When I opened the P.R. packet for the album HR by the Irish multi-talented artist Meljoann, I hoped for something new and fresh to give my ears a head start heading into the weekend. Today is Friday, album drop day. After a long road trip yesterday and oppressive heat outside today, I was looking forward to listening to Meljoann’s new album in the cool, calm solitude of my basement (*) and finding out who she is and what kind of sound she is making.
And her sound is… It isn’t straightforward. I am not getting a stroll through the Irish countryside with Meljoann giving me a guided tour. No, that is not what I hear on H.R. What I hear is the painful laments of a working woman…
When I strolled through her back catalogue, I found that this refrain about a toxic workplace is on the par for Meljoann. Somewhere in her life cycle, she must have had a shitty boss to trigger songs such as I Quit, Overtime, Business Card, O Supervisor, Personal Assistant, Company Retreat, Trophy Wife, and this theme gets its origin back in her debut project, the EP Squick.
Word of the day for the readers of this.
1. Noun. The physical sense of repulsion upon encountering a concept or situation that one finds disgusting.
2. Noun. A condition or concept which engenders this reaction.
3. Verb, transitive. To cause someone to have this reaction.
4. Verb, intransitive. To experience this reaction.
The concept of the “squick” differs from the concept of “disgust” in that “squick” refers purely to the physical sensation of repulsion and does not imply a moral component.
Stating that something is “disgusting” implies a judgement that it is bad or wrong. Saying that something “squicks you” is merely an observation of your reaction to it but does not imply a judgement that such a thing is universally wrong.
So there you go. We are all a little bit smarter than we were at the start of this blog.
In 2014, working under the alias Scout Hardcastle, Meljoann released the BBC Radio 6 Music supported released dance album Masterkinder: Rainbow in my Mind (2014) under the alias Scout Hardcastle.
In 2020 Meljoann received a highly coveted £10k grant from the Arts Council of England to make five videos for her forthcoming album’ HR.’
The first single was Company Retreat, keeping that working woman motif going strong. The follow-up was ‘O Supervisor, and her last single to close out the year 2020 was Trophy Wife.’
Meljoann describes herself this way:
Here’s my little third-person bio:
Meljoann, originally from Ireland, produces experimental electronic pop. In her latest single, ‘Overtime,’ she tells “the grotty tale of a woman who must be overly polite to her predatory boss.” Her sound has been described as “like a long-lost soul-pop album from the mid-1990s as remixed by Aphex Twin” (Eamon de Paor, Metro Herald).
There is a long and storied history of music about how terrible the working world is. From the infamous 9 to 5 of Dolly Parton to the whimsical Heigh-ho by the seven vertically challenged miners working in oppressive conditions for Disney.
Just put work into the search bar on Genius, and you will have more than enough fodder to launch a class-action lawsuit against your nightmare boss. Just make sure you have a good lawyer. They can make or break a court case just by their oratory skills.
Back to the present era, Meljoann earned a couple of asterisks in the single Assf**k the Boss. I smile just saying that (as) terisk, (ass) f**k. A nice pair of asses. Groaning all around, that isn’t even a bad dad joke.
At the end of the day, what do we have going on in this album? HR, which I will assume is Human Resources, has a stream of raw emotions that cry out against the tyranny of the male-dominated workplaces.
Speaking about the new offering, she said,” ‘… is about the emotional labour we do, under gendered systems of control that thrive in the workplace. It tells the story of a woman alienated from her own survival instincts, who is subjugated by a predatory boss.”
We also have an album that speaks to those women and hopefully to the males as well. I can only speak for myself, but as a male who has had both good and bad bosses, I found the lyrical imagery on the album painted a vivid picture of a toxic working world.
A challenging but rewarding listen that needs time to breathe and develop and rewards the listener with a better understanding of the story that Meljoann is telling us after each rotation. Some artists earn one song in my “Songs About Work” mixtape. Meljoanne achieved the remarkable by having the whole album added. Well done.