meta-scriptRoad To 'Barbie The Album': How Mark Ronson Dolled Up The Movie's Polished Pop Soundtrack | GRAMMY.com
karol g, nicki minaj, billie eilish, dua lipa at Barbie Movie premiere
(From left) 'Barbie The Album' artists KAROL G, Nicki Minaj, Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa attend premieres

Photos: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Samir Hussein/WireImage

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Road To 'Barbie The Album': How Mark Ronson Dolled Up The Movie's Polished Pop Soundtrack

On the moodboard, she's the inspo. Greta Gerwig's film 'Barbie' releases worldwide on July 21 — and so does its star-studded, Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack. Take a look at how the fantastic plastic of 'Barbie The Album' came together.

GRAMMYs/Jul 19, 2023 - 04:18 pm

This summer, everyone's hot (pink) with Barbie fever.

In the last few months, seemingly all corners of the world have been painted Barbie pink. From floods of #barbiegirl TikToks to ubiquitous brand collaborations, there's been no shortage of almost alarmingly efficient marketing for Greta Gerwig's upcoming blockbuster Barbie.

Out July 21, the fantasy comedy spotlights Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Mattel's classic Barbie doll couple, alongside a slew of other major stars including Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Simu Liu, and plenty more.

The highly anticipated Barbie soundtrack is helmed by Mark Ronson, the seven-time GRAMMY-winning producer known for working with artists like Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, and Miley Cyrus. Ronson's nearly year-long work on Barbie The Album kicked off when he checked his phone and saw a one-word text: "Barbie?"

The text came from producer George Drakoulias, who previously worked with Barbie co-writer Noah Baumbach on critically acclaimed films like Marriage Story and White Noise. Drakoulias shared details about the project, and Ronson was sold.

"I don't read a lot of scripts, but it was just everything I want in a movie," Ronson remembered in a Rolling Stone profile. "I was like, 'If I don't get this gig, this is gonna be my favorite movie of the year.'"

Ronson happily signed on as the soundtrack's executive producer — in his own words, becoming "the Robin to [Gerwig's] Batman" — and he hopped on a preliminary Zoom with Gerwig and Baumbach while they were in England gearing up for production.

As they brainstormed for Barbie The Album, Gerwig sent over a playlist of some of her favorite songs, which featured everything from Andrea True Connection to music from Xanadu, to what Ronson personally dubbed "Peloton pop." Spitballing ideas evolved into a crystal pink vision for Barbie The Album, which would be 17 tracks in total and featuring everyone from Lizzo to FIFTY FIFTY to Tame Impala to even Gosling himself.

Speaking to the New York Times, Gerwig described the film Barbie as an "anarchic dance-party emotional meltdown spiritual quest." In line with the movie's chaotic good, she and Ronson wanted the soundtrack to be many, many things: poppy, playful, whimsical, nostalgic, and most importantly, full-hearted.

With all this in mind, there was more news: Barbie would feature a highly-choreographed dance number, and Ronson was tasked with putting together the film's central groove. Rehearsals were scheduled to hit the floor in two weeks. 

Ronson and producer Andrew Wyatt — who would end up scoring the entire film together — got to work, crafting the fluttery, up-tempo beat to "Dance The Night" to power the film's core dance scene. Caroline Ailin also contributed as a songwriter to what would become Barbie's defining lead single.

"It became the Barbie anthem on set," Robbie shared with Rolling Stone.

According to Robbie, Barbie cast members rehearsed to the temporarily lyricless song, following only its whirling beat. That is, until Ronson slid into Dua Lipa's DMs to recruit her for the track. Channeling carefree fun reminiscent of Future Nostalgia, Lipa felt like a perfect fit for the song's retro disco relief. (Gerwig later invited the three-time GRAMMY winner to play the neon-pink-wigged role of Mermaid Barbie.)

"Dance The Night" unmistakably bubbles as the buoyant centerpiece of Barbie The Album; in fact, it's featured just 10 seconds into the film's trailer. As Barbie floats down from her dreamhouse, the song's strings flourish with nu-disco verve, luring viewers in and spiritedly signifying the magic of Barbie Land.

It's this breezy, dance floor-ready energy that Barbie The Album epitomizes. The record refracts the light of a disco ball, equating an evening at a club with a spiritual experience. In Gerwig's world, Barbies are — ironically — never boxed in.

While the album thrums with the rhythm of a nonstop party, Ronson still finds moments to hint at profundity, beneath the film's slick comedy. "Even when the tears are flowin' like diamonds on my face/ I'll still keep the party goin', not one hair out of place," Lipa sings in "Dance The Night."

