Top: Daisy Gill Cred @paul_wills_photo, Jemzel via Instagram; Bottom: Piwa Cred - @graciehammondphotography, Elle Baez Cred - @savannarruedy
The way I gasped when I saw the trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie would have shattered the world three times over. Barbie lovers have been waiting for a live-action movie for decades, and I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am that it’s finally been produced. But it made me think about what makes Barbie Barbie™. What qualities does this doll possess that’s made her a beloved, household name? Or better yet, what qualities have we collectively attributed to the doll over the years? And I think the best way to explore this question is to of course talk about songs that capture the essence of Barbie. The criteria I abided by for my selections: the song is a recent release (approximately within the last three years), the song must be from an independent artist or group, and it must fall within the pop genre or sub-genre of pop. Now, onto the songs!
10. "Nothing Out Of Me" - Daisy Gill
“Nothing Out Of Me” by Daisy Gill is a powerful retro-pop anthem with a touch of blues to symbolize how the message it delivers holds up over time. The message: the necessity of setting boundaries to take back your control in an unfavorable situation. It’s an ode to lover girls who struggle with putting themselves first. Gill’s vocals are sultry and alluring – embodying both the feel and intent of Mattel’s first Barbie doll, the side-eyed diva. Barbie was created as an opposition to the baby dolls that lined the shelves at the time and challenged the notion that girls' toys had to reflect the motherhood that was awaiting them. The first Barbie doll gave little girls the power to envision a different future for themselves; a future that centered on their own ambitions.
9. "7FIGURESUPERMODEL" - Snow Wife
"7FIGURESUPERMODEL" by Snow Wife is a pop single with heavy elements of R&B. It's a certified club banger that's unapologetic about being the it girl. The utilization of the synthesizers are a direct callback to 2000s R&B chart-toppers, while Snow Wife's blunt delivery transfixes any listener. It's the perfect example of how Barbie has transcended her physical form as a doll and evolved into a mindset. The mindset of the it girl. This mindset entails knowing and remembering that you are an it girl. And it girls deserve the world and then some - even if it entails breaking some unsuspecting hearts.
8. "in my mind" - Rijah
The beat of "in my mind" by Rijah is funk-pop at its finest and immediately catches a listener's attention. The opening harmony mimics a hymn and has me ready to praise whatever Rijah tells me to. And the musical arrangements are so rich and elaborate - I'm taken back by how dazzling it is. Rijah makes me feel like I can do whatever I set my mind to much like Barbie. The atmosphere the single creates reminds me of how Barbie expanded the limitations of girls imagination, especially when playing with the doll (or dolls if you had multiple).
7. "Feel Free" - Piwa
"Feel Free" by Piwa is soul-pop and lives up to it's name-sake. It's a heavy-hitting single about both feeling free within yourself and feeling free to be authentically you with the rest of the world. The raw emotion Piwa can convey with her voice brings me to tears, while the smoothness of it wipes them away and tells me everything will be okay. Barbie has changed a lot over the years, but one of the constants with the doll has been the freedom she's extended to girls via self exploration. Barbie has never confined herself to one box, and neither should you.
6. "The Night Is A Place" - Alicee
"The Night Is A Place" by Alicee is a dream-pop single that doubles as abstract poetry. The piano melody perfectly accompanies the world the artist builds up for listeners to engage with. Alicee's voice has a sweet gentleness to it while the song builds up to a swelling bridge filled with mesmerizing instrumentals. If night truly is a place, I want to visit it sometime. The song is dedicated to making any listener feel like a main character exactly like Barbie. Since listeners cannot star in their own movies or books like Barbie, this is the closest we can get to that feeling - and I'll take it without a second thought.
5. "Pretty Insecurities" - Elle Baez
"Pretty Insecurities" by Elle Baez is a contemporary pop song about embracing what makes you different from others. It serves as a vulnerable reminder that we don't need to make modifications to our bodies to experience love and adoration. Baez's vocal range and delivery is on full-show within the single. For all of the positive changes Barbie has initiated for girls and women alike, we also need to acknowledge the role she's had in upholding unrealistic beauty standards. The doll's drastic proportions have been the envy of women, the dream body of little girls, and a source of insecurity for both groups since her inception. However, in the last decade, the doll has made leaps and bounds in promoting body positivity. Going out of her way to make sure all body types are reflected on the shelves that carry her name.
4. "They Don't See Us" - The Tiarras
"They Don't See Us" by The Tiarras is a disco-pop single about the sisters and bandmates formidable staying-power and existence in the music scene. It's an upbeat song that details the group's experience with rebranding themselves. The acoustic and electric guitars alongside the groovy keyboard synths brings the 70s into modernity. While the sonorous vocals reflect the moments of devaluation that was experienced because of who they are and what they were offering to share with the music industry. But I think it also serves as a double entendre for how the world saw women for quite sometime; as expendable and replaceable. The introduction of Barbie and her many careers - over 200 in her lifetime - showcased how invaluable women's contributions to the world were, are, and continue to be.
3. "Habits" - BLENDA
"Habits" by BLENDA is a electro-pop song about breaking out of a repetitive routine.
BLENDA's vocals transcend time and space, giving us a futuristic sound that's bound to make you drift away in the continuum of the single. The song's underlying rhythm makes listeners feel like they're inside a 8-bit video game, while the steady beat of the drums and guitar loans itself to slowed R&B. It's unique and encapsulates a timeless quality much like Barbie. And she's all about breaking bad habits. The doll has quite the transformative nature, too; just when we think the doll is beginning to lose its adaptability and become somewhat monotonous, she manages to change and defy our expectations.
2. "Tell Nobody" - Jemzel
"Tell Nobody" by Jemzel is a bedroom-pop single about the internal struggle revolved around coming out. The melody is a sweet lullaby that's matured for an older audience. It reflects the innocence nature of having a crush, while embracing the difficulty of figuring out whether or not this is a part of yourself that you're ready to share with others. Barbie has always been a girl's girl. She's had multiple slogans over the years, but the most memorable and iconic is: "You can be anything". And I think the silent addition to this slogan has always been: and love anyone, too. Simply put, Barbie is an ally and supports all of girls decisions, including the ones that revolve around identity and matters of the heart.
1. "My Future" - Glori Wilder
"My Future" by Glori Wilder is a blues-pop single about looking forward. We get so hung up on the past that it feels impossible to live in the moment, let alone think about the future. Wilder exposes her anxieties for the future while acknowledging that fixating on the past robs her of being present. So, she makes a pact with herself to commit to being present. Ultimately, Wilder's stunning, soulful voice set to the piano laden ballad makes listeners hopeful for whatever may come next. Barbie has had some notable stumbles throughout her legacy. But her main goal has remained the same: to get girls to be inspired by the possibilities of what the future holds for them.
Barbie is a cultural symbol and I think that's the biggest part of her appeal. Cultural symbols are physical manifestations of a given culture's ideology and values. But what is so fascinating about Barbie is how she has managed to symbolize different sentiments to various groups in numerous locations and over time. That's typically not the case with most cultural symbols; once they've been attributed a meaning they're usually universally bound to that meaning. Not Barbie, though. Barbie has become a transformative cultural symbol: Barbie is an agent of social change. And I'm eager to see the social changes the upcoming film will attempt to implement.
Written by Giavanna Gradaille
*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.