"What Was I Made For?" is a ballad by American singer Billie Eilish. It was released through Atlantic, Darkroom, and Interscope Records on July 13, 2023, as the fifth single from the soundtrack to the 2023 fantasy comedy film Barbie. "What Was I Made For?" was commercially successful worldwide and reached number-one in Australia, Ireland, Malaysia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, as well as peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

"What Was I Made For?"
Cover art for "What Was I Made For?": a side-view photo of Billie Eilish in a yellow shirt and with a Barbie-inspired ponytail
Single by Billie Eilish
from the album Barbie the Album
WrittenJanuary 2023[note 1]
ReleasedJuly 13, 2023 (2023-07-13)
Recorded2023
GenrePop[2]
Length3:42
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Billie Eilish singles chronology
"Hotline (Edit)"
(2023)
"What Was I Made For?"
(2023)
"Lunch"
(2024)
Barbie singles chronology
"Speed Drive"
(2023)
"What Was I Made For?"
(2023)
"Choose Your Fighter"
(2023)
Music video
"What Was I Made For?" on YouTube

It received five nominations at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, and won for Song of the Year (which became the first song from a film since Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic to win in this category) and Best Song Written for Visual Media. It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song at the 81st Golden Globe Awards and it also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 96th Academy Awards.

Background and release

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In an interview with Time in early July 2023, Mark Ronson, who served as the music producer of Barbie the Album, announced that there are more surprise guests on the soundtrack than had yet been revealed at that time, describing the artist as having a "very personal, idiosyncratic tie to Barbie". However, he skipped the question if Eilish was going to be one of the two.[3] Eilish previously sparked speculation about a possible appearance when she posted a picture of a Barbie neon sign on her Instagram on June 27.[4]

On July 6, 2023, Eilish announced the single on her social media.[5] In an accompanying announcement, she said that the song "means the absolute" world to her.[6] The singer hoped that the track would "change lives" and told her fans to "get ready to sob".[7] A snippet of the single appeared in a trailer for the film on July 10, 2023.[8] Eilish also teased the single and music video on Twitter on July 12.[9] The song was released the following day on July 13.[10] In the film itself, which premiered the same month, the song plays during a scene where Barbie meets the spirit of her creator Ruth Handler.[11]

Production

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For the song, Eilish again teamed up with her brother and long-time collaborator Finneas O'Connell.[12] The songwriting process began with director Greta Gerwig showing Eilish and O'Connell a rough cut of the film at Warner Bros. Studios. In an interview with Billboard, Eilish stated that the single was the first song that she and O'Connell had written after a prolonged writer's block.[13]

I did not think about myself once in the writing process. I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel, and wrote about that. And then, over the next couple days, I was listening and I was like, girl, how did this … honestly, and I really don’t mean this to come off a conceited way at all, but I do this thing where I make stuff that I don’t even know is … like I'm writing for myself and I don't even know it.

— Billie Eilish, on the songwriting process for "What Was I Made For?"[13]

Critical reception

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“What Was I Made For?” was met with widespread critical acclaim from music critics, many of whom regarded it as one of the best songs of 2023.[14][15] Writing for Stereogum, Tom Breihan noted metaphors in the lyrics that parallels Barbie's plot and compared the song to "Happier Than Ever", but lamented that "It seems like it’s building to a grand, cathartic finale, but that finale never arrives".[10] Jon Mendelsohn of American Songwriter called the chorus "melancholy yet hopeful".[16] Walden Green of The Fader saw the song as a "sly commentary on pop stars 'created' for the profit of record labels".[17]

Year-end lists

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Select year-end rankings of "What Was I Made For?"
Publication List Rank Ref.
BBC The Best Songs of 2023
16
[18]
Billboard The 100 Best Songs of 2023 (Staff Picks)
2
[19]
Los Angeles Times The 100 Best Songs of 2023
10
[20]
NME The 50 Best Songs of 2023
7
[21]
Rolling Stone The 100 Best Songs of 2023
9
[22]
The Guardian The 20 Best Songs of 2023
11
[23]
The Hollywood Reporter The 10 Best Songs of 2023
6
[24]
The Washington Post The Best Singles of 2023
2
[25]
USA Today Best Songs of 2023 [26]
Variety The Best Songs of 2023
1
[27]

Music video

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The music video for "What Was I Made For?" was released alongside the single on July 13, 2023.[28] The video, directed by Eilish herself, was shot in entirely one take, and portrays Eilish in a yellow dress (the color Stereotypical Barbie wears at the end of the film) and a blonde wig styled with bangs and a high ponytail similar to the hairstyle of the original 1959 Barbie. Eilish sits at a school desk in an empty, monochromatic space. From a Barbie-themed case, she removes and examines doll clothing resembling outfits Eilish has worn publicly in the past, which she organizes on a miniature hanging rack. As the song progresses, a brief earthquake, a strong wind, and rain threaten to disrupt her efforts. When the rain ends, Eilish quickly stuffs the doll clothes back into their case and walks away, taking the doll case with her. Shortly after the song's ending, Eilish returns briefly to collect a forgotten accessory before exiting once more.

In W, Matthew Velasco interpreted the music video as Eilish's "way of telling us she’s done with her signature baggy look" and that "this feels like the beginning of a new era for Eilish".[29]

Accolades

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Awards and nominations for "What Was I Made For?"
Year Award Category Result Ref.
2023 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Song in a Feature Film Won [30]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Best Song Nominated [31]
MTV Video Music Awards Song of Summer Nominated [32]
RTHK International Pop Poll Awards Top Ten International Gold Songs Nominated [33]
Variety's Hitmakers Film Song of the Year Won [34]
2024 Academy Awards Best Original Song Won [35]
Astra Film Awards Best Original Song Nominated [36]
Brit Awards International Song of the Year Nominated [37]
Chicago Indie Critics Best Original Song Nominated [38]
Critics Association of Central Florida Best Original Song Runner-up [39]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards Best Song Nominated [40]
Denver Film Critics Society Best Original Song Won [41]
DiscussingFilm Critic Awards Best Original Song Runner-up [42]
GAFFA Awards (Sweden) International Song of the Year Won [43]
Georgia Film Critics Association Best Original Song Won [44]
Gold Derby Film Awards Best Original Song Nominated [45]
Gold Derby Music Awards Record of the Year Nominated [46]
Song of the Year Nominated
Best Pop Song Nominated
Best Music Video Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song Won [47]
Grammy Awards Record of the Year Nominated [48]
Song of the Year Won
Best Pop Solo Performance Nominated
Best Song Written for Visual Media Won
Best Music Video Nominated
Guild of Music Supervisors Awards Best Song Written and/or Recording Created for a Film Won [49]
Hawaii Film Critics Society Best Song Won [50]
Hit FM Music Awards Top Ten Singles Won [51]
Houston Film Critics Society Best Original Song Nominated [52]
iHeartRadio Music Awards Best Lyrics Nominated [53]
Best Music Video Nominated
TikTok Bop of the Year Nominated
Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Best Song Written for a Film Nominated [54]
Music City Film Critics Association Best Original Song Won [55]
New Mexico Film Critics Best Original Song Won [56]
North Carolina Film Critics Association Best Original Song Nominated [57]
North Dakota Film Society Best Original Song Won [58]
Online Film Critics Society Technical Achievements: Original Song Honored [59]
Online Film & Television Association Best Original Song Won [60]
Palm Springs International Film Festival Chairman's Award Won [61]
Pandora International Film Critics Song Composing Won [62]
Santa Barbara International Film Festival Variety's Artisans Award Won [63]
Satellite Awards Best Original Song Won [64]
Society of Composers & Lyricists Outstanding Original Song for a Comedy or Musical Visual Media Production Won [65]
Žebřík Music Awards Foreign International Composition of the Year 3rd Place [66]
Foreign International Video Clip of the Year 2nd Place

Personnel

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All credits are adapted from CD liner notes of Barbie the Album.[67]

  • Billie Eilish O'Connell – songwriter, vocal production, engineering, vocals
  • Finneas O'Connell – songwriter, producer, engineering, piano, synths, electric bass, percussion, vocal arrangement
  • Mark Ronson – additional production, orchestral arrangement
  • Andrew Wyatt – additional production, orchestral arrangement
  • Rob Kinelski – mixing
  • Eli Heisler – assistant mixing

Charts

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Certifications

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Certifications for "What Was I Made For?"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Belgium (BEA)[134] Platinum 40,000
Canada (Music Canada)[135] Gold 40,000
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[136] Gold 45,000
France (SNEP)[137] Platinum 200,000
Italy (FIMI)[138] Gold 50,000
New Zealand (RMNZ)[139] Platinum 30,000
Poland (ZPAV)[140] Platinum 50,000
Portugal (AFP)[141] 2× Platinum 20,000
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[142] Gold 30,000
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[143] Gold 10,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[144] Platinum 600,000
United States (RIAA)[145] Platinum 1,000,000
Streaming
Greece (IFPI Greece)[146] Gold 1,000,000
Sweden (GLF)[147] Platinum 12,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.

Release history

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Release dates and formats for "What Was I Made For?"
Region Date Format(s) Label(s) Ref.
Various July 13, 2023
[148]
Italy July 17, 2023 Radio airplay Universal [149]
United States August 1, 2023 Contemporary hit radio
  • Darkroom
  • Interscope
[150]
August 7, 2023 Hot adult contemporary radio [151]
United Kingdom August 17, 2023 Cassette [152]
United States November 11, 2023 7" vinyl
  • Darkroom
  • Interscope
[153]

Notes

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  1. ^ In an interview with Apple Music, Eilish said that she started writing the song with Finneas on January 17, 2023, and finished it in the next few days.[1]

See also

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References

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