The track's juxtaposition of sorrow and partying represents Barbie perfectly, nodding to the doll's controversial history. Since its 1959 launch, Barbies emerged as symbols of both female empowerment and unrealistic standards for women.

​​"I kept thinking: Humans are the people that make dolls and then get mad at the dolls," Gerwig explained to the NYT. "We create them and then they create us and we recreate them and they recreate us. We're in constant conversation with inanimate objects."

This idea of creating and recreating applies not just to the film, but its music, too. A modern musical reimagination filled with nostalgia, Barbie The Album slots in several iconic samples, including Toni Basil's 1981 "Mickey," Janet Jackson's 1997 "Together Again," and Aqua's 1997 "Barbie Girl."

​​"I was like, 'Greta, how are we going to incorporate this song? We can't do a Barbie movie and not have a nod to Aqua's 'Barbie Girl.' It has to be in there,'" Robbie told Rolling Stone. "And [Greta] was like, 'Don't worry, we're going to find a cool way to incorporate it.'"

Gerwig's response was apparently code for "get Nicki Minaj to hop on the track." Minaj made the top of Ronson and Gerwig's "dream list" of artists for the soundtrack — no doubt because of her reigning title as queen of the Barbz. The fanbase name emerged after the cover of Minaj's debut 2007 mixtape, Playtime Is Over, featured the rapper as a Barbie doll within a Mattel box.

"I feel like people have been asking Nicki to rhyme over some version of 'Barbie Girl' for 15 years now," Ronson estimated in conversation with Rolling Stone.

In her pink carpet interview with "Access Hollywood," Minaj admitted it took her a second to warm up to the track's Aqua sample: "I didn't even want to listen to this song because a lot of people have sent me that sample for years, and I never like it!"

But the rapper knew she wanted to be a part of Barbie. "So the next day, I mustered up the courage to listen to the song, and then I loved the beat, and that sold me," Minaj continued.

Once Minaj jumped on the track, Ronson began chasing down another one of today's hottest names in the rap scene: Ice Spice. The 23-year-old Bronx rapper almost didn't make the track because of her demanding schedule, but one night, she found the time to slide into the studio — just as Ronson was getting ready to go to sleep "like an old guy." He biked to the studio after midnight to track her verses, and "Barbie World" was born.

The track marked a "very full circle moment" for Minaj — as well as for Charli XCX. The pop singer told Rolling Stone that her first live performance was actually of Aqua's "Barbie Girl." Although XCX beheaded her Barbie dolls when she was younger, her a cappella rendition of Aqua's hit earned her a win in a cruise ship talent show.

Years later, XCX traded cruise ships for "lavender Lamborghinis" in her 2016 magnum opus "Vroom Vroom." So when Ronson and Gerwig showed XCX a few Barbie clips to choose from, it's no surprise that XCX was immediately drawn to the car chase scene. XCX's Barbie track "Speed Drive" runs through all the red lights, interpolating Toni Basil's "Mickey" as well as sampling Robyn's cover of Teddybears' "Cobrastyle" to assemble one of the album's many hot girl anthems.

And where there's a hot girl anthem, there's a sad girl anthem. Billie Eilish and Sam Smith were recently revealed to be the album's mystery guests, and Ronson put the former behind the wheel for "What Was I Made For?", with her brother and producer FINNEAS riding shotgun. For the siblings, working on Barbie helped flare a creative spark they felt had been dimming.

"We were really in a zone of feeling like we lost it and feeling like, 'man, I don't know if we can do this anymore,'" Eilish shared with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1. "Barbie and Greta just pulled it out of me, I don't know."

The seven-time GRAMMY winner shared that writing for Barbie The Album allowed for her to refreshingly write from a new perspective — before realizing that she was actually reflecting on herself.

"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," Eilish continued with Lowe. "But I do this thing where… I'm writing for myself and I don't even know it."

Just as Eilish's inspiration came from processing her relationship with Barbie, other musicians featured on the album also held personal connections to the doll. 

Barbie was rooted in HAIM's childhood. The sisters grew up in Los Angeles in the '90s and self-labeled themselves as "Barbie specialists." Funnily enough, the siblings were allowed just one VHS tape: a Barbie film. 

Ronson and Gerwig fell into the habit of showing soundtrack participants scenes from Barbie during the creative process, offering more context for the pair's vision. The HAIM sisters found themselves watching scenes from Gerwig's Barbie to pen "Home" for the soundtrack.

"Karol G was instantly telling us how much Barbie meant to her," Ronson told TIME.

"I wanted to see the movie first to understand the project because we know the doll as a perfect figure, so I needed to understand the film's message," Karol G told HOLA! USA. "Then we met [with the Barbie team], and they shared the songs they loved and the rhythm they were looking for... I wanted that when they played the music; it sounded like a real party. A Latino party!"

