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Barbie Land follows you home in ‘Barbie: The Album’

| Monday, September 4, 2023

Trey Paine | The Observer

“Barbie” is breaking all sorts of box office records, and the movie was such a hit that you could not go anywhere this summer without hearing about it. “Barbie” was in TV commercials, “Barbie” was in stores, “Barbie” was online and “Barbie” was on the radio. Songs off the fantastic soundtrack for the movie — “Barbie: The Album” — became major hits this summer. The album was not just amazing because of the quality of its songs; it was amazing because of how it perfectly it accompanied the movie.

Typically, movie soundtracks fall into two main categories: soundtracks for people to listen to outside of the theater and soundtracks made strictly for the movie. For example, the soundtrack of “Oppenheimer” firmly fits into the latter category. It is only instrumental songs, and while this is perfect for the movie, it does not do much for people who do not listen to instrumental music regularly. For the first category, the soundtrack for “Black Panther” is a good example. Many of the songs in that album did not find their way into the movie itself, but they were amazing songs for everyday listening.

“Barbie: The Album” stands out because it belongs to both these categories. Some songs in the album seamlessly flow into the events of the movie, but they are also completely able to stand on their own outside of the theater. Think of “Pink,” the Lizzo song which plays during the introduction to Barbie Land. In the movie, the song’s narration helps the viewer understand when things start to go awry for Barbie. Outside of the movie, though, it holds up on its own merit.

No review of the soundtrack would be complete without mentioning “I’m Just Ken” either. The song provides a perfect view into the initial seeds of understanding on Ken’s part that being himself is “Kenough.” It is also simply a banger — a great addition to the movie and to this soundtrack.

Other songs from the soundtrack featured in the movie do not specifically interact with the events of the film itself, but they provide the perfect background music to enhance those events. Did anyone not tear up when “What Was I Made For?” played? The events of the film were sentimental enough, but Billie Eilish’s crooning voice amped up that sentimentality to spectacular heights.

The songs on the album not included in the film still perfectly encapsulate its vibes. “Man I Am” by Sam Smith dives into the perspective of Ken, and Smith’s transitions from grungy sing-speak to powerful belts make for an infectious ear worm. Other songs make perfectly apt allusions to Barbie, such as the reference to Stereotypical Barbie’s blonde hair in “Hey Blondie” by Dominic Fike.

“Barbie: The Album” is a celebration of all things Barbie. It honors the biggest movie of the year so far and the beloved doll of so many people’s youth. “Barbie” was (alongside Oppenheimer) the movie of the summer. If you could not get enough of the movie during its 114-minute runtime, then there was no better way to bring all things Barbie home than turning on “Barbie: The Album” and jamming along.

Title: “Barbie: The Album”

Label: Atlantic Records

Favorite Tracks: “Speed Drive” by Charli XCX and “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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