Mark Ronson has five nominations heading into Sunday’s Grammy Awards, all stemming from his work on the soundtrack and score for the Barbie film, including a Big Four nod for song of the year for co-writing Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night.” The wildest Grammy category he’s competing in has to be best song written for visual media, where four of the five nominees are all from Barbie.
It speaks to just how Greta Gerwig’s film dominated pop culture this past year. And on the new Grammy preview episode of the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast, we inform Ronson that it’s actually the first time a single project has landed four songs in that category since its inception in 1988.
“I think my mom Googled that the day nominations came out. She was very proud,” Ronson tells the Pop Shop with a laugh (listen to his full interview below). “I didn’t know that, and the other thing is that the Grammy category is for film and TV, you know? And there’s so many great songs from TV shows, like I think of all the Only Murders in the Building songs and everything else — there was some real moments for songs. So yeah, it’s crazy that Barbie took up so many.”
The lone non-Barbie song in the category is Rihanna’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ballad “Lift Me Up.” “Rihanna can do anything she wants, so we can’t take anything for granted,” Ronson notes of their formidable competition on Sunday night.
Below, find highlights from our chat with Ronson, who’s also up for best original song at the Oscars on March 10 for “I’m Just Ken” with co-writer Andrew Wyatt — a prize Ronson won alongside Lady Gaga in 2019 for “Shallow” from A Star Is Born — and is already a seven-time Grammy winner, starting with his 2008 wins for producing Amy Winehouse’s landmark album Back to Black.
On being recognized at the Oscars again:
“Obviously in our field of music, we’d have to say the Grammys is the highest honor. What’s so crazy is that there’s this award [the Oscar] that’s sort of the most prestigious award in the world that gives out one award for music, so it’s so crazy. I don’t believe that it means that your song is better than somebody else’s song or any of that stuff, but of course it is amazing. We worked so hard on this film and for a long time and also on the score and everything because we loved it, not because we were like, ‘OK, we better get an Oscar nomination!’ But it is nice to be recognized for the work, for sure.”
On the Oscar rules allowing just two songs from a single film in the song category, so “I’m Just Ken” and Billie Eilish and Finneas’ “What Was I Made For” made the cut, but Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” and others were left out:
“I don’t know how they even pick what the two are, but it is [bittersweet] because Dua’s song is still the biggest song from the soundtrack and Dua was really the first artist of anywhere near her stature that committed to the film. So it was almost like once we knew that we had a Dua song that was going to be in this big thing, it really set the bar for what the whole soundtrack could be. Dua … being like, ‘I’m down with this’ and writing this incredible song was what got us all excited, like, ‘Wow, this really could be something where this feels like this superstar level of musicians and singers and pop stars on it.’ So Dua definitely deserves all the credit for that, and you know it would have been lovely to have her as well. So it’s, you know, it is a shame.”
How Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice’s “Barbie World” accomplished the goal of including both Nicki and Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” on the soundtrack:
“We knew that with Nicki and her fans being called the Barbz and everything, as soon as I had been brought in for the soundtrack, I was like, ‘There’s no way in hell that we can have this soundtrack without a Nicki song on it.’ And then the fact that Ice [Spice] just became, like, her meteoric rise the entire time that we were even just working on the soundtrack from when we first got her involved, so yeah, it’s everywhere. … The two thoughts are like, ‘There’s no world in which we can’t have Nicki and that we can’t have some version of Aqua,’ you know? So we were always thinking, is it a cover? Is it an interesting flip? And then the Nicki and Ice [song] just came through with Riot[USA]’s beat and just handled the whole thing for us.”
On making the Christmas version of “I’m Just Ken” and whether he might make more music with Ryan Gosling:
“We definitely had a lot of fun, especially making the Christmas version that we did, because we had made that record and then I, the first one, I recorded a vocal with him. And then I probably hadn’t spoken to him for about a year till the movie was wrapping up. And I was like, ‘Hey, we finished the version actually, Slash is playing on it, I just want to make sure you’re happy with it before we mix it’. And he really loved it. And then we started to talk over the past couple of months, and we’re just talking about different kinds of music and things that he loved and [British singer/songwriter] Scott Walker and this stuff, and I was like, ‘Well, we should do a version of “Ken” that just does something a little different, like a different arrangement.’ Because, you know, there was a lot of talk like the ’80s power ballad and this, and I mean, it has all those things, but I think some of my pride as a songwriter, I wanted to prove that it wasn’t just that. So Ryan … he’s got amazing taste and great ideas, and he’s an extremely funny and talented musician and singer. So we made this version and then we started to hang, and definitely, I would love to make more music. You know, I think it would be great. And we’ve talked about it a little bit.”