The Colombian reggaetonera collaborated with Panamanian rapper Aldo Ranks, recording the thumping reggaeton banger "WATATI" for the album. 

Ronson ensured that Barbie The Album stylishly encompassed a wide number of genres, and its variety serves an asset to the film's worldbuilding.

"[Gerwig] had a vision for a really diverse and unique world that she was creating," Brandon Davis, Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Pop A&R at Atlantic Records, said to Rolling Stone. "That's why you're hearing, for instance, a Karol G record that leans more reggaeton next to a Dominic Fike record that's a nod to Sugar Ray."

The slogan of Mattel's signature doll is simple: "You can be anything." Barbie The Album encapsulates this effortlessly, blurring the soft lines between disco pop and drill. The soundtrack even features an Irish jig, unexpectedly on PinkPantheress' wistful song "Angel."

"The soundtrack reminded me of a 2000s Disney prom scene. I was just like, let's try it and see what they think. I just wanted to have fun," the pop star told ELLE. The chorus' uplifting jig gave "Angel" the necessary "soundtrack vibe" she was looking for.

Before kicking off her musical career, PinkPantheress was originally on an acting path. Having studied Gerwig's filmography in school, she was "gassed beyond belief" to join the Barbie team. "I do not think that anyone knows me. I'm always surprised," PinkPantheress said. "So, the fact that Greta Gerwig [does]..."

PinkPantheress knew that thinking pink meant she was on the right track — the color's in her stage name, after all.

"When I listen to ['Angel'], all I think about is the color pink. And when I think of pink, I think of Barbie," she said.

At the end of the day, it's Barbie's world, and we're just living in it. Gerwig pulled us into this glossy, fuschia-flushed world, and Ronson fluidly soundtracked its complementary pop paradise. Ronson spoke highly of the writer-director, citing not only her impressive innovation and drive but her presence alone as uplifting.

"Greta proves that you can be an incredibly strong-minded visionary, but inspire people by just your goodness alone," Ronson told Vanity Fair. "Everybody just felt so free to create."

This open, creative freedom is what makes Barbie truly Barbie. Mattel’s slogan rings true in Ronson’s soundtrack, pulsing like a Barbie dreamhouse party come to life. Songs range from trend-setting and bubblegum to comedic and quirky, but above all, the rosy soundtrack glimmers with moments of sincerity.

One thing about Barbie? She'll always think outside of the box.

Everything We Know About The 'Barbie' Soundtrack: New Dua Lipa Song, Release Date, Artist Lineup, All The 'Barbie' Songs & More

Ryan Gosling - 2024 Oscars
Ryan Gosling performs 'I'm Just Ken' from "Barbie" onstage during the 2024 Oscars

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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2024 Oscars: Watch Ryan Gosling And Mark Ronson Perform A Soaring, Hilarious Version Of "I'm Just Ken" From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'

At the 2024 Oscars, Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson performed an unforgettable version of "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture Barbie], which is up for Best Original Song at the ceremony.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 01:53 am

At the 2024 Oscars, Ryan Gosling and Mark Ronson performed a jubilant version of "I'm Just Ken" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], which is up for Best Original Song at the ceremony.

With an effervescent backing of black-suited dancers, Gosling leaned into the universal male yearning of the instant Barbie classic. And the arena rock magnitude was helped along by two guitar shredders who rightly dominate that world: Slash and Wolfgang Van Halen.

As Gosling put it at CinemaCon in 2023, Gosling initially doubted his Kenergy.

"It was like I was living my life and then one day I was bleaching my hair, shaving my legs, wearing bespoke neon outfits, and rollerblading down Venice Beach," he said.

"It came on like a light scarlet fever and then I woke up one day and was like, 'Why is there fake tanner in my sheets? What just happened?'"

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS won the Oscar for Original Song for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture Barbie] at the 2024 Academy Awards.

Keep checking this space for more updates on the 2024 Oscars — including GRAMMY winners and nominees who are featured during the big night!

2024 GRAMMYs: Billie Eilish Wins GRAMMY For Song Of The Year For "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Billie Eilish at the 2024 GRAMMYs
Billie Eilish at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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2024 Oscar Nominees Who Have Won A GRAMMY: Billie Eilish, Martin Scorsese & More

From Bradley Cooper to Diane Warren, 12 nominees at the 2024 Oscars have a golden gramophone to their name. Ahead of the Oscars ceremony on March 10, check out the GRAMMY history of this year's nominees.

GRAMMYs/Mar 6, 2024 - 04:33 pm

Music's Biggest Night and the film industry's biggest night are a little more intertwined than one might think.

