Mark Ronson Tells All on Crafting the Biggest Movie Soundtrack of the Year for Barbie
Mark Ronson, the Grammy-winning music producer behind hits like "Uptown Funk", "Shallow", and "Rehab", has opened up about his latest challenge: creating the soundtrack for Barbie, the live-action fantasy comedy film based on the popular Mattel fashion dolls. The film, which stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, features a star-studded lineup of artists on its soundtrack, including Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Karol G, Ice Spice, Nicki Minaj, and more.
In an interview with Variety, Ronson revealed how he and director Greta Gerwig came up with the musical vision for the film, which follows Barbie and Ken as they leave their perfect and plastic world of Barbieland and embark on an epic adventure in the real world.
"We had a wish list, me and Greta, of people we thought would be great. It made sense that it was female-heavy," Ronson said. "We wanted to cover as much of the pop landscape as possible."
Ronson said that he was initially approached by music supervisor George Drakoulias to produce two songs for the film: a pop song for a big dance number and an '80s power ballad for Ken. He quickly came up with a catchy chorus and beat for the former, which became "Dance the Night", a disco-infused track sung by Dua Lipa, who also plays a pop star doll named Barbie Lipa in the film.
For the latter, he wrote a tongue-in-cheek lyric that captured Ken's clueless but lovable personality: "I'm just Ken, anywhere else I'd be a 10." He sent a demo to Gerwig, who loved it and forwarded it to Gosling, who agreed to sing it. The song became "I'm Just Ken", a hilarious parody of '80s rock anthems.
Ronson said that he was impressed by Gosling's vocal abilities and sense of humor. "He's got a great voice. He can really sing. And he's so funny. He really nailed it," Ronson said.
Ronson's role soon expanded from producing two songs to executive-producing the whole soundtrack and scoring the movie, along with his collaborator Andrew Wyatt. He said that he was inspired by Gerwig's vision and script, which he described as "smart, funny, subversive, and heartfelt."
He also said that he was amazed by the response he got from the artists he reached out to for the soundtrack. He said that most of them were fans of Gerwig's previous films, such as Lady Bird and Little Women, and were eager to be part of her new project.
"It was just crazy who kept being like, 'Yeah, I'm down,'" Ronson said. "We were fucking spoiled for the amount of people that actually even came to the table."
Some of the highlights of the soundtrack include Lizzo's "Barbie Girl", a cover of Aqua's 1997 hit with updated lyrics; Billie Eilish's "Beautiful", a heartbreaking ballad that plays during a pivotal scene in the film; Karol G's "Barbie Latina", a reggaeton banger that celebrates Barbie's diversity; Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj's "Ice Cold", a drill-pop collaboration that showcases their rap skills; and Fifty Fifty and Kaliii's "Barbie World", a glossy K-pop anthem that pays homage to Barbie's global appeal.
Ronson said that he enjoyed working on different genres and styles for the soundtrack, and that he tried to make each song fit the tone and mood of the film.
"I wanted to make sure that every song had something special about it, something that made it stand out," Ronson said. "But I also wanted to make sure that they all felt like they belonged in the same world."
Ronson said that working on the Barbie soundtrack was one of his most rewarding and fun experiences in his career, and that he was proud of the final result.
"It was a lot of learning on the job," Ronson said. "But I think we made something really amazing."
Barbie is rated PG-13 for suggestive references and brief language. It has a running time of 114 minutes. It is now playing in theaters across North America.
- #Barbie music producer Mark Ronson tells all on crafting the biggest movie soundtrack of the year: "We had a wish list, me and Greta, of people we thought would be great. It made sense that it was female-heavy."
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