A moment of nostalgia: "Barbie Girl" - a hit of the 90s from Aqua!
"Barbie Girl" is a legendary hit by the pop group Aqua, released in May 1997. The song was their third single from their debut album Aquarium. This composition has a rather interesting history: it was inspired by an exhibition in Denmark, which featured the famous Barbie dolls! As a result, the track topped the charts in many European countries: today "Barbie Girl" is one of the best-selling singles in the history of music... It is also the band's biggest hit! Let's remember the history of its creation ...
Where did it all start?
Sometimes the lyrics of a particular song can seem completely meaningless. Because of this, many may not even notice how the authors loudly declare the exaggerated value of sexual attractiveness in society ... Barbie dolls with an abnormally small waist and huge breasts have unrealistic proportions, which, according to her critics, leads to problems with self-esteem in young people girls. Barbie's maker, Mattel, responds to these accusations: "Barbies aren't supposed to be realistic. Her outlandish uniform is designed to make it easy for her to pose and dress…” In 1945, Ruth Handler, her husband Elliot, and their close friend Harold Mattson founded the Mattel toy company. The idea for Barbie came about after Ruth saw their daughter Barbara cut dolls out of magazines and carefully choose the clothes and accessories to dress them up. Every other doll on the market at that time was a baby doll, and Ruth quickly realized that there was great potential in this: a doll with adult features, allowing children to live out their dreams!
Barbie, named after their daughter, debuted at the New York Toy Fair in March 1959 and took toy stores across the US by storm—more than 351,000 $3 each dolls were sold that year alone! Today, Barbie is the best-selling toy in the world: since 1959, more than one billion dolls have been sold in 150 different countries...
One of the most popular pop songs of the 90s is "Barbie Girl" by Aqua! The band released this track as the third single from their debut studio album Aquarium (1997). Written by all the members of the group, it was inspired by an exhibition featuring the infamous Barbie dolls created by the American toy company Mattel. The song's lyrics refer to both Barbie and Ken. And everything would be fine, but Barbie says that she is a girl of easy virtue in a fantasy world:
"I'm a Barbie doll in a Barbie world,
Plastic life is great!
You can comb my hair
You can undress me anywhere.
Imagination… Life is what you create it…”
"You can touch me, play with me,
If you say you'll always be mine!"
This explains the fact that in 1998 the New Musical Express magazine recognized "Barbie Girl" as the worst single ... Even the video for the song - cartoonish at first glance - is quite sexualized. Barbie has a lot of makeup and several revealing outfits, and Ken, in turn, winks at her strangely, offering to “ride” ... And many critics and listeners have caught the hidden sexual connotation. Not surprisingly, this led to scandals with Mattel ...
Due to the explicit nature of the song and Barbie and Ken's lack of innocence, Mattel filed a lawsuit against MCA Records. They insisted that the band and record label deliberately dishonored the Mattel trademark and name by turning Barbie into a sex object! Aqua claimed to put her own meaning into the song's lyrics. In 2002, a judge ruled that the song was protected as free speech under the First Amendment, and also dismissed a libel suit filed by the record company Aqua against Mattel. The judge's ruling said that "the parties are advised to cool off." The case was dismissed, and in the process it brought media attention to both the song and the band itself.
Remarkably, at the end of 1997 - just a few months after this song peaked in the US charts - Mattel announced that they intended to change the shape of the Barbie doll for the third time in its history: for example, the new Barbie dolls had a waist a little more… By the way: Aqua is not the first band to be sued because of Barbie. Mattel previously sued director Todd Haynes for using a doll in the 1987 film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.
The music video for "Barbie Girl" was released in 1997, directed by Peter Stenbeck and Peter Pedersen. The video features the members of the band, with Lene Nyström as Barbie and René Dief as Ken. We can see how they drive around the imaginary world in a car, Barbie does her hair and makeup ... And they are all very fake and cruel, like dolls. The music video ends with the group having a party at a Barbie-themed pink house, where Ken accidentally rips off Barbie's arm.
The music video was uploaded to the Aqua YouTube channel in August 2010 and has amassed nearly 900 million views to date!
In the year it was released, the track reached #1 in over ten countries, including France and the UK! It was also certified platinum in several countries (in France it was certified Diamond). According to VH1, the track took the fourth place in the list of "Best number one of all time"! In addition, the song was included in several ratings of the "Most Terribly Bad Songs in History". In 2007, Rolling Stone magazine included this track in the list of the 20 most annoying songs. Previously, in 2004, Blender Magazine ranked it at number 33 on their "50 Worst Songs of All Time" list.
The most interesting thing about this story is that Mattel originally sued the group for copyright infringement! But the court ruled that the song is a parody and therefore does not violate any copyright laws. That being said, Mattel actually used the song in one of their marketing campaigns in 2009! While the text has certainly been changed slightly, the hook remains the same:
"I'm a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie world / Life in plastic, it's fantastic!"
On the one hand, this idea can be understood: a quick-to-remember song with a tune that has long been popular... However, on the other hand, this situation simply screams about all sorts of oddities! Apparently, in the distant future, a whole saga will be written about the song "Barbie Girl"! In the meantime, this is just one of the favorite hits of the 90s by many ...