Work (Kelly Rowland song)

"Work" is a song recorded by American recording artist Kelly Rowland. It was written by Rowland along with Scott Storch and Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd for her second studio album, Ms. Kelly (2007), while production was helmed by Storch and Boyd. An up-tempo party record that displays elements of funk and go-go, "Work" is composed in the key of D minor. Lyrically, the song 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. "Work" was acclaimed by music critics who highlighted the pulsating beat, suggestive lyrics, and the fast and stuttered style in which Rowland sings.

Kelly Rowland – Work.jpg
Single by Kelly Rowland
from the album Ms. Kelly
ReleasedJanuary 21, 2008
StudioHit Factory Criteria (Miami, Florida)
  • Scott Storch
  • Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd
  • Freemasons (remix)
Kelly Rowland singles chronology

Intended to be released as Ms. Kelly's lead single at one time or another, "Work" record was eventually released as the album's second single during the first quarter of 2008 in most international music markets, excluding Canada and North America where "Ghetto" was issued instead. Prominently pushed by a bhaṅgṛā-infused dance pop remix by British DJ duo Freemasons, which, according to Rowland, gave it "new life", "Work" enjoyed major commercial success and eventually became Rowland's best-charting solo single in years, reaching the top-ten in Australia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The music video for "Work" was filmed in Los Angeles and directed by Philip Andelman. Influenced by the work of American minimalist Dan Flavin, it shows Rowland and her dancers posed in silhouette and shot against backdrops of vivid color and beam lighting that is used to create a kaleidoscope effects. "Work" was part of Rowland's set list for her Ms. Kelly Tour. Its commercial success prompted Rowland to record additional music for the Ms. Kelly album of which a more uptempo deluxe edition reissue was released in 2008 and would introduce a temporary shift to dance music in Rowland's sound in the late 2000s.

Writing and recordingEdit

"Work" was written by Rowland, Scott Storch and his protégé Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd.[1] The song is one out of two tracks which the trio crafted for Ms. Kelly and was among eight new tracks that Rowland recorded near completion in 2006 for the revamped version of My Story, the album's actual version.[2] Conceived during a studio session at The Hit Factory in Miami, Rowland, Storch and Boyd began to work on melodic ideas for the song over an instrumental track by Storch.[3] With most of its lyrics being written after returning from a night out in the city, composing for "Work" was eventually finished in "like twenty minutes," according to Rowland.[3] The team returned the next day for vocal recording.[4] Vocal production was helmed by Rowland and Boyd, while engineering was overseen by Conrad Golding and Rommel Nino Villanueva with assistance by Vadim Chislov.[1] Mixing was handled Jason Goldstein; Christian Baker served as his assistant.[1] Storch and Boyd received producer and co-producer credits, respectively.[1]

Initially titled "Put It in",[4] Rowland has described the song as "a party record, a record that'd make you get up and dance."[4] An up-tempo composition featuring funk production and go-go elements,[5] it is composed in E 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.[5] When asked if the song was about sexual intercourse in a 2008 interview with music website Popjustice, Rowland commented: "Oh no, it's actually very innocent [...] It's a little aggressive maybe. 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.."[6] However, in 2010, she admitted that she previously shied away from explaining the true nature of the lyrics to the song, telling British gay lifestyle magazine Attitude: "The lyrics are very sexy, they were out of the box for me [...] But I've grown into my sexuality and I'm very comfortable with it. OK, yes, it means exactly what you think it means! I've never told anybody that, but yes, it's exactly what you think it is [...] I remember when the writer was writing it and he was like, 'Put it in, put it in', and I said, 'This is a nasty record'."[7]

Critical receptionEdit

"Work" was highly acclaimed by music critics. In his review for New York Post, writer Dan Aquilante named "Work" Ms. Kelly's best track, calling it an "upbeat record that soulfully delves into contemporary funk."[8] Spence D. of media website 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."[9] 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."[9] Guardian journalist Alex MacPherson wrote that "the caffeinated 'Work' is the best [of] three club bangers on Ms. Kelly,"[10] while That Grape Juice cited it as "one of many highlights; with a pulsating beat and deliberately suggestive lyrics, Rowland doesn’t hold back."[11] RWD editor 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."[12] editor Mark Edward Nero called the song an "excellent, Destiny's Child-type song that [...] minimizes Kelly's vocal shortcomings behind an attention-catching beat."[13] BBC critic Gemma Padley also compared the track favorably to Rowland's former band's singles "Bug a Boo" (1999) and "Lose My Breath" (2004) due to "its jagged vocal and hip shaking beat."[14] Similarly, Sal Cinquemani from Slant remarked that "Storch delivers on “Work,” a funky, fast-paced thumper in the DC tradition,"[15] while Glenn Gamboa, writing for The News & Observer, noted that Rowland "sounds like her brassy Destiny's Child self on the elaborate" record.[16] 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."[17]

