Review: Gretchen Wilson, “Work Hard, Play Harder”

Gretchen WilsonThere’s no doubt that Gretchen Wilson is very talented. She proved it with her smash debut song, “Redneck Woman”, which was a catchy rave up that joyously celebrated the less fine things in life. It easily struck a chord with a lot of people, due to its universal appeal (even men could champion the message) and its loud, but fresh, production. Wilson is also equipped with a voice that can sing a tender country ballad as adeptly as a country rocker like “Redneck Woman.” Unfortunately, radio has historically cast her as the party anthem, redneck woman and she has found it nearly impossible to escape the narrow typecast as a result.

As part of her relatively rapid decline in favor with radio, her major record deal resulted in the most recent casualty, which, in turn, has freed her to form her own record label. Interestingly, however, it seems that the move has not mentally freed her to make fresh sounding music. While “Redneck Woman” may have seemed fresh in 2004, it is categorically old news by now.

The content of “Work Hard, Play Harder” is as transparent as one might easily deduce from the title. Once again, as we’ve heard in even more Wilson songs than “Redneck Woman”, this song embraces being a redneck woman, albeit with a different title than her debut single. Not only is the theme the same, but the production is just about as close to being an inferior carbon copy of its redneck predecessor without technically being the same song, even right down to the slick background vocals. While it may have worked the first time around, and even a couple times thereafter, the dated shtick has long worn out its welcome. Moreover, it’s simply time for Gretchen Wilson, a decidedly talented artist, to take advantage of her newly acquired freedom and move on to better things.


Written by Gretchen Wilson, John Rich & Vicky McGehee


Grade: B-

Listen: Work Hard, Play Harder


  1. I totally agree with this. Gretchen seems to be desperately trying to regain her chart status by repeating what worked the first time around, but the artistic returns are diminishing with every re-run. I can’t entirely blame her for that, though, because radio spurned her attempts to show a more sensitive low-key side which I thought was much better than Redneck Woman and its second takes). It’s a little disappointing that she (like Terri Clark) is still chasing radio now she’s on an independent label rather than trying to create something artistically compelling.

  2. I love this song! I’m glad she back!

    It’s interesting that people have to take everything so seriously, maybe if y’all would lightin up, enjoy life little more & play harder you’d see that not every song needs to be artistically compelling! LOL

    So set back, crank you’re stereo, sing at the tops of you lungs and enjoy really fun song!

  3. 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!

  4. I think this is an awesome song i don’t get how it can be compared to RW it’s about Working hard but playing harder not taking everthing so serious

  5. I liked the anthems a couple times, but I think I gravitate toward the ballads from her too. I think her voice suits them well.

  6. sounds like another one of those irresponsible drinking songs from her earlier days – “i party down to my last dollar” and “i’m the last to pass out”. is this something to brag about? is she related to TK?

  7. I think Gretchen so overemphasized the “Redneck Woman” image and attitude that it made it practically impossible for anything even slightly different from that to get played on the radio (“Rebel Child”, for instance, which she described [rather accurately,I think], as very Ronstadt-sounding). Once you get locked into an image of yourself that you’ve pushed, it’s very hard to get out of it.

  8. To paraphrase dean Vernon Wormer :”…drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son”.

    But then, what would some of today’s country singers have to sing about?! ;)

    Seriously, GW is still a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways, even though she is capable of so much better. The Redneck Woman persona is getting old, and I await the day when she finally breaks free.

  9. I’m with Leeann in preferring Gretchen Wilson as a ballad singer. I wasn’t interested in her debut album at all from the first 2 singles, but ‘When I Think About Cheatin’ changed my mind about her and when I bought the album, I was pleasantly surprised by songs like ‘Holdin’ You’, and especially the stripped-down sound of ‘I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today’ from her sophomore set.

    It’s too bad she’s been type-cast in this party girl role since her finest moments have come from the softer side of Gretchen. I’m still hopeful for an insightful and quality album.

  10. I finally listened to this today because a radio station was interviewing her, and I think it’s one of the better-sounding tracks I’ve heard her do post-Here For The Party. She sounds re-energized, although the theme is definitely stale for her. I’m interested to hear if the new album will bring anything new to the table.

  11. Great song by Gretchen, she can sing any type of song. I do prefer her rowdy songs, but that is just my opinion. Guess I’m just a little rowdy.

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