin’ nada.”
A falsehood right out of the gate. Matt Graves, a project manager known as the Construction Yeti, specializes in commercial buildings, and he’s been work-work-working on invoices, contracts and meetings from his Houston home. “I’ll say I’ve been on more conference calls in the last six months then I’ve had in my entire life,” he says. “So yeah, can’t go with ‘Ain’t worried about nothin’.’”
“Put in them hours / I’ma make it hotter”
Fifth Harmony was right about how overworked we all seem to be. Liv Sheane, a New York chandler, is staying up all night working on her new business venture: making candles in her kitchen. Talk about a hot-and-heavy workload: It’s tiresome staying up all night to pour wax — not even the fun NSFW kind. “It takes a freaking long time to make 50 to 75 candles… I start to cry,” she says. “You get crazy candle eyes.” Liv, I hope you can be “Miss Movin’ On” and take a well-deserved break.
“You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work”
Alas, you do. Michael Huffman II, a bridge-construction worker in Pittsburgh, adamantly disagrees with Fifth Harmony’s privileged perspectives here. Essential workers still have to commute. “I just don’t know how I can fact-check that. The song has nothing to do with construction and, honestly, there’s just not enough there for me to say anything clever about it,” Huffman says. Thank you for your honesty and your service.
That’s not the case for former Fifth Harmony stan Phillipe Thao, a copywriter in St. Paul, Minnesota, who moved back in with his family and is taking conference calls from his car. Thao counted the word “work” 97 times in the song, which is more relatable than he’d like to admit. “I don’t know about you, but mentally I’m just an empty vessel that is trying to trudge through productivity,” he says.
No lyric hit Thao harder than “Let’s put it into motion / I’ma give you a promotion.” “My coworker and I were all excited about getting a small raise or maybe a promotion, but then our company seized all of that, so that line is definitely a little painful,” he says. Not to worry. He took the money saved by not going out and bought himself a new mattress, effectively getting to “turn the bed into an ocean” of comfort.
“I’m sending pic after picture / I’ma get you fired”
Fifth Harmony is rude for taunting redditor BeaverDelightTonight, a carpenter and cabinet maker in Alberta, Canada, who was laid off from his oil-and-gas grid in March. Sending a different kind of picture — like an installed beam or a raised sheet of drywall — is a way to avoid getting fired if you get caught texting while working, he says. “Phone use is something supervision tried to curb a bit, but it happens,” BeaverDelightTonight tells me. “If the worker gets busted too many times, he can usually put off getting in shit by showing off the photos. But that’s more of a younger man’s game.”
He takes a bigger issue with Fifth Harmony’s music video, with the group dancing around an active home-construction site. “Lady dumping the mixer into the forms is pretty lulz,” he says. (That’s Camila, so maybe you do have a point.)
“Put in work like my timesheet”
Even if you’re overworked, Fifth Harmony is here to tell you to mark down your overtime and get that paycheck. Allegra Jordan, a New York carpenter, does not work for free. “I send in invoices, so technically yes,” she says. Correct, Fifth Harmony.
“Girl, go to work for me / Can you make it clap, no hands for me?”
Still, Allegra finds the song to be limiting in its literal interpretation. “It’s not in my description. No, we don’t clap,” she says. That brings up a great point: What happens if you’re asked to go above and beyond from the home office? If you’re “always on the night shift,” call your union. If your boss will only “give you a promotion” for sex, get HR on the line.
The only message to take away from this song comes courtesy of Normani, who sings, “Baby, you’re the boss at home.” Damn right. So end the Zoom call, close your laptop and binge Fifth Harmony music videos. Boss’ orders.