Few movies in recent memory have garnered as much pre-release hype as Barbie. The studio behind the title clearly has aspirations of it achieving summer blockbuster status, and early projections suggest that the film might indeed become a massive success. Complementing the cinematic score (according to some reviews) is the highly-anticipated and heavily promoted Barbie soundtrack, which boasts more than a dozen brand new tracks from a healthy mix of superstars and rising talents.
The Barbie album, in its aim to be just as monumental as the film it accompanies, enlisted the participation of chart-toppers like Lizzo, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Sam Smith, and Nicki Minaj to create original tunes. Alongside these music heavyweights, emerging talents like Dominic Fike, Karol G, Gayle, and Ava Max have also joined the impressive lineup, and all were apparently eager to be part of this musical journey.
Corralling such a star-studded cast may seem like a challenge, but surprisingly, almost every artist Atlantic Records reached out to was excited to be a part of the soundtrack and did what they had to in order to make it work. Brandon Davis, the label’s EVP and Co-Head of Pop/Rock A&R, said, “We were lucky enough where almost every artist we reached out to was a yes, if not an insta-yes.”
Contrary to what some might expect, the process of putting together this impressive array of talent was remarkably smooth. “You think there’d be a lot of ego,” commented Barbie music supervisor George Drakoulias, but despite the megawatt stars attached to the album, that wasn’t the case. “Barbie is bigger than everything. Barbie is bigger than me. Barbie’s bigger than anybody” he said, adding, “It’s Barbie’s world, we just live in it.” Drakoulias later called the process of putting the album together “a complete joy.”
Kevin Weaver, Atlantic Records’ West Coast President, agreed with Drakoulias. “There’s just so much good will for Barbie out there within the artist community” he commented, underlining how thrilled musicians were to be asked.
Atlantic Records began work on the album years ago, long before filming started. “We really like to get into things early, so we could be a part of the DNA of what the music becomes,” Weaver explained. That way, they are part of the conversation from the beginning, which makes it easier to find the right names and sonic direction and move forward.
From the earliest stages of the pink-hued film’s development, Atlantic staff was tracking the project, leveraging existing relationships with director and co-writer Greta Gerwig, Mattel and even star Margot Robbie to ensure the soundtrack would land on their schedule. “We always felt like this was a right IP and a right opportunity to come in and curate a phenomenal body of work,” Weaver stated.
According to him, curating the Barbie soundtrack was seen from the outset as a chance to create something that could have a lasting cultural impact beyond the movie itself. Atlantic strategically selects projects like this album, only going after one every year or so, as it’s a huge drain of resources. If done right, a masterfully executed soundtrack can propel a film’s legacy and success even further, becoming a win in multiple parts of the entertainment industry.
Davis said that when it comes to opportunities like this one, “We’re always looking for something that feels like it has cultural stickiness outside of the four walls of the film.” Barbie’s pervasive influence made it the perfect candidate for an extraordinary soundtrack. The film effortlessly embedded itself into the pop culture conversation before its theatrical release, thanks to the power of the iconic brand…and a huge marketing spend, of course. All it needed to complete the package was some music for the party.
Super producer and songwriter Mark Ronson took the creative helm of the Barbie soundtrack, executive producing the album (alongside Atlantic’s Weaver and Davis) and actually crafting several of the songs featured on it. His track record of countless pop hits, multiple Grammy wins and even an Oscar for Best Original Song alongside Lady Gaga demonstrated his prowess when it comes to creating successful music, especially for film. Ronson collaborated with all the artists involved, discussing their connections to specific moments or scenes in the film, which inspired their compositions, and helping them finish their work.
To ensure that the songs aligned perfectly with the movie’s essence, the musicians sent in demos for review, leading to meetings between the label, the artists, Ronson, and even Gerwig. Ronson even set them to picture, ensuring they worked perfectly in the movie itself, as almost every track is present in the film. Most of the talent involved got it right and apparently didn’t need much help finishing their submissions. “People took the assignment and they really nailed it” Drakoulias admitted.
The level of collaboration and dedication invested in the soundtrack exemplifies the effort and expense dedicated to making the Barbie album a stellar musical experience. Other successful soundtracks have been developed without people going to such great lengths, but when it comes to Barbie, everyone stepped up and worked extra hard to get it right.
The Barbie soundtrack’s impact has been impressive so far. Several singles have been released already, several of which have become Billboard chart hits. Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night,” the first of the bunch, peaked at No. 29 on the Hot 100, while Nicki Minaj’s “Barbie World,” featuring rapper Ice Spice and Aqua (the pop band responsible for the original “Barbie”-themed hit song in the ‘90s, which is sampled in the new cut), reached as high as No. 7. Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” is also poised to make its mark on the Hot 100 in a few days, and any number of the remaining tracks could also find their way to various lists now that the full collection is available.
Chart numbers don’t necessarily define a successful soundtrack, but they certainly help show that the effort has been worth it and that the masses are reacting positively to what they hear. The Barbie soundtrack has already made plenty of noise and proved itself to not just be about the hype—so in more ways than one, it follows the movie perfectly.
The Barbie soundtrack drops Friday, July 21.