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Job Song

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I've been working on the railroad all the livelong day. I've been working on the railroad just to pass the time away.
Nursery Rhyme, "I've Been Working on the Railroad"

Most people make money via having a job, and some characters sing about their jobs (or jobs they're fantasising about having) or other people's, and this is when you get this trope.

If the person is singing about their own job, this song could be positive, about how they really like their job because it contributes something important/good to society or because they just find it fun. It could also be negative, about how they hate their job (whether due to finding it boring, having a Mean Boss, not getting paid enough, it taking too long, finding it gross or any other reason). It could also be a mixture of positive and negative, talking about how the job has both upsides and downsides.

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Often Played for Laughs by having a character with a job that people tend to classify as boring (fast-food restaurant workers and office workers are common candidates for this) sing about how they enjoy their job. These people are often seen as boring sticks-in-the-mud but not always.

If it's sung by other people, it usually means they admire the person's job and/or they wouldn't want to be stuck with it, but there are other reasons for singing about someone else's job.

If it's sung by the one with the job, it can overlap with "I Am" Song (if the character's job is a notable part of their role and/or personality), "I Want" Song (if the character doesn't want that job), "I Am Becoming" Song (if their job is a step towards a different one or they're singing about their future job), Musical Chores (if their job involves cleaning up), or "I Am Great!" Song (if they're bragging about their job). Examples for pirates go under Pirate Song and examples for singers/musicians usually go under Rock Star Song. Compare Money Song. See Take This Job and Shove It for characters who hate their jobs enough to at least contemplate a Rage Quit.

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If used as a Theme Tune, it's usually an Expository Theme Tune and occasionally a Bragging Theme Tune, sometimes a Theme Tune Roll Call if the theme lists everyone's jobs. It may also overlap with "They've Come So Far" Song if their job was the result of a long process or Ode To Food if it's sung by a chef/waiter/waitress/etc.

Crops up a lot in all kinds of works, but is particularly common in blues and folk music.

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Examples

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     Anime and Manga 
  • In the Hello Kitty cartoon episode "Eating Nicely", the talking utensils sing about their job "delivering" food to people's mouths.

     Fan Works 
  • At least two parodies of songs from Frozen:
    • "I Don't Know" is a parody of "Let it Go" about being a med student and not knowing the answers to questions.
    • "Are You Gonna Flush the Toilet?" is a parody of "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?" about being a janitor.

     Films — Animated 
  • "Frozen Heart", the opening song of Frozen, is sung by ice harvesters and poetically describes their job.
  • The Jungle Book: "Colonel Hathi's March" is sung by the elephants about their job of marching around aimlessly "in the military style".
  • The Little Mermaid:
    • "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is sung by Ursula about her job as a sorceress supposedly helping people.
    • "Les Poissons" is sung by a chef about how he likes to cook seafood.
  • A variant in The Princess and the Frog: The song "Almost There" is about Tiana's future job owning a restaurant.
  • Snow White features a song sung by the Seven Dwarfs about their job digging in a mine all day. There's also "Whistle While You Work".

     Films — Live-Action 
  • In Annie, the song "You're Gonna Like it Here" downplays this. It's about the inner workings of the Warbucks house, which includes, but is not limited to, the servants singing about what they do (e.g. "When you wake, ring for Drake. Drake will bring your tray. When you're through, Mrs. Pew comes to take it away.")
  • The Ghostbusters theme is about the protagonists' job hunting down ghosts and trapping them.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: "The Dentist Song" is sung by the dentist about how he's a dentist and therefore causes pain.
  • Mary Poppins: Bert sings two songs like this because he has several jobs. One song is about his chalk drawings and another, "Chim Chim Cheree", is about his job as a chimney sweep and how sweeps are good luck.
  • "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton from 9 to 5 is an upbeat complaint of an underpaid Working-Class Hero about her Mean Boss and the system's lack of respect for her and her job.
    Workin' 9 to 5,
    What a way to make a livin'
    Barely gettin' by
    It's all takin' and no givin'
    They just use your mind
    And they never give you credit
    It's enough to drive you crazy
    If you let it
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has "The Candyman" song, in which a candy store owner sings about the joy children are given by the candy he sells them.
  • The Wizard of Oz has the song "Merry Old Land of Oz", in which several workers in Oz, including the hairdressers, the repair workers, and a few people whose jobs seem to consist only of eating lunch, sing about their jobs.
  • The 2005 adaptation of The Producers has mousy accountant Leo Bloom sing a song that both bemoans the boring, dead-end job to which he's dedicated his life thus far, and exultantly voices his "secret desire" to become a glamorous and wealthy Broadway producer.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The song "Don't Be A Lawyer", a New Jack Swing number where Jim vehemently insists to AJ that being a lawyer is a grueling, thankless job and Crusading Lawyers have it worse because there's no money in environmental, human rights, or immigration law.
  • Parodied on Galavant when the incredibly out of touch Blue Blood/Manchild Richard tries to imagine working various common jobs instead of being King. The song he sings makes it clear he has absolutely no idea what these jobs entail and is missing a lot of basic knowledge about the world.
    Richard: If I were a jolly blacksmith
    What a happy guy I'd be!
    I would do all kinds of blacksmith stuff
    In my blacksmithery!
    I would hit the thing
    With the other thing
    Til I made a different thing!
  • Art Carney's "Song of the Sewer" is sung from the perspective of his The Honeymooners character Norton, a sewer worker.
    We sing the song of the sewer
    Of the sewer we sing this song
    Together we stand
    With shovel in hand
    To keep things rolling along.
  • Parodied with the notorious "Lumberjack Song" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a group of jolly lumberjacks singing a song like this are increasingly shocked when the lead singer changes the lyrics to come out about his transvestitism/transsexuality.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Exaggerated for "People in Your Neighbourhood", which talks about several different occupations that people you meet on the street might have.
    • "Do the Doctor" is a song by some doctors creating a dance based on their profession.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a recurring sketch called "Greatest Hits", where songs about unlikely subjects would be made up on the spot. Jobs picked for "Greatest Hits" subject include butcher, lawyer, flight attendant, accountant, and bus driver.
  • In Yo Gabba Gabba!, the song "Doctor Doctor" is about what doctors do.