On his first time at the Grammys:
“I was a seat filler [as a teenager] because I wanted to write about it. I wrote and reviewed concerts for my high school paper. My mom would only let me go to shows … if I could convince her it was something to do with school, so I got this job writing for the paper who definitely didn’t need a music reviewer. [Laughs] But I convinced them, and it was this paper called City News that was for high school kids, a bunch of different schools. So I got into the Grammys by being a seat filler. And I remember you’re sitting all over the place. At one point I was in front of Vanilla Ice. The other moment I was sitting next to that singer Alannah Myles who won that year for ‘Black Velvet.’ And then I went with my friend Rhymefest, a rapper who co-wrote [Kanye West’s] ‘Jesus Walks.’ I went with him as his plus-one in like 2003 or whenever that was, and then next time I went was for Amy.”
On his whirlwind first Grammys as a nominee in 2008 — and his Zoolander moment in the crowd:
“I remember it really well. I took my mom and I remember when they read my name for producer of the year, it was such a blur that it was like a movie. My friend Rich, my best friend, was nudging me and going, ‘They said your name! Go!’ I went up, and it was just so surreal. … Me and my mom were behind Tony Bennett at the main ceremony, and I think I was actually a little bit hungover because I was enjoying myself that weekend, my first time at the rodeo. And they came up to me before they announced record of the year, the cameras, they want to make sure, like, ‘Are you Mark Ronson?’ Just in case you win, they’ve got the camera on you. And so when they said, you know, ‘And the Grammy for record of the year goes to… “Rehab” for Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse!’ And so I got up to walk towards the stage, because I figured like, ‘So that’s why the guy’s filming me.’ And as I start to walk up the first few steps, this giant screen starts to get lowered and it’s Amy live from Camden to accept the award. And I suddenly realized like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna look like such an idiot just standing there next to this screen.’ So I try to like subtly as possible reverse-step down the stairs in front of everybody in the Staples Center, and I kind of fell backwards and I just sat like at the feet of Amber Rose and Kanye for like 10 minutes while Amy spoke, and I just said, ‘Sorry, guys, I’ll be out of your hair in a minute.’ But it was, like, a very Zoolander moment.”
On writing a book about DJing at hip-hop clubs in the ’90s and how it’s inspiring his follow-up album to 2019’s Late Night Feelings:
“I’ve been writing a book about DJing, specifically about DJing in hip-hop clubs in the ’90s in New York City. And it’s a little bit about that time. It’s a mini-memoir, but it’s also about the art of DJing. And maybe some of that art is a little bit bygone now, because you don’t walk into places and see turntables and mixers everywhere. So it’s a bit about all those things, and just about a really great time, because it was this moment where Jay-Z and Biggie and Puff started to come out in downtown New York. And that suddenly changed the whole thing of where people wanted to be and where people wanted to hang out. And because I was their DJ, I had a front-row seat to it all in some ways. So I’m writing that book, and then I’m sure that the book will influence this record a little bit. I’m sure it’ll a little bit remind me of that era. But yeah, that’s where I’m at with it.”
Also on the podcast, we’ve got chart news on how Green Day scores its 12th top 10 charting album on the Billboard 200 with Saviors, nearly 30 years to the week after the band made their Billboard chart debut in 1994. Plus, how Benson Boone’s “Beautiful Things” makes a beautiful start on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart and how Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez and Sophie Ellis-Bextor all debut on the Pop Airplay chart with their latest hits. And since it’s our special Grammy Awards preview episode, we’re also reviewing the nominees in the six general field categories and highlighting who our very own awards editor, Paul Grein, along with his crack team of advisers on staff at Billboard, thinks will win in each of the categories.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s executive digital director, West Coast, Katie Atkinson and Billboard’s managing director, charts and data operations, Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)