The GRAMMYs have four Categories that tie in with the Hollywood machine, from Best Song Written For Visual Media to Best Music Film. And the Best Audio Book, Narration and Storytelling Recording award has offered thespians such as John Gielgud, Viola Davis, and Mike Nichols a route to EGOT glory.

The Academy Awards, meanwhile, gives both composers and songwriters their dues in the Best Original Score and Best Original Song categories, respectively. And the latter's nominees will often be performed to help break up all the drama at the podium, no matter how un-Oscar-like the track may be. Who can forget the fever dream that was The Lego Movie's "Everything Is Awesome," for example?

The 2024 Oscars bring both ceremonies even closer together, with 12 nominees walking in as previous GRAMMY winners. Half of them were even victorious at the 2024 GRAMMYs, including Billie Eilish, Finneas O'Connell, and Mark Ronson, who all took home golden gramophones for their Barbie contributions (and are all up for the same film at this year's Oscars).

Ahead of the March 10 ceremony, take a look at the GRAMMY stories of 2024 Oscar nominees — from celebrated composers to iconic directors to a few of this year's performers.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Jon Batiste

Jon Batiste has had quite the GRAMMY run as of late, picking up 19 nominations in just the last three years alone; he scored five wins for 2021's We Are in 2022, including the prestigious Album Of The Year. The jazz maestro, formerly the bandleader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, has also enjoyed Oscars glory in the same time frame.

Firstly, in 2021, he shared the Best Original Score Oscar with Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor for their work on Pixar animation Soul. And this year, he's nominated in the Best Original Song category for "It Never Went Away," a track featured in his own powerful documentary biopic, American Symphony.

Danielle Brooks 

Two years into her memorable run as prisoner Taystee in "Orange Is the New Black," Danielle Brooks proved her talents extended far beyond the walls of the Litchfield penitentiary with an acclaimed turn in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple. After the Juilliard graduate picked up a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical in 2016, she became a GRAMMY winner in 2017, when the cast won Best Musical Theater Album.

The all-singing, all-dancing film adaptation of the Alice Walker novel earned Brooks her first Academy Award nod, too. For she once again stole the show in its Hollywood transfer as the strong-minded Sofia, a character first played on the big screen by Oprah Winfrey.

Bradley Cooper  

Bradley Cooper spent six years practicing conducting just six minutes of music for his portrayal of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein in acclaimed biopic Maestro. And the multi-talent's admirable commitment paid off when he received Academy Award nods for Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture, and Best Actor.

Cooper was also nominated in the latter two categories, along with Best Adapted Screenplay, five years ago for another musical, A Star Is Born, and earned two GRAMMYs for the same project. In 2019, he shared Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Lady Gaga for "Shallow," the spellbinding ballad which also picked up a Record Of The Year nod. A year later, the same film triumphed in Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

Billie Eilish  

Like Batiste, Billie Eilish has made an impressive GRAMMYs run in a short span of time. The alt-pop phenomenon has already picked up nine awards from 25 nominations (and she's only just turned 22!). And at her first GRAMMYs just four years ago, Eilish already cemented herself in GRAMMY history: not only did she become just the second artist to claim Best New Artist and Record, Song, and Album Of the Year, but she became the youngest artist to do so at 18 years old.

Eilish added to her GRAMMY legacy with two more wins at the 2024 ceremony, for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], which won the star her second golden gramophones for Song Of The Year and Best Song Written For Visual Media; her James Bond theme, "No Time To Die," won the latter in 2021.

"What Was I Made For?" —  played during the poignant scene where Margot Robbie's titular character meets her creator — has also enamored Oscar voters. In fact, it's the predicted favorite to clinch Best Original Song, which "No Time to Die" helped Eilish claim in 2022.

Ludwig Göransson

Ludwig Göransson is predicted to win his second Best Original Score Oscar this year thanks to his suitably intense arrangements for Oppenheimer; his first win came in 2019 for Black Panther. The Swedish composer has already won Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for the same projects at the GRAMMYs.

But it's in the realm of socially conscious hip-hop where Göransson has been a GRAMMYs awards trailblazer. Childish Gambino's "This Is America," a powerful state of the nation address which he co-produced, picked up both Song and Record Of The Year at the 2019 ceremony — marking the first time a rap track had won either accolade. Göransson's fruitful partnership with Gambino has also seen him receive nods for Album Of The Year and Best R&B Song.

Finneas O'Connell 

Finneas O'Connell might have eight fewer GRAMMY nominations than his sister (Billie Eilish), but he does have one more win under his belt. Indeed, having masterminded Eilish's blockbuster breakthrough, 2019's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, and hit the studio with artists such as Tate McRae, Camila Cabello, and Selena Gomez, the Californian picked up Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2020 ceremony. (Alongside the nine golden gramophones he's shared with his younger sibling — and primary collaborator — that takes his overall tally up to 10.)