Commercial performanceEdit

Although Columbia Records intended to release "Work" as Ms. Kelly's lead single at one time or another,[3] Polow da Don-produced "Like This" eventually replaced original lead single "Gotsta Go" in early 2007 as Rowland thought the song had no hit potential, influenced by negative blog comments she had read after snippets of "Work" had leaked on May 31, 2007.[18] First released in the United Kingdom on January 21, 2008, "Work" debuted at number 56 on the UK Singles Chart based on digital sales alone, two weeks prior to the song's physical release.[19] The biggest-moving single of the week, it rose twenty-four places to number seven on January 26, 2008, marking 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,[19] and, as of November 2011, became Rowland's fourth best-selling solo single in the United Kingdom with 250,000 copies being sold.[20][21]

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.[22] 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[23]), 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.[19]

Music videoEdit

Screenshot of Kelly Rowland and her female dancers in the music video for "Work" (Los Angeles; 2007).

An accompanying music video for "Work" with directed by American music video director and photographer Philip Andelman and was filmed in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2007.[24] It was shot back to back with Rowland's video for her song "Comeback".[24][25] According to Rowland, the choreography-heavy "hype energized" video is about "movement and color and really cool angles, shots and lights."[26] Set amid a variety of fluorescent light environments, it features the singer and a team of dancers performing Bollywood-style dance numbers.[27] Rowland noted that the video was different from her previous videos since her styling introduced a sexier image of her.[26]

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 dancers out of silhouette and performing a choreographed Bollywood-style routine against a black backdrop.[26][27]

"Work" was originally set to premiere during the September 10, 2007 episode of BET's Access Granted, along with the music video for "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, the record label website for the Sony Urban Music division in the United Kingdom.[28] In 2009, the video for "Work" was temporarily removed video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and after the estate of American minimalist Dan Flavin declared that similarities with Falvin's work had led to legal action, involving monetary damages for the estate.[29]


In support of its single release, Columbia Records consulted several British DJs to produce remixes of "Work" for international music markets where, other than in the United States, pure pop and funky house had dominated radio and the charts in mid-2000s.[30] While Steve Pitron and Max Sanna collaborated on a fast-paced bitpop version of the song, Russell Small and James Wiltshire from DJ duo Freemasons created a bhangra-infused dance pop remix of "Work" that blends disco music with Indian instruments.[31][32] Known for their Grammy-nominated work with Beyoncé,[33] Rowland's team approached Freemasons to rework her song after their club-oriented remix of "Déjà Vu" (2006) had received significantly more airplay on British radio than Beyoncé's R&B-led original.[30] When asked about the collaboration, Rowland elaborated in an interview with British music magazine Blues & Soul: "I remember my A&R telling me what a great job they'd done with Beyoncé's remixes and that we should give them a try. So we did."[31]

Columbia Records arranged for "Work" to be released in a tandem, with both versions being serviced to European radio.[30] In addition, a music video for the Freemasons remix was released.[31] Critics were favorable in their reviews of the remix, with Popjustice calling it "quite brilliant."[34] As with "Déjà Vu", it tested well with audiences and soon surpassed Storch's original production on radio, becoming a top ten hit on the charts.[30] Rowland further commented on the remix in 2008: "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."[4] However, while the song enjoyed international success, it was not released stateside. When asked why it was not issued 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."[18] In 2018, Wiltshire named "Work" his favorite remix.[30]

Track listing and formatsEdit

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Ms. Kelly.[1]



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[69] Platinum 70,000^
Italy 31,386[23]
United Kingdom (BPI)[71] Silver 367,000[70]

^shipments figures based on certification alone


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External linksEdit