"Work" is a song recorded by American recording artist Kelly Rowland. It was written by Rowland, Scott Storch and Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd and co-produced by Storch and Boyd for Rowland's second studio album, Ms. Kelly (2007). The full track was leaked on May 31, 2007 onto the internet. Although Columbia Records intended to release "Work" as Ms. Kelly's lead single, "Like This" was eventually chosen as Rowland – who was influenced by the negative feedback the song received from blogs after the leaked snippets – began to think that "Work" had no commercial potential. English-Irish DJ duo Freemasons later remixed "Work", which, according to Rowland, gave it "new life".
"Work" is an up-tempo composition which displays elements of funk music and go-go. Composed in the key of D#minor, the song lyrically speaks of a woman who affirms to her man that actions speak louder than words and that she is not a woman who is easy to get to. Following the less successful chart performances of previous single "Ghetto", the record was released as the album's second single during the first quarter of 2008 (see 2008 in music) in most international music markets, excluding parts of North America.
Prominently pushed by a re-arranged remix by British producer duo Freemasons, "Work" enjoyed major commercial success and eventually became Rowland's best-charting solo single since her 2002 songs "Dilemma" and "Stole", reaching the top-ten in Australia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom. "Work" is her fourth international most successful solo single to date, behind "Dilemma", "When Love Takes Over" and "Stole".
The music video for "Work" was filmed in Los Angeles, California and was directed by Philip Andelman. The video shows Rowland and her dancers posed in silhouette and shot against backdrops of vivid color and beam lighting. The beam lighting is used throughout the video to create a kaleidoscope effect which is used to break up each scene.
"Work" is one out of two tracks Scott Storch contributed to Ms. Kelly and was among eight new songs Rowland recorded near completion in 2006 for the revamped version of My Story, the album's actual version. Conceived during a booked studio session in Miami, Florida; Rowland, Storch and his protégé Pooh Bear began to work on melodic ideas for the song over an instrumental track by Storch. With most of its lyrics being written after returning from a night out in the city, composing for "Work" (tentatively entitled "Put It in" back then) was eventually finished in "like twenty minutes," according to Rowland. The team returned the next day for vocal recording.
Although Columbia Records intended to release "Work" as Ms. Kelly’s lead single in the beginning, Polow da Don-produced "Like This" eventually replaced the original album's lead single "Gotsta Go" in early 2007, as Rowland thought the song had no hit potential, influenced by negative blogs she read after snippets of "Work" had leaked. The full track was leaked on May 31, 2007 onto the internet, and since remixed by several producers and DJs, among spawning official versions by duos Steve Pitron and Max Sanna, and the more prominent Freemasons, whose remix Rowland said gave the song new life. "I'm really grateful to the Freemasons for coming along [...], because it's something that I could have got. You always need an extra brain there and they just gave it a new vibe."
The track is an up-tempo composition featuring funk production and go-go elements. It is composed in the key of D#minor and moves at a moderate tempo of 104 beats per minute. Set in common time, "Work" is written in the common verse-chorus form. The singer has described the song as "actually very innocent [but] a little aggressive maybe:" "All I'm saying is don't come around if you're not going to live up to all your talk and as you know, some guys are just full of talk," Rowland said in a 2008 interview with Popjustice. "It's just a woman saying you can't catch me easy and you have to put in the work. It's about putting in work – that's it, of course."
While most of the tracks featured on Ms. Kelly are mid-tempo, "Work" was well received by critics for its beat-driven melody. Mark Edward Nero of About.com called "Work" an "excellent, Destiny's Child-type song that [...] minimizes Kelly's vocal shortcomings behind an attention-catching beat." For a review for the BBC, Gemma Padley also compared the track to Rowland's former band’s singles "Bug a Boo" and "Lose My Breath" due to "its jagged vocal and hip shaking beat." Rewind Magazine writer Emmanuel Ezugwu found "Work" a "high energy track that will undoubtedly be a future club banger. The constant cow bells adds to the frenzied pace of the record and Kelly’s vocals are fast and stuttered."
