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The 'Barbie' Soundtrack Is a Master Class in 'Dance-Crying,' According to Dua Lipa

new york, new york november 30 dua lipa, wearing chanel, attends momas the contenders 2023 screening of barbie, film at moma is made possible by chanel at museum of modern art on november 30, 2023 in new york city photo by dimitrios kambouriswireimage
Dua Lipa Discusses the Barbie Soundtrack Dimitrios Kambouris

It may seem like a distant memory, but it wasn’t long ago that Barbie fever had the world in a collective chokehold. Upon its highly anticipated release this past summer, the Barbie movie saw the much-beloved doll turn into a fantastical, hilarious, and sardonic feature film that only Greta Gerwig could pull off. In the beginning stages of production, Gerwig and her husband, co-writer, and executive producer Noah Baumbach, reached out to Mark Ronson to see if he’d be interested in scoring Barbie for them. Turns out, his enthusiasm was immediate, with endless ideas bouncing around his head—and he enlisted fellow music producer and writer Andrew Wyatt to help him, too. For her part, Gerwig simply requested two songs: one for Barbie, and one for Ken. For Barbie’s song, Gerwig, Ronson, and Wyatt had one particular pop star in mind: Dua Lipa. The rest is, as they say, history, with the resulting track “Dance The Night” topping the charts and nabbing a Grammy nomination.

To celebrate the musical component of the celebrated film, last night, the Museum of Modern Art hosted a special screening of Barbie as part of The Contenders series, made possible by Chanel. As the lead sponsor of Film at MoMA, the French luxury house provides a platform for the most exciting releases of the year to be screened, with special events and conversations surrounding them. For Barbie, this meant bringing the minds behind the music together for an intimate Q&A. In particular, Lipa, Ronson, and Wyatt shared how making “Dance The Night” took a bit of scheduling magic, since Lipa was on tour all of last year. Her goal in making the song, she told the audience, was for it “to be the most fun, disco, effusive record.” She went on to describe how writing for film is much different than writing for a traditional music release, sharing: “When I’m writing a song for myself, I come with the idea of how I’m feeling. This way, I was embodying a character and I already had the assignment.”

new york, new york november 30 l r dua lipa, wearing chanel, mark ronson and andrew hyatt speak onstage during momas the contenders 2023 screening of barbie, film at moma is made possible by chanel at museum of modern art on november 30, 2023 in new york city photo by dimitrios kambouriswireimage
Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson, and Andrew Wyatt. Dimitrios Kambouris

Lipa’s experience in making disco music, with her accomplished sophomore album Future Nostalgia leaning into vintage dance energy, allowed her to tap into Barbie’s psyche, she added. “Dance The Night” comes at the turning point of the film where Barbie starts having “thoughts about death,”so the message of song, according to Lipa, is that “even when things aren’t going right, you can still dance through it. That optimism is so vital to the human experience. Music, and disco music in particular, was always an expression of freedom and it gave people a sense of community and togetherness. To have that duality of happy/sad, or how I like to call it ‘dance-crying,’ I felt was really important.”

The music in the film almost transformed it into a movie-musical, which goes to show just how powerful the resulting body of work was that the group created. Whether it was Lipa’s hit or the Ryan Gosling-helmed “laugh-out-loud power ballad” “I’m Just Ken,” the importance of musical storytelling in is not often given a closer look, but thanks to The Contenders series, a select few received a peek behind the curtain and into the studio.

new york, new york november 30 l r mark ronson, dua lipa, wearing chanel, and andrew hyatt attend momas the contenders 2023 screening of barbie, film at moma is made possible by chanel at museum of modern art on november 30, 2023 in new york city photo by dimitrios kambouriswireimage
Mark Ronson, Dua Lipa, and Andrew Wyatt.Dimitrios Kambouris

The Contenders series at MoMA, brought to life by Chanel, continues throughout the month of December, with highlights including Poor Things on December 5 (with a post-screening discussion featuring Yorgos Lanthimos and Tony McNamara), Passages on December 14 (with a post-screening conversation featuring Ira Sachs), and Priscilla on December 18 (with a post-screening conversation featuring Sofia Coppola). For more information, visit moma.org.

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