As a co-writer on Eilish's James Bond theme "No Time to Die," Finneas and his sis will have two Oscars a piece should their co-written song, "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture Barbie], win Best Original Song as predicted.

Mark Ronson 

Mark Ronson first caught GRAMMYs attention for his behind-the-scenes efforts, winning Best Pop Vocal Album, Record Of The Year, and Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical in 2008 for his work on Amy Winehouse's seminal Back to Black. But eight years later, he scooped two GRAMMYs for his very own throwback, the Bruno Mars-featuring "Uptown Funk," and in 2019, picked up Best Dance Recording as part of the supergroup Silk City alongside Diplo and Dua Lipa.

Ronson and Lipa were once again nominated together at the 2024 GRAMMYs for their global chart-topper, "Dance the Night" [From The Motion Picture Barbie], which didn't receive a Best Original Song Academy Award nod. The DJ-turned-hitmaker still notched an Oscar nomination, though, thanks to a different Barbie number he co-wrote: the Ryan Gosling-sung "I'm Just Ken."

Martin Scorsese 

Here's a staggering fact: Martin Scorsese, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood history, has as many GRAMMYs to his celebrated name as he does Oscars: one.

The auteur received his GRAMMY in 2006, when his Bob Dylan documentary, No Direction Home, won in the Best Long Form Music Video Category. (He had been nominated the previous two years, in the same Category in 2005 for his PBS series Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey, and in the Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media Category in 2004 for Gangs Of New York.)

His sole Best Director victory at the Academy Awards came not for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, or Goodfellas, but for his 2006 remake of The Departed in what many interpreted as a career win. He earned his tenth nomination in the coveted category at the 2024 Oscars, for Killers of the Flower Moon.

Diane Warren 

Diane Warren is responsible for some of the all-time great movie power ballads: see the late '90s holy trinity of Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me," LeAnn Rimes' "How Do I Live," and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss A Thing." However, the prolific songwriter has never won an Oscar outright (she was awarded an honorary one in 2022). She has another shot at the 2024 Oscars thanks to Becky G's "The Fire Inside" from the Cheetos-inspired Flamin' Hot, which earned Warren her 15th Best Original Song nomination.

The songwriting dynamo has received the same number of nods at the GRAMMYs, and celebrated a win in 1997, when "Because You Loved Me" (from 1996's Up, Close and Personal) took home Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television.

John Williams 

Where to start with John Williams? The veteran composer received his 54th Academy Award nod this year, with his work on Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny recognized in Best Original Score. He remains second only to Walt Disney for the most Oscar nominations ever, he's the only individual to be recognized across seven decades in a row (his first came back in 1968 for Valley of the Dolls), and he became the oldest nominee ever in 2023 — a record which he topped again this year at 91.

And Williams has been even more successful at the GRAMMYS, picking up a remarkable 26 golden gramophones from 76 nominations. His latest came only last month when "Helena's Theme," the piece of music composed for Phoebe Waller-Bridge's character in Dial of Destiny, was crowned Best Instrumental Composition.

Dan Wilson 

Dan Wilson picked up the first of his six GRAMMY nominations with his own band Semisonic's anthemic "Closing Time." But following the alt-rock trio's initial split in 2001, all of his other nods have been for his work as an in-demand songwriter. Wilson has won two of the General Field GRAMMYs, first for Song Of The Year for Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" in 2006 and Album Of The Year for his work on Adele's 21 in 2012.

And he added a third GRAMMY to his trophy haul this year, as his co-written Chris Stapleton track "White Horse" won Best Country Song. Thanks to his contribution to the aforementioned Batiste ballad, the hitmaker can also now call himself an Oscar nominee, too.

Andrew Wyatt 

Ronson co-produced and co-wrote "I'm Just Ken" [From The Motion Picture Barbie] with longtime collaborator Andrew Wyatt. The pair won the 2019 Best Original Song Oscar for their co-write on A Star Is Born cut "Shallow," and also picked up Best Song Written for Visual Media with the same tearjerker (alongside Cooper) at the GRAMMYs.

Wyatt, who first found fame as one-third of electronic trio Miike Snow before launching a solo career, has also enjoyed a taste of GRAMMY recognition elsewhere. The New Yorker's first nod came in 2012 when Bruno Mars' "Grenade," the emotive heartbreak anthem that counted him as one of six songwriters, was nominated for Song Of The Year.

