The 21st Century’s Cup of Ambition | “9 to 5” by Kelly Clarkson & Dolly Parton


Madison Reinhold, Writer/Volunteer

Wake up everyone, Dolly Parton is back and blessing us with a new song, the Communist Manifesto 2, a.k.a., a new version of “9 to 5.” 

Over 40 years after the original song and movie released, Parton teamed up with a new generation of music superstars to create a mellow version of the 1980 hit. Kelly Clarkson joins in on the new track to go along with an upcoming documentary, Still Working 9 to 5, looking back on the film’s impact on women in the workforce. 

The original film focuses on a trio of women in a dull corporate office, struggling with misogyny, double standards, balancing family and other things working women then and now deal with. Parton joins the iconic duo of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in a chaotic and comedic plot to kidnap their terrible boss after getting fed up with him. Fonda plays a newly divorced mother, Judy, trying to get back on her feet. Tomlin is a life-long worker, Violet, who continuously misses out on promotions by men, and Parton plays Doralee, a secretary who deals with constant sexual harrassment from her boss. With the boss tied up, the women create a corporate paradise with free daycare, better hours and better pay. While the film has some fantastical elements, like a sequence where Parton’s Doralee dreams of wrangling the boss with a lasso while wearing a fringed western outfit, the true fantasy is that Tomlin’s character actually gets promoted and recognized for her hard work at the end. A documentary wouldn’t have been made if the workplace had actually become an equal place for women. 

The new song leaves behind the twinge of country and the typewriter-clacking backing rhythm for a more contemporary pop sound that’s slowed way down. Whether or not it was intentional, the melancholy of the new song could reflect the desperation that workers feel today. With the rich getting richer, that line about “putting more money in the boss man’s wallet” gives one just a touch more pause than it did four decades ago. Or, it could just be to better fit modern music listeners. 

I personally think that the new version lost some unnameable characteristics in its revamp, but that may be just because I tend to favor an older sound anyway — and have a soft spot for ‘70s and ‘80s country. 

Either way, this song still resonates with anyone who has ever had a terrible job, a cruel boss, or felt completely alienated in our modern work culture of capitalism, hustling and unfair treatment of women in the workplace. Have things gotten better in the past four decades? Yes. Is there still gender discrimination and a pay gap in the 2020s? Unfortunately, the answer is also yes, according to this Pew Center data. In our own Lansing/East Lansing area, Pew shows a woman makes 85% of what a man makes for the same/similar job. And these statistics don’t even account for race (this other Pew study does). 

40 years later, the Judys are still forced to balance motherhood and work, the Violets still have men less qualified put above them and the Doralees still work for that disgusting, misogynistic boss. 

But through it all, Dolly Parton will still be singing about it. So go listen to it!