Why Is Barbie's Soundtrack So Good? - ComicBook Watercooler

Ryan Gosling might be "just Ken," but that Barbie soundtrack is spectacular. ComicBook.com's roundtable unpacks why.

Barbie's soundtrack is sweeping through the charts, just like the movie dominated theaters for like a month here. ComicBook.com gathered three staff writers to discuss what make this multicolored wonder tick sonically, and the results are fascinating. Nicole Drum, Nick Valdez and Aaron Perine talked about the song choices and the needle drops. But, also what about the sonic fabric of Greta Gerwig's movie really sticks with you over time. The movie has so much to offer. From the use of Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice's "Barbie World" to making sure that we'll never hear Matchbox Twenty the same again.

So, come along for a ComicBook Watercooler about the sights and sounds of Barbie featuring the talents of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. If you love the soundtrack and haven't been able to stop streaming it, there's probably something for you inside of this conversation. We start with an interesting question: Why is the Barbie soundtrack so dominant after years of movie soundtracks making very small cultural footprints?

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(Photo: Warner Bros.)

Why Is Barbie's Soundtrack Great?

  1. Aaron Perine: Barbie's music seems to have struck a chord, why do you think that is exactly? Is it just like the movie? Wrangling an All-Star cast or is it something else entirely

Nicole Drum: "I think that some of it is definitely the movie itself being so wildly popular. I think there is that the DJ Khaled, All-Star lineup, kickball team of it all. But, I also think that if you really listen to the soundtrack, there are a lot of… Vibes and genres, time periods represented amongst contemporary music in there. You hear 80s vibes, you hear 90s vibes, there are even elements of late 50s-early 60s standards in it.

I think that the reason the soundtrack itself is hitting those numbers is because its appealing to that wide range of 'The Barbie Fan.' It's covering that entire scope of time. It was something that I noticed as I was listening to it before we sat down. 'Man, this has such a 70s groove. But, I know it's not a 70s song.' That's when it really hit me. Just like there's a Barbie for every era and she is timeless, this album has music that is made in the present that feels like its reaching back, but keeping everything current.

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(Photo: Warner Bros./Mattel)

"It's just hitting that right chord of it feels like its nostalgia. But, it feels like its fresh and it just hits that vein perfectly. It's a beautifully curated album. The soundtrack itself, there are songs that don't appear in the movie. It's just perfectly structured to hit all those pieces. You're getting that full course of experience. I feel like I could take someone older than me, who's Barbie experience is completely different and let them listen to the music. They're not going to be like 'Oh, That's weird young people music.' Or I could give it to, you know, one of my friends' daughters?

"Just like the movie itself, it speaks to multiple experiences and sounds. And, that's why I haven't heard a movie's soundtrack do that with contemporary music ever."

AP: I never conceived of it as "Barbie is Everything, so, of course, the soundtrack is everything." But, now that I've said it out loud, it's obvious [Laughs]. You touched on the idea of it being a throwback sound too Nick, but from a different angle because the big pop soundtrack used to be commonplace before? We haven't had one get stuck in the zeitgeist like this for at least a couple years?

Nick Valdez: My answer isn't as nuanced as Nicole's. But, I'm a sucker for an original movie soundtrack. Not like, 'This is cool or whatever.' Not like a whatever let's throw this on here and compose it for the movie. These are artists that legitimately make new tracks for the movie. Songs where they say, 'I'm here fighting with my ninja brothers…' from that TMNT movie forever ago. (I'm informed this is "Shell Shocked" by Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign back in 2014's version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

I'm a sucker for pain. There's one of those in the Suicide Squad too. The David Ayer one! Warner Bros., in particular, is really good about actually crafting a full soundtrack. That's where that nostalgia comes in. It's taking over because the thought is 'Let's get current artists to do the Barbie song. Let's get Dua Lipa to make the lead single. Then, let's put her in there as a mermaid, because that makes sense.' 

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"That's doing the extra work. When they do the extra work, and it's not just a compiled list of songs that the director likes. We're good. It's catching on because it's NEW music. It's not just songs that were already there before and now in Barbie context."

AP: I think that's really true. There was this outcry when the trailer came out that 'The Aqua song better in here!" Well, yes, we're all lemmings so 'Bart, say the thing!' Having Nicki Minaj have come through and sample it with Ice Spice and work with Aqua. They finally get some recognition from Mattel. It's so much better. Greta tells the story that Margot ran into her office arguing the song should be in it. The director was already working on it. It turns out Margot Robbie is actually the best person to make that point.

Why Has I'm Just Ken Become A Phenomenon?

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(Photo:

k

- Warner Bros.)
  • Ryan Gosling's "I'm Just Ken" has propelled him to an absolutely staggering run on Spotify. He's got 12.9 million listeners this month according to The Washington Post's reporting. For reference that's more than Jason Aldean or like Rick Ross. What's going on here?

ND: It's a universal message. You don't have to be Ken to have felt like "I'm just Ken." I really expected that song to just be a joke. But, that song hit me in my feelings. Not only does the song slap, but it slapped me? You know? Find me a person who does not identify with I'm Just Ken? I'll show you someone who is lying to themselves.

"It's the song we needed. It's saying a lot. It's Ryan Gosling. Everybody feels like this sometimes. It's not one of those I'm crying in my beer about it songs… I think that's part of it's mass appeal. It's letting people be vulnerable and have a good time with it. It's also Ryan freaking Gosling."

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(Photo: Warner Bros./Mattel)

NV: This is at the tail end of Barbie. He was already so dominant for most of the movie as this Ken character. You already love him so much by that point that when he kind of explodes in that way, it's like 'Oh, he is just Ken.' It helped cap off the movie and watching Ken go through this experience.

"Yeah, there were some musical moments in the movie. But, to have a real, true 'This is a musical' kind of scene? Where he's the only one singing out his feelings? This is my 'I am song,' this is my 'I want song.' It all comes together at just the right moment. It's no surprise that it's taken off like this."

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ND: In addition, people are like 'Barbie is this feminist movie. It's about girl power.' They're missing a bigger point in a very real way. This is about Ken. This movie is also about men and boys feeling their feelings. I really love that. He is the only character that gets the 'I am, I want, I feel.' That really says something. I think that's also really resonant for people. He's putting it all out there and he's doing a dang good job.

AP: I'd argue that he's just as much of the 'main character' of the piece as Margot [Robbie] is? I feel like the movie and our heroine feel terrible for our poor misguided horse boy… When the rest of the Kens chant back 'So am I!' There's this "Mr. Brightside"-esque quality that you can't help but smile at there. And my man can actually sing, so that's true too.

What's your favorite part of the Barbie soundtrack? Let us know down in the comments!