BY Eric Rezsnyak
While working on our Best of 2023 Music episode, I realized that the best ALBUM of the year was probably the soundtrack to the record-breaking “Barbie” movie. Wild, right? But not every track on the album is equally strong. So as we close out the year, here are my song rankings for one of the most definitive albums of the year (and the most essential film soundtrack in recent memory).
Disagree with my picks? Tell us about it in the comments below. Note that we only included songs included on the actual soundtrack, not all songs included in the movie. Sorry Indigo Girls/Brandi Carlisle/Matchbox 20 fans!
10. “Home” by HAIM
I love HAIM and I’m not sure what is going on with the band. It feels like the sisters forgot how to write a catchy pop song. Much of their recent output has been meandering and circling around a point without ever getting to it. This song is pretty, but HAIM has given us much better tracks with much more impact. I do think the lyrics of the song perfectly match Barbie’s emotional journey in the movie, so points for that.
9. “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj, Ice Spice, Aqua
It was inevitable that there would be an Aqua element to this soundtrack, and who better to sample it than Nicki Minaj? This is…fine. Unchallenging but inoffensive. I don’t get Ice Spice. I guess having absolutely no charisma is something The Youngs value? All for you, kids. Nicki is marked present.
8. “Barbie Dreams” by Fifty Fifty feat. Kaliii
This is a sweet pop confection that has the energy that I was missing from Nicki and Ice Spice’s track.
7. “Pink” by Lizzo
A perfect intro song to both the album and the film. It’s light and frothy and immediately chills you out. The lyrics veer into the absurd while also bringing in the woman-empowerment message. “K = Kool” and “Hey Midge, nevermind” get me every time.
6. “Choose Your Fighter” by Ava Max
Like basically every Ava Max song, this one builds as it goes along, crescendoing in an orgasmic climax of electronic drums, backing vocals, and harmonic backing tracks. It’s catchy, it surges, and as soon as it ends I want to play it again.
5. “Man I Am” by Sam Smith
This will be a polarizing one. First, it’s a pro-Ken song, and that’s controversial. But I love its dark, sleazy groove and I think it’s super catchy and, again, absurd. Second, everyone seems to hate Sam Smith right now for some reason, but I think he’s perfectly deployed here.
4. “Speed Drive” Charli XCX
This track gets better the more I listen to it. It’s the background to the film’s big chase scene, and it’s perfect for that. It’s also a terrific electro-pop single on its own. Charli mashes up Toni Basil’s 80s classic “Mickey” and Robyn’s “Cobrastyle,” giving us girl-power anthem touchpoints going back 40 years. It’s a great song.
3. “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling
Firstly, you go, Ryan Gosling! This is a well-sung rock opera that digs into male fragility in a way that is simultaneously ridiculous but also completely serious. I think a lot of bros are more seen by this song than they’d like to admit. It is the peak of the soundtrack’s gonzo tracks, specifically the “Can you feel the Ken-ergy” bridge, but by the time you get to the sing-along chorus at the end, you can’t deny it’s effing great.
2. “Dance the Night Away” by Dua Lipa
Allegedly Dua’s farewell to disco, this was the first single from the movie and slapped viewers across the face by how GOOD it was. It’s a perfect dance song, and a perfect song for a dance sequence. And it also slyly references exactly what’s going on with Barbie in that moment in the film — never show emotions, always be happy and perfect, even as the entropy of life is slowly consuming you.
1. “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish
This is how you do a memorable, emotional ballad, HAIM. This song hits at a crucial moment in the film, where Barbie is given a vision of what it’s like to live as an actual person. I’m not going to lie, I teared up in the theater at this both times I saw the movie, and 90 percent of the work was done by this song. It’s gorgeous, it’s touching, it’s authentic, it’s insightful. It’s a pop song that is more than a pop song, just like “Barbie” is a movie about dolls that is more than a movie about dolls.
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