     Music 
  • "Sixteen Tons" - written by Merle Travis and popularized by Tennessee Ernie Ford - is one of the bleakest job songs in existence, as it's a man's lament that regardless of how hard he works, he'll never escape the Company Town.
  • Billy Joel:
    • "Piano Man" is about a piano player at a bar whose playing makes the patrons forget about their troubles.
    • "The Entertainer" is about a rock singer and the compromises he's had to make to stay on the charts.
  • Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" is about a couple making ends meet. Tommy lost his job at the docks due to the union going on strike, while Gina becomes the breadwinner by working at the diner all day.
  • The Byrds' album track "BB Class Road" is in the voice of a roadie boasting about how cool his job is.
  • Car Wash Blues from 1974, written and performed by Jim Croce, is the lament of a man with talent and ambition scrubbing the grunge off other people's vehicles. This from the days when very little of the process was mechanized, and was mostly manual labor.
  • Dire Straits: "Money for Nothing" is a song about an ignorant blue collar worker Mark Knopfler encountered and includes several direct quotes from them.
  • "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer is about the singer talking about a blue collar working who had working hard for 28 years, and experiencing the good and bad times, and the singer addresses the listener to treat her right. Summer stated that the song was inspired by an encounter with a restroom attendant named Onetta Johnson. The music video is about a waitress who set aside her dreams of being a ballerina to raise her children. Summer, who was observing, helps her dance in the streets along with other women in various work uniforms.
  • The Harry Belafonte song "The Banana Boat Song" is about some workers who work all night stacking bananas onto a boat.
  • The Flanders and Swann song "The Gasman Cometh" is a song about a whole series of tradesmen visiting the singer's house to repair the previous tradesman's damage:
    'Twas on a Monday morning
    The Gas-Man came to call;
    The gas tap wouldn't turn - I wasn't getting gas at all.
    He tore out all the skirting boards
    To try and find the main,
    And I had to call a Carpenter to put them back again.
    Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!
    'Twas on a Tuesday morning
    The Carpenter came round;
    He hammered and he chiselled and he said: 'Look what I've found!
    Your joists are full of dry-rot
    But I'll put it all to rights.'
    Then he nailed right through a cable and out went all the lights.
    Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!
...and so on, until a painter paints over the gas taps, which results in him having to call the gasman yet again...
  • The nursery rhyme "I've Been Working on the Railroad" is about someone who, well, works on the railroad.
  • "My Old Man's a Dustman" is sung from the perspective of a guy whose father is a garbage man and the singer hails him as an "unsung hero".
  • "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles is about a man trying to make it as... well, a paperback writer.
  • "Rockabye" by Clean Bandit is about a Single Mom Stripper who works for her six year old son for a better future.
  • Tom Waits: "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work (and See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)" is sung from the perspective of a man who does odd jobs, while sweeping up and cleaning bathrooms on a night job, about how he wished he was at home with the woman he misses.
  • The Two Ronnies as Jehosophat and Jones have their own song about someone who works on the railroad: Railroad Man.
    They said 'Lay tracks for the railroad,
    'cos steam means speed and power';
    So I'm doin' my best and I'm travellin' west
    About fifteen feet an hour, oh Lord, about fifteen feet an hour.
  • "Working Man" by Rush, a class complaint.
    I get up at seven, yeah
    And I go to work at nine
    I got no time for livin'
    Yes, I'm workin' all the time.
  • Many of the songs of Stan Rogers are about different jobs; "The Field Behind the Plow" is about a farmer, "The Idiot" is about a refinery worker, and "White Collar Holler" is a work shanty about a computer programmer.
  • The song "Sixteen Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford is about being a coal miner. "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt."
  • The union song "Solidarity Forever", associated with Pete Seeger, describes all the way that workers create things.
  • "Truckers are the Blood" by AJJ is about working in various ways, and ends with praising truckers.
    "Work a ten hour grave from nine to seven"
  • Dead Kennedys' "At My Job":
    "I'm working at my job
    I'm so happy
    More boring every day
    But they pay me"
  • Talking Heads' "Found a Job" details the lives of a married couple who run their own production studio, making good-quality, well-regarded, and commercially successful TV shows in response to the constant trite on the airwaves that they used to argue over. Their earlier song "Don't Worry About the Government" also directly references working, but delves more into the location at which the narrator works than the job itself.
  • The Wiggles: "The Bricklayers Song".

