A moment’s silence, please, for Dolly Parton’s new late-capitalist anthem

The country star and vaccine tzar has recorded '5-9', an update to her '9-5' hit and a depressing ode to side-hustle culture.

by Roisin Lanigan
03 February 2021, 12:41pm

There are many things we fail to comprehend about the distant past, purely because of the dearth of time and experience that has elapsed between the now and the then. We cannot appreciate the wall etchings of cave men as they were seen by contemporary hunter-gatherers, for instance. Without videos and photographs, we will never truly understand the horror of medieval battles. Similarly, none of us will ever know what it is like to live in a society which assumes all individuals can support themselves adequately with one single job. 

Thanks to late capitalism, zero hour contracts, the abject failure of governments to provide a liveable minimum wage and the ever-present spectre of a productivity culture which attaches self-worth to busyness, many of us do not have just one job. Supporting ourselves through a side-hustle; freelancing and monetising our hobbies and interests; taking on second and third jobs and burning ourselves out in the process: all of this has been normalised. It’s a depressing status quo, even more so in its banality. It’s certainly not something that we needed to have celebrated and immortalised in music form. But it’s 2021, times are cursed, and so here is a Dolly Parton song about side-hustles. 

As part of a new Super Bowl Sunday advert for the website building company Squarespace, Dolly has re-recorded her seminal hit “9-5”. What was once an ode to the working man, as he toils under the tyranny of middle management, has become “5-9”: an ode to freelance culture, passion projects and that MLM mantra, “being your own boss”. Singing the praises of giving away your evenings and weekends in pursuit of the dollar, Dolly sings “‘Cause it’s hustlin’ time / a whole new way to make a livin’ / Gonna change your life / Do something that gives it meaning / With a website that is worthy of your dreaming”. 

“A lot of people through the years have wanted to change the lyrics to fit certain things they’re doing. I really thought that was a wonderful thing, especially for Squarespace. They’re so into people, new entrepreneurs working after hours to start their own businesses,” Dolly told the Associated Press. “‘5 to 9’ seemed to be a perfect thing when they pitched it.”

Now look, we’re not gonna get all sanctimonious about sponcon here. If Dolly wants the Squarespace Superbowl money, more power to her. In fact, unless what celebrities are hawking us is a tummy tea that gives you dysentery, let them go ahead and get that advertising dough! But nevertheless, there is something deeply depressing about the country icon (and recent vaccine superstar) leading us through a period of pandemic unemployment and burn out, by telling us to just keep working and monetising ourselves, bit by bit, until there is nothing left of us as human beings.

Side-hustle culture is eroding our sense of selves and pushing us towards greater and greater personal KPIs and OKRs, until we are nothing but sentient LinkedIn posts, carrying out our silly little tasks, creating our little websites and hawking our little wares until we are dead. Annoyingly, “5-9”, as a descendent of its less problematic predecessor “9-5”, remains a banger.

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Dolly Parton