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"Barbie Girl" is a song by the Danish-Norwegian dance-pop group Aqua. It was released in May 1997 as the third single from the group's debut studio album, Aquarium (1997). The song was written by Søren Rasted, Claus Norreen, René Dif, and Lene Nystrøm, and was produced by Johnny Jam, Delgado, Rasted, and Norreen.[4] It was written after Rasted saw an exhibit on kitsch culture in Denmark that featured Barbie dolls.[5][6]

"Barbie Girl"
Aquabarbie.jpg
Single by Aqua
from the album Aquarium
Released14 May 1997 (1997-05-14)
Format
Recorded1996
Genre
Length3:16
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Johnny Jam
  • Delgado
  • Søren Rasted
  • Claus Norreen
Aqua singles chronology
"My Oh My"
(1997)
"Barbie Girl"
(1997)
"Lollipop (Candyman)"
(1997)
Music video
"Barbie Girl" on YouTube
Audio sample

The song topped the charts worldwide, particularly in European countries such as the UK, where it was a number-one hit for three weeks. It was also on top of the charts in Australia for the same length of time, and debuted and peaked at number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on 6 September 1997, where it remains Aqua's biggest hit single, and their only one to reach the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. It is Aqua's most popular work.

The song was performed as the interval act in the Eurovision Song Contest 2001, and became the subject of the controversial lawsuit Mattel v. MCA Records.

BackgroundEdit

The lyrics of the song are about Barbie and Ken, the dolls made by Mattel. Both the song and its music video feature Lene Nystrøm as Barbie and René Dif as Ken. As such, the lyrics drew the ire of Barbie's corporate owners, and a lawsuit was filed by Mattel.

A footnote on the back of the Aquarium CD case precisely stated that "The song 'Barbie Girl' is a social comment and was not created or approved by the makers of the doll."[7]

ReceptionEdit

Critical receptionEdit

Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic called the song "one of those inexplicable pop culture phenomena" and "insanely catchy," describing it as "a bouncy, slightly warped Euro-dance song that simultaneously sends up femininity and Barbie dolls."[2]

The song was voted the fourth "Best Number One of All Time" in a VH1 poll, and was featured in spot number 32 on the network's "Most Awesomely Bad Songs... Ever" countdown.[8] In an unrelated VH1 countdown, "VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders", the song ranked number 88.[8]

The song won the 1998 NME Award for Worst Single.[9] In 1999, it was placed as the fourteenth worst music video on the MTV special Lame 25.[10] In 2007, Rolling Stone named "Barbie Girl" as one of the "20 Most Annoying Songs",[11] and MuchMoreMusic ranked the song number 27 on a list of "50 Guilty Pleasures".[8] In 2009, Blender ranked the song number 33 on their list of the "50 Worst Songs Ever".[12] In 2011, Rolling Stone readers voted it the number one most annoying song of the 1990s.[13]

Commercial performanceEdit

"Barbie Girl" has sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.[14] In the United States, the song debuted at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100. It sold 82,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number five on the Hot Singles Sales chart.[15] It has sold 1.84 million copies in the United Kingdom as of April 2017, making it the thirteenth best-selling single in the UK.[16]

Music videoEdit

The music video was directed by Peder Pedersen and Peter Stenbæk.[17]

ControversiesEdit

Mattel lawsuitEdit

In December 2000, toy manufacturer Mattel sued MCA Records, Aqua's record label. Mattel claimed that "Barbie Girl" violated their trademark and turned her into a sex object, referring to her as a "Blonde Bimbo".[18] They alleged the song had violated their copyrights and trademarks of Barbie, and that its lyrics had tarnished the reputation of their trademark and impinged on their marketing plan. Aqua claimed that Mattel injected their own meanings into the song's lyrics and MCA Records was not about to let their hit single be suppressed without a fight. They contested Mattel's claims and countersued for defamation after Mattel had likened MCA to a bank robber.[19] The lawsuit filed by Mattel was dismissed by the lower courts, and this dismissal was upheld, though Mattel took their case up to the Supreme Court of the United States, but that appeal was later rejected. In 2002, a Court of Appeals ruled the song was protected as a parody[20] under the trademark doctrine of nominative use and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; the judge Alex Kozinski also threw out the defamation lawsuit that Aqua's record company filed against Mattel, concluding his ruling: "The parties are advised to chill."[21] The case was dismissed.

