With colorful vinyl variants, Nicki Minaj singles, and record-store listening parties, the star-studded soundtrack Barbie the Album has become as much of a cultural phenomenon as the Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling-starring film itself. Produced by Mark Ronson, Barbie the Album shines on its own as a fun sonic reimagining of the Barbie storyline with a hint of nostalgia, featuring some of the biggest acts in music.
Like in the film’s opening sequence, Lizzo’s vocals on the silly opener “Pink” immerse the listener into the world of Barbie as she narrates the doll’s imaginary day (just as Hoku’s “Perfect Day” did in Legally Blonde). As Robbie told Rolling Stone, the song “became a device to enhance what the audience was watching and experiencing.”
The album doesn’t take itself seriously, and it’s better for it. After Karol G wraps her beach Barbie track “Watati,” Sam Smith sings from the perspective of a “super sleazy, sexy and freaky” Ken on “Man I Am” as they hilariously address the jokes that Ken is a closeted queer guy: “No, I’m not gay, bro, but I’ve been on that lay low.” Smith, a non-binary person, is perfect for the song.
If Gosling’s satirical, Eighties-infused “I’m Just Ken” and Jack Black’s “Peaches” faced each other in the ring… Gosling would take home the crown. (Sorry, Bowser.) And in the film, Gosling steals the show with his dance performance.
A Barbie album without Nicki Minaj simply wouldn’t make sense, and “Barbie World,” her track with Ice Spice, effortlessly brings Aqua’s classic “Barbie Girl” from the Nineties to 2023. Dominic Fike shows a brighter, summery side than usual on “Hey Blondie.” Gayle plays a grungy Barbie on “Butterflies.” Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” mirrors the existential, tear-jerking moment Robbie’s character goes through in the film. And K-pop group Fifty Fifty’s earworm “Barbie Dreams” epitomizes the picture-perfect, pink world of the doll.
The only skips on the album? Khalid’s “Silver Platter” and the Kid Laroi’s “Forever & Again.” They feel out of place on the record and don’t enhance the LP’s Kendom portion. But perhaps the Laroi appearance is cleverly intentional, offering straight high schoolers an excuse to watch Barbie with their girlfriends?
Before the album even drops, some haters complained that some of the snippets sounded too similar to the artists’ own music, but that’s why the Barbie album works so well. “Choose Your Fighter” lives in the lane of Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors but feels like a video game character-esque upgrade to her own dance pop. Charli XCX’s addicting “Speed Drive” could’ve led off her excellent album Crash, Dua Lipa’s disco track “Dance the Night” exudes Future Nostalgia, and even Eilish’s whispering vocals are exactly what we’d expect from the songstress. The stars arrive with an air of familiarity that still transports listeners to Barbie’s world.
Barbie the Album has something for everyone (Brandi Carlile’s loving bonus track cover of the Indigo Girls’ “Closer To Fine” is an especially sweet, sincere touch), and it neatly ties together the playful feminism of the film into an enjoyable musical experience. You don’t have to watch the movie to love the music, just like you don’t have to play with the dolls to enjoy the film. It’s so good, we need a deluxe version.