10 Must-See Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs: Taylor Swift Makes History, Billy Joel & Tracy Chapman Return, Boygenius Manifest Childhood Dreams

'On The Lips' Of Whistler Molly Lewis
Molly Lewis

Photo: Shervin Lainez

interview

'On The Lips' Of Whistler Molly Lewis: How Her Debut Album Harnessed The Power Of Collaboration & Mood Lighting

Molly Lewis' unique instrument has caught the ear of Dr. Dre and soundtracked a pivotal scene in 'Barbie.' Out Feb. 16, the whistler's first LP takes listeners to a less glamorous — but equally vivid — space: the Hollywood lounge.

GRAMMYs/Feb 16, 2024 - 07:36 pm

To properly consume her music, whistler Molly Lewis suggests incorporating the following into your listening experience: candlelight, cold libations and, if possible, a hot date.

Though all are merely suggested tips for conjuring an ideal mood, the 33-year-old Australian says her debut full-length album was conceived with these conditions in mind. On the Lips captures the oft ethereal, sometimes sensual energy of Lewis' live act, which she's honed for years in legendary Hollywood lounges.

“I thought it would be a good idea if my first LP was like the essence of my live show,” Lewis shared. “At one point, we even talked about putting clapping in between the songs to make it feel more like a live album.”

Lewis is hesitant to place any demands on listeners, though she holds firm in her belief that having the right lighting is always a plus. For proof, look no further than last fall, when Lewis performed at Children's Fairyland — a historic amusement park in Northern California credited as a source of inspiration for the original Disneyland.

Curated by Oakland experimental pop artist SPELLLING, the bill for September's Through the Looking Glass festival included a slot for Lewis, who was staged in an area decorated like The Wizard of Oz's Emerald City. Bathed in an eerie glow of green lights, Lewis emerged in a sparkling red evening gown and the crowd bewitched before she'd ever pursed her lips.

"That night [in Oakland] was very surreal and magical," Lewis recalled. "Lighting helps me get into the feeling of the music and, of course, it's helpful to the audience too. If I'm doing a show in L.A., I try to dress the stage and create an atmosphere. Obviously, with budget limitations, it never goes too far but maybe one day I'll get around to pyrotechnics."

Until that day arrives, the highlight of seeing Lewis perform is unquestionably the opportunity to hear her world-class whistling skills. From recording sessions with Dr. Dre to her sonic contributions to a pivotal scene in 2023 Oscar Best Picture nominee Barbie, Lewis continues to lend her lips to all manner of notable projects. At the same time, she's also simultaneously nurtured a solo career that's seen her grow from open mics at Canter's Deli to touring with Weyes Blood and taking calls from Mark Ronson

In an upbeat conversation via Zoom from her home in Los Angeles, Lewis detailed her roots as a whistler, mused on her skills as a raconteur, and paid tribute to the L.A. lounge legends who helped her pave a truly singular career.

**You recorded On the Lips in a studio equipped with a tiki bar and an open-door policy that saw a slew of talented folks swing by. What was the atmosphere like during those sessions?**

[Producer] Tom Brenneck and I have made my last three records together. Basically, one of my best friends in L.A. is an artist named Ariana Papademetropoulos. For many years, she was like, "Molly, you have to meet my brother-in-law, Tom. I feel like you guys would make such good music together." When we finally met up and worked on something, it was easy and fun. We obviously have very similar taste in music.

When I first got a small budget to record some music with, I didn't know where to start. Explaining music is a skill that you can learn and get better at, but when I first started, I didn't know how to articulate what I was feeling and wanting. It reminded me of when you go to the hairdresser and show them a photo of what you want, then they start cutting and you're like, "Ah, it doesn't look like that." But they're a professional, so you don't say anything, and then you get home and wish you'd said something.

Working with Tom was easy because he's very encouraging and generous. He really made me feel like I could do this. I'm not a trained musician. I don't know how to play a lot of instruments. I can play very basic guitar but I don't know how to read music. Sometimes I felt like I didn't belong, but Tom really encouraged me and helped me bring my little demo ideas to life. 

A lot of his musician friends and people he works with would come by to hang out and to see what was going on. [Samba guitarist and Latin GRAMMY nominee] Rogê would be over and we'd write a song together. Chester Hansen of BADBADNOTGOOD was there to work on his record and luckily, he was down to record with me too. It was a very relaxed atmosphere.

 To see you live is to also be treated to your exceptional stage banter. How did that element of your craft develop?

Thank you! It isn't something that was very thought out when I first started performing. When you're the singer — or the whistler, as it is with me — and you have a microphone in front of you, there are moments of silence between songs. I just started doing the thing I do when I'm nervous, which is to make some chit chat. 

I was always a bit jealous of musicians who could remain very mysterious and silent in between songs. That also says a lot and conveys something beautiful and mysterious and untouchable. I always felt like I really need to just shut up and be this other character on-stage — this ethereal whistler — and leave the other parts of myself, like the awkward silly chit chat, at home, but I didn't want to put on an act in that way.