Spence D. of IGN observed that the song flipped the early musical script of the album "for a hot minute, going for a more driven, throbbing thrust over which Rowland's flitters and flirts." He further said that "it showcases her strengths, but also still highlights her delicate vocal limitations. It's a sticky wicket that bumps while breaking down." In a preview, ThatGrapeJuice.net called "one of many highlights; with a pulsating beat and deliberately suggestive lyrics, Rowland doesn’t hold back."
However, San Francisco Weekly writer Dan Leroy was less emphathic with "Work", calling it "derivative," while Dotmusic's Jaime Gill considered the track a mis-step: "'Work' is a clear attempt to encroach on her old band mates' hyper-sexual territory, although it's hard to imagine Beyoncé resorting to as crass a single entendre as repeatedly demanding "put it in!" like a hooker on crystal meth."
First released on January 21, 2008 in the United Kingdom, "Work" debuted at number 56 on the UK Singles Chart based on digital sales alone, two weeks prior to the song's physical release. On January 26, 2008, it rose twenty-four places to number seven, making it both the biggest-moving single of the week and Rowland's fifth non-consecutive top-ten entry. On February 3, "Work" reached its peak position at number four on that particular chart. It then spent six weeks within the top-ten, the longest stay of any of Rowland's singles. The single became Rowland's fourth best selling solo single in the United Kingdom with 250,000 copies being sold as of November 2011.
In Australia, it reached number six on the ARIA Singles Chart and went on to be certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for sales of 70,000 copies. It also reached the top-ten of the singles charts in Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy (where it was certified platinum for more than 31,000 digital downloads ), Switzerland and Turkey. It reached number one in Bulgaria, Poland and on UK R&B and German Black Charts.
Following the less successful chart performances of "Like This" and "Ghetto", "Work" widely exceeded the success of its predecessor. It has since become the third highest-charting single of Rowland's solo career, behind her 2002 collaboration "Dilemma" and subsequent "Stole," entering foreign music markets where previous efforts failed to chart on. When asked why the song was not released in the United States, Rowland answered: "I don't know, seriously, I feel like I didn't have anything to do with the success of "Work" in Europe. The Freemasons remix took the song to the next level, fans kept requesting it on the radio. Look at Destiny's Child's "Say My Name", the fans in the U.S. made it a single, they made it happen, I didn't have that little extra with "Work" over there."
The music video for "Work" was filmed in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2007 and shot back to back with the video for "Comeback" with director Philip Andelman.
"Work" was originally set to premiere during the September 10, 2007 episode of BET's Access Granted, along with "Ghetto", however, this did not materialize as there was confusion over which would be Rowland's next single, as the artist now had three videos shot. After her record label rescheduled the air date to October 22, 2007, the release was further pushed back, and the video finally premiered on the December 5, 2007 at SoUrban.com, the record label website for the Sony Urban Music division in the United Kingdom.
The imagery used in this video can be described as Rowland and her dancers posed in silhouette and shot against backdrops of vivid color and beam lighting. The beam lighting is used throughout the video to create a kaleidoscope effect which is used to break up each scene. During the last part of the clip the lighting schemes are reversed to show Rowland and her four dancer’s out of silhouette and performing a choreographed Bollywood style routine against a black backdrop.
The video has also been edited to fit the Freemasons' remix. Recently, debate has grown on the Internet about whether the Freemasons' remix sample sound was taken, without permission, from Pakistani pop star Haroon's song "Yara" (2000). The video has been sent out to music channels in Australia and Eurasia. This version is available on the European Single as an enhanced video element.
These are the formats and track listings of major single-releases of "Work".Kelly Rowland – vocals, writing, vocal production
Jason "Pooh Bear" Boyd – writing, co-production, vocal production
Scott Storch – writing, production, vocal production
Conrad Golding – engineering
Rommel Nino Villanueva – engineering
Vadim Chislov – assistance
Jason Goldstein – mixing
Christian Baker – mixing assistance