How the Barbie soundtrack came together, according to mastermind Mark Ronson

If anything, that idea is more of a thematic one than a sonic guideline. The mood board was vast, and also included “Dolly Parton, Olivia Newton John, Nine To Five”, Ronson explains.

It speaks to why the Barbie soundtrack spans pop genres, including a reggaeton track courtesy Karol G, Watati, bubblegum K-pop from girl group Fifty Fifty featuring Kaliii in Barbie Dreams, and the falsetto-led piano ballad What Was I Made For? by Billie Eilish.

For Atlantic Records, who released the soundtrack, collaboration and diversity was key.

“All of these artists were brought in early on to do screenings with Mark, Greta, and the filmmakers. They would see scenes they were going to write their music to,” says Brandon Davis, executive vice president and co-head of pop A&R at the label. “Each of these artists wrote lyrics about the specific ways Barbie was important to them.”

Ronson echoes the sentiment.

“Karol G was like, ‘I’m here because I love Barbie. I wasn’t expecting this incredible film. This is awesome,’” he says. “And HAIM had this encyclopaedic knowledge. The only VHS they were allowed in the ’90s, when they were kids, was this one Barbie thing. They knew every song.”

Others were tasked with a prompt: Lizzo’s Pink, which ends with a voiceover from Helen Mirren, was inspired by the lead Barbie, played by Margot Robbie, living through her perfect day. And because the film is a comedy with real-world complications, humour informed a lot of the songwriting: It’s in Dominic Fike’s Hey Blondie as well as the many samples of Charli XCX’s Speed Drive.

“(Soundtracks) are an area where we cracked the code and figured out how to make it work in a way where we support our partners creatively,” says Kevin Weaver, president of Atlantic Records West Coast, citing Atlantic’s work on other major soundtracks like from the Fast & Furious franchise, The Fault In Our Stars, and The Greatest Showman, which produced massive hits like Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s See You Again, Charli XCX’s Boom Clap, and This Is Me, respectively.

But unlike those films, part of the acquisition process for Barbie required a trip to the doll factory, where Atlantic executives got to witness the doll-making process from inception to completion.

When working with legendary intellectual property, a soundtrack comes with some risks. Do you bring back Aqua’s 1997 hit Barbie Girl, or do you reimagine it? Surely Nicki Minaj must be featured her fans are called Barbz.

“I remember no offense that I had a song on the Ghostbusters remake and I think six of the 12 songs were reinterpretations of Ray Parker Jr(’s Ghostbusters theme),” says Ronson. “It all dovetailed into the single we have with Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice,” he continued, referencing the reworking of Barbie Girl.

“I’ve never really executive produced something before,” Ronson says. “I love this film. We had an amazing partner in Atlantic Records.”

“And then doing the score, but it was a lot of learning on the job. It was still a job that I’ve never really done before. … It’s fun to show people different scenes and getting them to dream big.”

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