I saw Mary Lattimore, this incredible harpist, perform once and I was just so taken by her playing this incredible, ethereal, magical instrument and, in between the songs, telling these funny anecdotes and stories about the [origins of] song names and little things about her life. It was such a wonderful contrast, and it's so wonderful to get to know the musician or artist in that way. I think that's when I realized that it is a nice thing to include banter and little stories and silly jokes. 

I try not to think too much about it because I don't want it to be rehearsed, but of course, I've got a few little tricks up my sleeve. It's fun to be on the spot and to see what happens. That also keeps it fun.

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boygenius, Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff at 2024 GRAMMYs
(L-R) boygenius, Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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10 Must-See Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs: Taylor Swift Makes History, Billy Joel & Tracy Chapman Return, Boygenius Manifest Childhood Dreams

The 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards wrote another monumental chapter in music history with returns from legends like Celine Dion and wins by a promising new generation of artists like Victoria Monét.

GRAMMYs/Feb 5, 2024 - 08:35 pm

Just like that, another GRAMMYs has come and gone — but the 2024 telecast brought many moments that will be immortalized in pop culture history.

It was the evening of legends, as Billy Joel and Tracy Chapman returned to the stage for the first time in decades and Joni Mitchell made her debut with a performance of her 1966 classic, "Both Sides, Now." Stevie Wonder and Celine Dion honored greats, both those we've lost and those who are dominating today. And Meryl Streep had two memorable moments at the show, making a fashionably late entrance and getting a hilarious GRAMMY lesson from Mark Ronson.

But it was the younger generation of artists who ultimately dominated the show. Boygenius — the supergroup of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker — won numerous awards in the Rock, Metal & Alternative Music Field. Billie Eilish and SZA scooped up a couple more golden gramophones, respectively, and Best New Artist winner Victoria Monét celebrated three wins in total, also winning Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

Taylor Swift built on the momentum of her colossal year with more GRAMMY records and an unexpected announcement of her next studio album.

Check out the full list of winners here, and take a look at our top 10 highlights from another show-stopping installment of the GRAMMYs below.

Boygenius Run To Accept Their First GRAMMY Award

Boygenius won the first trophy of their careers during the Premiere Ceremony, and they were so ecstatic they sprinted through the crowds to get to the stage.

"Oh my God, I want to throw up," Lucy Dacus said as the group accepted their Best Rock Performance trophy for "Not Strong Enough."

Even though the trio was over the moon, they weren't entirely shocked by their win: "We were delusional enough as kids to think this would happen to us one day," she continued. Phoebe Bridgers would sing at a local Guitar Center "in hopes of getting discovered," while Julien Baker dreamed of performing in stadiums as she played in multiple bands, and Dacus has been perfecting her acceptance speech for years.

Their hard work was manifested three times over, as the trio also won Best Rock Song for "Not Strong Enough" and Best Alternative Music Album for the record.

Killer Mike Makes A Clean Sweep

Killer Mike had the largest GRAMMY night of his career, winning all three of the Rap Categories for which he was nominated: Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for "SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS," and Best Rap Album for MICHAEL.

"I'm from the Southeast, like DJ Paul, and I'm a Black man in America. As a kid, I had a dream to become a part of music, and that 9-year-old is very excited right now," he cheered. "I want to thank everyone who dares to believe art can change the world."

Minutes after his sweep, the LAPD detained the Run the Jewels rapper. However, he was released and still able to celebrate his achievements, Killer Mike's lawyer told Variety.

Miley Cyrus Finally Receives Her "Flowers"

Miley Cyrus entered the GRAMMYs with six nominations for her eighth studio album, Endless Summer Vacation. After she won Best Pop Solo Performance for "Flowers," she delivered a jubilant performance in celebration. "Started to cry, but then remembered, I just won my first GRAMMY!" she exclaimed at the song's bridge, throwing her hands in the air and joyfully jumping around the stage.

Cyrus' excitement brought a tangible energy to the performance, making for one of the night's most dynamic — and apparently one of Oprah Winfrey's favorites, as the camera caught the mogul dancing and singing along.

"Flowers" earned Cyrus a second GRAMMY later in the night, when the No. 1 hit was awarded Record Of The Year. 

Tracy Chapman Makes A Rare Appearance

Luke Combs breathed a second life into Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" when he released a cover of the track in April 2023. He quickly climbed to the top of the Billboard charts and received a nomination for Best Country Solo Performance at this year's show. Of course, it called for a special celebration — one that was meaningful for both Combs and GRAMMYs viewers.