     Theatre 
  • A Chorus Line has a number of songs dealing with dance as a profession, but "Dance Ten, Looks Three" is most directly about it, being a monologue about a character's attempts to get a job as a dancer.
  • The Gondoliers has two of these for nobility:
    • Marco and Giuseppe's song "Rising early in the morning" is about their everyday lives in their joint reign as King of Barataria.
    • The Duke and Duchess, for their part, have a List Song about the many dubious things they do to maintain their social position.
  • Les Misérables has a number of these:
    • "Work Song" is sung by Jean Valjean and his fellow convicts as they engage in backbreaking manual labor (in the film version and some stagings, they are shown as galley slaves, as convicts in Toulon did in real life, although not as late as 1815 when the scene is set).
    • "At the End of the Day" is mostly about the drudgery of factory work and how it's still better than the alternatives (begging or prostitution).
    • "Lovely Ladies" is sung from the perspective of prostitutes as they go about their business and attempt to attract clients.
    • Thénardier's "I Am" Song "Master of the House" is about being a crooked innkeeper.
  • The song "Dentist!" from Little Shop of Horrors is sung by Audrey's abusive boyfriend Orin, whose career choice is depicted as a perfect fit for someone with his sadistic tendencies.
    I am your dentist
    I enjoy the career that I picked
    I am your dentist
    And I get off on the pain I inflict!
  • In Man of La Mancha, The Barber has a song about what he does as a barber, a number which gets taken over by Don Quixote after a few verses under the misapprehension that the barber's washing basin is the legendary Golden Helmet of Mambrino.
  • The Pirates of Penzance has two: "The Major General's Song" ("I am the very model of a Modern Major General.") and "The Pirate King's Song" ("It is, it is a glorious thing to be the pirate king!").
  • Urinetown:
    • In "It's a Privilege to Pee", Penelope Pennywise sings about her job, which is making sure people pay to use the pay toilet.
    • "The Cop Song" is sung by the cops about how they catch people violating the toilet-related laws.
  • "All The Livelong Day" from Working is an ensemble number about the daily grind.
    All the livelong day
    Everybody done know that song
    Working for a living the whole day long
    All the livelong day...
  • In The Yeomen of the Guard, Jack Point's Patter Song "A private buffoon" presents a rather cynical view of his occupation as jester.

     Video Games 
  • Moshi Monsters:
    • "Super Moshi March" is about the Super Moshis' job as superheroes.
    • "The Doctor Will See You Now" is sung by Dr. Strangeglove about how he works as an evil scientist.
    • In "The Missy Kix Dance", Missy Kix sings about how she's a singer and also a secret agent.
  • Warframe has "We All Lift Together", a work song sung by the Solaris underneath the Corpus' thumb. It sings about their legacy and the constant work they do to escape the yoke of their debts, working together until they're free or die trying to earn their freedom.

     Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Alphablocks, X sings about how he's a superhero.
  • The Backyardigans has the characters pretending to be all sorts of occupations, and they always sing a song about whatever occupation they are.
  • The Doc McStuffins theme is about the titular character's job as a toy repair girl.
  • An episode of Futurama has "The Bureaucrat Song" about how bureaucrats get a bad rap, but it's best to do what you like anyway.
  • The Koala Brothers: The theme song is about the titular Koala Brothers' job helping people.
  • Beaver from My Friends Tigger & Pooh sings a song about how "work, work, work, work is all [he seems] to do."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Downplayed for Flim and Flam's cider song. It's mainly just advertising their cider maker, but it's also about how they're travelling salesponies.
    • In "What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me", the protagonists' (sans Twilight's) cutie marks (symbols on their rear thighs that convey their destinies) have been swapped, so they are singing about having to do one another's jobs and not being very good at them.
  • The Numberjacks theme is about the Numberjacks' job solving problems.
  • Postman Pat:
    • The theme song is about Pat's job as a postman.
    • One episode features a song about Ted Glenn's job fixing things.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Trash of the Titans" has Homer singing "The Garbage Man Can" song, in which he sings about all the things his new job as Springfield's Sanitation Inspector will allow him to do for its citizens. The song is a parody of the "The Candyman" song from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory mentioned above in the "Film" folder.
  • South Park: In "Butt Out" a chorus of cigarette factory workers sing a jolly song about the joys of their job.

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