It’s an understatement to say Greta Gerwig’s Barbie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling is one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer. With its unique global partnerships with retail brands and food chains and a reported budget of around $100 million, it might be one of the most memorable marketing campaigns to date. From the collaboration with Airbnb that saw Barbie’s Malibu Dream House come to life on location (and was so massive that it was reportedly responsible for a shortage of pink paint) to the Barbie branded Crocs, ice cream sundaes, roller skates, candles, and Xboxes, Barbie mania is taking over the world and social media. It’s not the only thing fans are going wild for: excitement for the movie’s soundtrack Barbie: The Album has received the same viral attention as well.
Produced by Mark Ronson, the album’s tracklist was revealed at the end of May and features superstar artists like Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, HAIM, Tame Impala, Lizzo, and more. In the month and a half leading up to the film’s release, Atlantic Records released some of the songs as singles, starting with Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night,” which has since racked up over 50 million views on YouTube. Other tracks that have been released include Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World,” which samples Aqua's original “Barbie Girl” song, “Angel” by PinkPantheress, and Charli XCX’s “Speed Drive” which interpolates Toni Basil’s cheerleader chant-inspired song “Mickey,” all of which have surpassed a million Spotify streams.
As the world waits for the complete soundtrack's July 21 release date, Spotify created a “Barbie Official Playlist” curated by Ronson that features some of the soundtrack's songs and other Barbie-inspired tracks. Many fans are creating their own playlists in the same vein that capture the Barbie spirit, with names like “I’M A BARBIE GIRL IN A BARBIE WORLD” and “BARBIE THE MOVIE VIBES.”
How ‘Barbie Girl’ Ended Up on the Soundtrack
Given the 1997 legal battle in which Mattel unsuccessfully sued MCA Records over alleged trademark infringement for Danish-Norwegian dance-pop group Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” song, some reports speculated the song wouldn’t appear on the soundtrack. But what is a Barbie film without that legendary pop song? According to Robbie, she begged Gerwig to find a way to include the iconic track, and low and behold, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World” was born.
The song, which can be heard at the end of the movie’s main trailer along with a link to the album’s website, debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 with 16.2 million streams, 4.7 million in airplay, and 37,000 digital downloads. Aqua’s original “Barbie Girl” currently has a Chartmetric track score of 149 and has over 382 million streams on Spotify, gaining more than 47 million new streams in the past six months. Minaj, who has made Barbie an essential part of her aesthetic and brand, took the song seriously, saying she even rejected a few songs before deciding on going with “Barbie World.”
TikTok users didn’t hesitate to use the song in their videos, with many creators using it to show off their pink, Barbie-inspired outfits or adventures. The “Barbie World” track has been used in over 105k videos on TikTok, while the official music video has 33 million views on YouTube. Even celebrities like Keke Palmer and Shay Mitchell couldn’t help but get into the trend. Meanwhile, Aqua’s original “Barbie Girl” has been used in over 867k videos on TikTok and the decades-old music video has 1.2 billion views on YouTube.
The Element of Surprise (Artists)
Another approach Warner Bros. and Atlantic Records took to promote the soundtrack was teasing two surprise artists. Ronson said in an interview that “one of the artists is obviously one of the f-cking greatest living artists around but also had a very personal, idiosyncratic tie to Barbie as well” which almost immediately sparked speculation online on forums like Reddit and Twitter on who the artists would be. Big names like Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton, Beyoncé, and frequent Ronson collaborator Lady Gaga were on many fans’ wish lists. The rumors were finally put to rest when it was announced earlier this month that Billie Eilish would be the first surprise artist, followed by Sam Smith. Her music video for “What Was I Made For?” premiered on July 13, and already has 11 million views on YouTube.
The Inclusion of Young and Global Musicians
While millennials were the prime demographic of Barbie dolls in the ‘90s and 2000s, the studio seems to be making a play for Gen Z audiences to see the movie as well. The inclusion of artists like Ice Spice, PinkPantheress, and Billie Eilish on the album makes sense given their popularity with Gen Z listeners. Billie Eilish, for instance, has been praised by younger fans for her openness and reliability. Meanwhile, PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s brand of “alt girl rap” features more emotional and vulnerable lyrics that resonate with young listeners. The rest of the album features several young artists like Dominic Fike, who co-starred in the last season of “Euphoria,” and The Kid LAROI who are also popular with the demographic.
The album has a global appeal as well featuring popular artists from all over the world: One of the songs is “WATITI” from Colombian singer KAROL G featuring Panamanian musician Aldo Ranks, which has gotten over 20 million Spotify streams. Another song is FIFTY FIFTY’s “Barbie Dreams” track featuring rapper Kaliii, leaning into K-Pop’s popularity. The K-pop group has already had plenty of commercial success with their song “Cupid,” which saw the sped-up version go viral on TikTok.
Overall, a notable aspect of the soundtrack is the majority of artists being female artists which is a feat in an industry that is still typically male-dominated. It also aligns with Barbie’s long-standing message that women can have jobs and be whatever they want to be — whether that’s a doctor, lawyer, author, or yes, even a musician.
Aside from digital sales and streams, Atlantic Records is taking a chance with physical sales as well, partnering with retailers like Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, and Urban Outfitters on cassette tapes and exclusive records with different vibrant and colorful vinyl pressings. One of the Barnes & Noble exclusives, for instance, features vinyl in cotton candy splatter, while the pressing for the Urban Outfitters edition is in classic neon pink. The label even created a special site where fans are met with a “Barbie Sounds” (possibly a play on words inspired by the Beach Boys 1966 album “Pet Sounds”) loading page and can shop for the album and other merchandise like t-shirts.
There’s no doubt the “Barbie: The Album” soundtrack is already a hit among fans on social media. The label smartly teamed up with some of today’s emerging and popular artists from around the world to successfully generate this level of hype. Given the attention the album has generated in just a span of a little over a month, it could be a potential blueprint for how studios and labels promote their soundtracks going forward. And of course, a splash of pink helps.
Graphics by Nicki Camberg and cover image by Crasianne Tirado; data as of July 20, 2023.