Chapman joined the country star on stage for her first televised performance since 2015, trading off verses with Combs as he adoringly mouthed the words. The duet also marked Chapman's first appearance on the GRAMMY stage in 20 years, as she last performed "Give Me One Reason" at the 2004 GRAMMYs. (It also marked her second time singing "Fast Car" on the GRAMMYs stage; she performed it in 1989, the same year the song won Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Chapman took home three awards total, including Best New Artist.)

Naturally, Chapman's return earned a standing ovation from the crowd. As Combs fittingly put it in an Instagram post thanking the Recording Academy for the opportunity, it was a "truly remarkable moment."

Read More: 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

Joni Mitchell Takes The GRAMMY Stage For The First Time At 80

In one of the most emotional parts of the night, Joni Mitchell performed on the GRAMMYs stage for the first time in her nearly 60-year career.

Accompanied by Brandi Carlile — who referred to Mitchell as "the matriarch of imagination" before the performance — Lucius, SistaStrings, Allison Russell, Blake Mills, and Jacob Collier, Mitchell sang a touching rendition of "Both Sides Now."

"Joni is one of the most influential and emotionally generous creators in human history," Carlile  added in her introduction. "Joni just turned 80, my friends, but we all know she's timeless!"

Mitchell also won her 10th golden gramophone at the 2024 GRAMMYs, as her live album Joni Mitchell at Newport was awarded Best Folk Album at the Premiere Ceremony.

Stevie Wonder Salutes The Late Tony Bennett, Duetted By His Hologram

Another heartfelt moment came during this year's In Memoriam segment, when Stevie Wonder memorialized his friend, Tony Bennett, who passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2023.

"Tony, I'm going to miss you forever. I love you always, and God bless that He allowed us to have you in this time and space in our lives," Wonder proclaimed. Thanks to a hologram of Bennett, the two singers could duet "For Once in My Life" one last time.

This year's tribute also saw Annie Lennox covering Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," Jon Batiste's medley of Bill Withers' hits, and Fantasia's reimagining of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary."

Meryl Streep Gets Educated On Album Vs. Record And Single

Meryl Streep joined Mark Ronson — who happens to be her son-in-law — to announce the Record Of The Year winner, which sparked a funny interaction between the two when Streep thought she was announcing Album Of The Year.

"A record is an album!" Streep confidently declared, only for Ronson to give a quick 101 on the difference between Record, Song, and Album Of The Year.

"It's a really important award, and it's an award that recognizes everything that goes into making a great record — the producers, the recording engineer, and the artist, and all their contributions," Ronson explained of Record Of The Year.

"It's the Everything Award! It's the best," Streep smiled.

Celine Dion Surprises The World With A Special Cameo

Before the GRAMMYs commenced, producer Ben Winston told viewers they would be in for a treat because of a surprise presenter for the final award of the night, Album Of The Year. "They are an absolute global icon. I think jaws will drop to the floor. People will be on their feet," he shared.

It was none other than Celine Dion, who has largely been out of the limelight after her stiff person syndrome diagnosis.

"When I say that I'm happy to be here, I really mean it with my heart," Dion said. "It gives me great joy to present a GRAMMY award that two legends, Diana Ross and Sting, presented to me 27 years ago."

Dion is referring to her Album Of The Year win at the 39th GRAMMY Awards in 1997, when her smash LP Falling Into You won the honor. 

Taylor Swift Breaks The Record For Most AOTY Wins

It was a historic night for Taylor Swift in more ways than one.

She began the evening by winning her 13th GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album for Midnights. To commemorate the milestone (13 is her lucky number), Swift announced her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, arriving on April 19.

She ended the evening with a coveted fourth Album Of The Year win, which made Swift the artist with the most AOTY nods in GRAMMY history.

"I would love to tell you this is the best moment of my life, but I feel this happy when I finish a song or crack the code to a bridge that I love or when I'm shot listing a music video or when I'm rehearsing with my dancers or my band or getting ready to go to Tokyo to play a show," she said. "The award is the work. All I want to do is keep being able to do this."

Billy Joel Serves Double GRAMMY Duty

After Swift's momentous win, Billy Joel ended the ceremony with a feel-good performance of his 1980 single, "You May Be Right." Along with being a rousing show closer, it was also his second performance of the night; Joel performed his newest offering, "Turn the Lights Back On," before Album Of The Year was announced.

Joel's performances included three firsts: It was the debut live rendition of "Turn the Lights Back On," his first release since 2007, and the performances marked his first time playing on the GRAMMYs stage in more than two decades. It was a fitting finale for a history-making show, one that beautifully celebrated icons of the past, present and future.

A Timeline Of Taylor Swift's GRAMMYs History, From Skipping Senior Prom To Setting A Record With 'Midnights'