The Big Picture
- Barbie has exceeded audience expectations, smashing box office predictions and topping the charts with its soundtrack, which features hits from Billie Eilish and more.
- The anticipation for the album was fueled by announcements of star contributions, including HAIM, Charli XCX, and Dua Lipa, further increasing excitement for the film’s release.
- The soundtrack perfectly complements the movie, with standout moments like the opening track, Dua Lipa’s disco anthem, and Ryan Gosling’s Ken-themed power ballad, creating memorable and entertaining cinematic scenes.
Despite the extraordinary anticipation surrounding the Barbie movie since its inception, this Margot Robbie-led pink extravaganza seems to have met and exceeded audience expectations. The film has smashed box office predictions, with director Greta Gerwig clinching the number one spot for the biggest cinematic opening weekend for a solo female filmmaker, while numerous favorites from its soundtrack now top the charts and breaking records in the UK. Arguably it is the resounding success of Barbie’s music that fuels the continued buzz that surrounds the movie, where hits from Ice Spice, Billie Eilish, and more complement this surreal foray into this doll world.
Barbie: The Album was released in full on July 21, 2023, coinciding with the North American cinematic release of the movie. The album drop had been anticipated with almost as much excitement as the film itself, ever since the initial revelation that industry legend Mark Ronson would be at the helm to produce the soundtrack. Of course, this only furthered the buzz surrounding Barbie‘s release, where a smash hit album to accompany the movie now seemed inevitable.
How Did ‘Barbie’ Use Music as Marketing?
Initial album news was quickly followed by subsequent announcements about the stars making a contribution to the track list, where key names such as HAIM, Charli XCX, and more were mentioned, with further contributions set to be made by cast members Dua Lipa and Ryan Gosling. Anticipation was then exacerbated further when it was later announced that Billie Eilish and Sam Smith would also be adding their original songs to the soundtrack.
Making these announcements in the run-up to the movie’s release helped to fuel the ever-growing excitement that surrounded this project, where the Barbie marketing team was always ready to fan the flames of anticipation at every turn. Several singles from the album were released during the countdown to Barbie, including “Barbie World”, the hotly anticipated track by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice. The fact that most of these tracks are entirely listenable outside the context of the film helped to expand Barbie-mania into the real world, allowing excitement to reach a boiling point by the time the movie eventually hit our screens.
Pop Perfection Fuels ‘Barbie’s Opening Scenes
The soundtrack is elevated to a whole new level of perfection when enjoyed as part of the movie itself, even if it is entirely listenable for those who have not yet seen the film. Barbie begins with “Pink”s tongue-in-cheek pop-y vocals designed to immediately engross audiences in the surreal world of Barbieland. According to Ronson, the production team had just two days to work on the track, alluding to the sense of spontaneity that seems to have resulted in some of the best music on the album.
The movie’s opening song is swiftly followed by Dua Lipa’s “Dance The Night,” an upbeat pop anthem that soundtracks a huge choreographed disco dance floor scene with Margot Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie in front and center. This kick-starts the movie’s fast and surprising storyline, where the music soon becomes a tool used to unpack the instability of Barbie’s world.
‘Barbie’s Musical Numbers Bring the Ken-ergy to Life
A much anticipated musical moment in Barbie was always going to be Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken.” This 80s power ballad miraculously pivots halfway through into a dazzling all-Ken breakout dance scene, where black costumes in front of a surreal white backdrop throwback to John Travolta’s iconic “Grease Lightning” performance. Gosling’s vocals are both tonally sound and praiseworthy for their lyrical humor, where the lines “I’m just Ken/Anywhere else I’d be a ten” are bound to be spiraling around your head long after the movie ends.
As the Kens come together for a final scene of choreographed majesty, the music doubles down into an electrical instrumental with the echoing lyric “Can you feel the Ken-ergy?” before the power ballad percussion returns in full force. This moment of musical mastery captures everything that’s good about Barbie, where parody meets genuinely well-produced, entertaining, and cinematic scenes.
Tear-Inducing Vocals Capture ‘Barbie’s Heart
Some of the more mellow examples from the soundtrack do well to cut through the pink pop haze to reflect the film’s heartfelt core, where HAIM’s “Home” and Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” perfectly capture Barbie‘s more thoughtful side. As Eilish’s breathy vocals play over a montage of human experience, it’s hard to hold back tears, especially as her lyrics toy with the connection between Barbie’s search for meaning and the difficulties of modern womanhood.
Gerwig notes that this song is actually dispersed throughout the film, where she explains that “by the time you get to it at the end, you’ve actually been hearing it the whole movie”. This speaks to the way in which the Barbie score is ingeniously crafted with the soundtrack as its driving force, resulting in a seamless end product that is bound to engross its audience.
Why Do ‘Barbie’ and Its Soundtrack Work So Well Together?
Other praiseworthy tracks include “Speed Drive” by Charlie XCX and “Journey To The Real World” by Tame Impala, where both of these perfectly complement the action of the movie, transforming dizzying action sequences into self-contained bursts of movie magic. Nothing about the soundtrack feels accidental or shoe-horned, which could have been the case with a tracklist that includes many celebrated musicians.
When Ronson first began working on the soundtrack, he was initially sent a playlist of inspiration from Greta Gerwig, which included what he describes as “guilty pleasure music” and “Peloton pop.” As such, the resounding and more memorable sound of the Barbie: The Album is one of pink disco nostalgia mixed with occasional moments of parody and fast-paced electropop. But the film’s more profound moments are also perfectly soundtracked, summing up the multifaceted nature of Barbie the movie and Barbie the doll.
Ultimately the music of Barbie combines perfectly with its pink set design, ever-changing costuming, and exceptional choreography to provide a fully immersive sensory journey through both doll and human experience.