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‘Barbie: The Album’ review: pop star-studded movie soundtrack is an outrageously good time

Mark Ronson and Greta Gerwig’s lavish musical counterpart to one of the most anticipated films of the summer has plenty to offer for all the Barbies and ‘just’ Kens out there

4.0 rating

By Hollie Geraghty


If the flashy, hot pink extravagance of the months-long Barbie movie marketing campaign was anything to go by, the official soundtrack – featuring pop heavy hitters like Lizzo, Charli XCX and Dua Lipa – promised a musical accompaniment just as unabashedly flamboyant. With the cast of Barbie sparking a new viral moment almost every week in their exhaustive press run – from Ryan Gosling’s method commitment to “Ken-ergy” to Margot Robbie’s numerous doll-inspired press looks – fans expected a soundtrack that could live up to appropriate levels of campy, poppy fun.

While early singles like Lipa’s limber disco romp ‘Dance The Night’ offered a taste of the feel-good pop panache that was poised to set the movie alight, what was less obvious was just how integral each track would be to the DNA of the film. As Robbie recently told Rolling Stone, viewers are “hearing lyrics that are responding to what’s happening on screen”, so the music became “a device to enhance what the audience was watching and experiencing”. It was always the intention, as producer Mark Ronson and Barbie writer-director Greta Gerwig curated the soundtrack as the movie itself came together, rather than shoehorning tracks in afterwards.

From the funky opening beats and whimsical story narration of ‘Pink’, Lizzo quickly sets the mood for 17 tracks of Barbie girl abandon. Charli XCX gets the assignment on the dynamic ‘Speed Drive’, a brash and “bratty” hyper-pop joy-ride that reimagines Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ and is simply about “just being hot”, while Sam Smith’s sleazy, pulsating ‘Man I Am’ sounds like it should have a retro workout VHS to accompany it. As for the grand entrance from Ken himself, Gosling’s desperately melodramatic solo, complete with a thrashing rock breakout and barrelling synth interval on ‘I’m Just Ken’ (“Anywhere else I’d be a ten / Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility”), is yet another indication that the actor was born for this role.

It’s also the musical range on offer that keeps you on board for the whole ride – from Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s rap link up (which does leave room to lean into the theme more, though) the soft indie balladry of HAIM’s ‘Home’, to FIFTY FIFTY’s big bubblegum-pop moment on ‘Barbie Dreams’ featuring Kaliii. Tame Impala, meanwhile, while a less obvious candidate (or should we say, Ken-didate) for a Barbie feature, sees Kevin Parker’s brief, spacey synth-scape hit the mark on ‘Journey To The Real World’.

Barbie: The Album shines as a standalone collection because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, while also fully committing to the fuchsia-filtered, Barbie world blueprint that Gerwig, Ronson and the cast have created. Save for a couple of gentler respites, like Billie Eilish’s tender ‘What Was I Made For?’, the album calls you up onto your feet for that “giant blowout party with all the barbies” that we’ve been waiting for, and gestures you straight onto the dance floor.