In 2009, Mattel released a series of advertisements and a promotional music video of the song,[22] with modified lyrics, as part of a new marketing strategy brought in to revive sales.[23]

2001 Eurovision Song ContestEdit

As the interval act during the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest, Aqua performed a medley of their singles alongside percussion ensemble Safri Duo.[24] There were several complaints due to the profanity used during the performance, both at the beginning and end of "Barbie Girl".[25]

Track listingsEdit

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Barbie Girl".[4]

CreditsEdit

Credits adapted from liner notes of the "Barbie Girl" CD single and Aquarium.[27][28]

  • Written by Norreen, Nystrøm, Dif, Rasted
  • Performed by Norreen, Rasted
  • Vocals by Nystrøm, Dif
  • Hair and make-up by Fjodor Øxenhave
  • Styling by Aqua, Bjarne Lindgreen
  • Artwork by Peter Stenbæk
  • Photo by Robin Skoldborg
  • Produced, arranged and mixed by Norreen, Jam, Delgado, Rasted

ChartsEdit

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[60] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[61] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[62] 4× Platinum 200,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[63] Gold 45,000^
France (SNEP)[65] Diamond 1,215,000[64]
Germany (BVMI)[66] Platinum 500,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[67] Platinum 75,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[68] 2× Platinum 20,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[69] Platinum 10,000*
Sweden (GLF)[70] 3× Platinum 90,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[71] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[72] 3× Platinum 1,840,000[16]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

Country Release date
Europe[73] 14 May 1997
United Kingdom[74] 13 October 1997
United States[75] 1 September 1997

Cover versions and parodiesEdit

The song has been covered by several artists throughout years; identical twin sisters Amanda and Samantha Marchant, better known as Samanda, released their cover of the song on 8 October 2007, and it entered the UK Singles Chart at number 26.[76] Girls' Generation's Jessica Jung covered this song as her solo performance during the first Asian concert tour Girls' Generation 1st Asia Tour: Into the New World. The Swedish artist Loke Nyberg did a new version of this song for the Swedish radio show Morgonpasset. He interprets the song as criticism of today's beauty ideals.[77] In 2013, Ludacris sampled the song in his single "Party Girls" featuring Wiz Khalifa, Jeremih and Cashmere Cat.[78] In 2016, Caramella Girls released a version called "Candy Girl" on iTunes,[79] as well as a YouTube music video.[80]

There are also many parodies of the song, including by Adam Henderson, who in 2001 released a parody called Ugly Girl (often wrongly credited to Weird Al Yankovic). German duo Lynne & Tessa made a lip-synched internet video of the song in 2006), and on British Indian sketch comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, where a version titled "Punjabi Girl" was featured in the radio series and later on television).[81] In 2012, the song was parodied in an Australian lamb advertising campaign, relying on the Australian use of the term "barbie" to refer to the outdoor barbecue popularly held in Australia. The advertisement starred Melissa Tkautz and Sam Kekovich.[82] In 2014, the song was used in the South Park episode "Cock Magic". Ava Max recorded a version with new lyrics, entitled "Not Your Barbie Girl", in 2018.[83]

Kelly Key versionEdit

"Barbie Girl"
 
Single by Kelly Key
from the album Kelly Key
Released15 August 2005[84]
Format
Recorded2004
Length3:19
LabelWarner
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)DJ Cuca
Kelly Key singles chronology
"Escuta Aqui Rapaz"
(2005)
"Barbie Girl"
(2005)
"Papinho"
(2005)

In 2005, Brazilian recording artist Kelly Key recorded a version in Portuguese for her third studio album Kelly Key.[85] The version was released as second single on 15 August 2005.[84] Key said she loved the song and wanted to do a version for honor: "I really like this song since I heard. I wanted to record without thinking about whether my fans will like it or not".[86]

The song received generally negative reviews from music critics. Vinícius Versiani Durães of IMHO said that that version was funny and a future success.[87] Marcos Paulo Bin of Universo Musical commented that the song was really different from previous releases – known for explicit lyrics – but was positive and said the version was good.[86] Rodrigo Ortega of Pilula Pop said "Barbie Girl" was sensational, funny and chose as the best of the album. He also said that Key was wrong to released "Escuta Aqui Rapaz" as first single, because "the song was boring", but "Barbie Girl" saved the era.[88] Carlos Eduardo Lima of Scream & Yell was negative and said the song was "childish, silly, boring" and killed Kelly Key sex-symbol.[89]

The music video for "Barbie Girl" was recorded on 17 and 18 August 2005. It was directed by Ricardo Vereza, Bidu Madio, Rentz and Mauricio Eça.[90] In the video, released on 30 August, Kelly plays a determined and feminist woman.[91]

This song is internationally notable to be wrongly attributed to Czech model Dominika Myslivcová as she uploaded a video in YouTube lip-synching to this song and, later, it became a viral video.[92]

Track listingEdit

  1. "Barbie Girl" – 3:20
  2. "Barbie Girl" (Cuca Mix) – 5:12
  3. "Barbie Girl" (Music video) – 3:23

Release historyEdit

Country Date Format Label
Brazil 15 August 2005 Mainstream radio[84] Warner Music

References in mediaEdit

Environmental movements, like Fridays for Future, when trying to bring attention to the heavy amounts of plastic thrown by humans into the seas, have referred the song lyrics in their slogans with the words "Life in plastic is not fantastic".[93]

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit