Mark Ronson, Greta Gerwig: 'Barbie' Ken song tragic, not comedic

Mark Ronson co-wrote "I'm Just Ken" for "Barbie." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 5 | Mark Ronson co-wrote "I'm Just Ken" for "Barbie." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Barbie director Greta Gerwig and songwriter Mark Ronson said the film's showstopping number, "I'm Just Ken," is not a joke. Rather, it is tragic.

"I instantly had that line for the chorus, 'I'm just Ken, anywhere else I'd be a 10,'" Ronson said Thursday at an event for awards consideration in Los Angeles. "I wasn't like, 'That's funny.' I was like, 'That's so sad.'"


In the hit film based on the Mattel doll, Barbie (Margot Robbie) visits the real world while Ken (Ryan Gosling) follows her, pining for her. Ken brings the patriarchy back to Barbie Land, but still can't get Barbie to love him.

Ken sings, "I'm Just Ken" the morning of a battle between all the Ken dolls in the climax of the film. Gerwig said Gosling understood all the emotions she wrote into the script and Ronson wrote into the song.


"[Gosling] said, 'You know, you don't edit the voice inside you,'" Gerwig said. "And I was like, 'Is that good? Or are you horrified by what I've asked you to do?'"

Ronson said he and co-writer Andrew Wyatt followed the lead of the script, which Gerwig co-wrote with Noah Baumbach. Gerwig also sent Ronson highlights of what Ken is thinking about when he sings, "I'm Just Ken."

"She sent me eight bullet points," Ronson said. "He loves horses. He longs for touch but has no genitals and doesn't really know what that means."

In between choruses, the Kens enter a dream state and have a dance off. That sequence inspired Ronson and Wyatt to reinstate the deleted lines, "Can you feel the Kenergy" which they had removed from earlier demos.

"When we saw the dream ballet and everybody flying across that incredible choreography and the cinematography, we're like, 'This is the Kenergy,'" Ronson said. "So we sent Greta the demo with the new part and the song all came together."

Gerwig confirmed that the entire movie, not just the song, was intended to blend sadness with the fantasy comedy. Barbie seeks out the human who plays with her because Barbie can't understand why she's suddenly thinking about dying.


Gerwig said she was inspired by Vincente Minnelli movies like Meet Me In St. Louis and '70s comedies like Heaven Can Wait which blended tones.

"Heaven Can Wait, the Warren Beatty [remake], on some level it shouldn't work, but it does," Gerwig said. "He just has this humanity underneath something that's really high concept."

Ronson, who also wrote the instrumental score to Barbie with Wyatt, said they were inspired by musicians like Dave Grusin and Elmer Bernstein.

Grusin, who scored the Beatty Heaven Can Wait, combined synthesizers and a string orchestra in his score for The Goonies in a way Ronson wanted to emulate. Bernstein's score for the army comedy Stripes inspired the music for Barbie's Mattel executives.

Will Ferrell plays the CEO of Mattel who tries to get Barbie to go back to Barbie Land. Ronson said he originally gave Ferrell a bombastic theme like the "Death Star" in Star Wars, but Gerwig preferred a less overtly evil approach.

"Noah and Greta said, 'Give the Mattel guys a bumbling nobility in the Stripes style,'" Ronson said. "That just changed the way that we scored it. We sent Greta and she put it in every time Will Ferrell showed up."


Gerwig revealed some of the non-musical sounds that complete the world of Barbie. Gerwig said when Ken turns the Barbie Dream House into his Mojo Dojo Casa House, sound designer Ai-Ling Lee added goat sounds.

"We weren't like, 'Ai-Ling, find some goats,'" Gerwig said. "[Lee was] just like, 'I believe that they would have some goats.'"

Barbie is now available for rent or purchase on video-on-demand services, and on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD.

Latest Headlines