With Barbie (2023), director Greta Gerwig and her team are poised to create both a summer blockbuster and a cultural moment. The incredible hype generated ahead of the film’s release on 21st July is not only indebted to its A-list cast and playful, colourful marketing campaign, but also to its star-studded soundtrack. Curated by executive producer Mark Ronson, the film’s soundtrack album features Dua Lipa, Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, and Charli XCX among other high-profile artists.
And the steady release of eight singles ahead of the film’s release has drawn attention: Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night’ peaked at no.29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at no.13 on the UK Singles Chart.
But using AI, we’ve uncovered just how this single and others have been created in a style that is on-brand for Gerwig’s vision of the Barbie World.
And it turns out that Barbie may have a bit of a dark side.
This Barbie wants good vibes only
“It is the best day ever. So was yesterday and so is tomorrow and every day from now until forever.”
This is a quote from Margot Robbie’s Barbie character in the film trailer that sets up perfectly the plastic premise of a Barbie World where positivity is the order of the day. The inhabitants of Barbie World are convinced that life in plastic is fantastic; they always look on the bright side of life.
The saccharine soundtrack curated by Ronson hammers the hyper-happiness of this polished existence too. According to the tag data, the first six singles released all have 100% positive mood valence, meaning that they leave the listener feeling positive. This reflects the ‘everything is rosy’ attitude of the Barbies.
Also, confident (32%) and dancy (18%) moods create an atmosphere just right for big blowout beach parties. When these moods combined with an overall medium-high energy it’s no surprise that Gerwig herself labelled the Barbie World filmset a “dopamine generator”.
And the exaggerated aesthetic of Barbie is clearly intentional, especially given director Gerwig’s background in the intimate, minimalist mumblecore film sub-genre.
This Barbie is only half the story
In an interview with TIME magazine, Ronson revealed the soundtrack balances tongue-in-cheek girl power and pop anthems with heartfelt, wistful tunes. And we’re finally starting to hear more of the latter now.
On July 13th, Billie Eilish’s track ‘What Was I Made For?’ comes out, marking the penultimate single ahead of the film and soundtrack album’s release on July 21st. Eilish released a preview of the track on her instagram and preliminary analysis of the music exposes a very different tone to the half-dozen Barbie singles that have come before.
Eilish’s track has 100% negative mood valence, a polar opposite of the other singles. Its low energy and folk-genre influences create peaceful, dreamy, and melancholy moods – a far cry from the happy-go-lucky pop of Dua Lipa’s ‘Dance the Night’.
Could this contrasting aesthetic mean audiences are in for a more intimate and emotional tone than the film’s colourful facade (and marketing campaign) suggests? Given the film’s plot synopsis alluding to Margot Robbie’s Barbie character having an existential crisis, we wonder: “Could the positivity of Barbie World be toxic?”
We can’t wait to find out.
In the meantime, check out the singles that have been released so far.
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