The 1997 hit single Barbie Girl was well-accepted when it came out. It was a fun song that utilized one of the most iconic figures in the ’90s: Barbie. Generations that followed know the song because of its catchy tune. But did you know that there is a deeper meaning to the song?
Aqua’s members saw a Barbie doll exhibit in a kitsch culture exhibit in Denmark and wrote the song Barbie Girl. According to the band, the song was a social comment on the inherent misogyny behind Barbie.
The Danish-Norwegian Band Aqua
The band was made up of Lene Nystrøm and René Dif, keyboardist Søren Rasted, and guitarist Claus Norreen. They were initially known as Joyspeed in 1989 before renaming to Aqua in 1994.
Aqua was a great success globally in the late 1990s and early 2000s. With their first three singles, the group topped the UK Singles Chart. Before disbanding in July 2001, the Band recorded two albums: Aquarium in 1997 and Aquarius in 2000.
Aqua’s singles charted in the top 10 in various nations where European pop artists would not ordinarily succeed, including the United States, Australia, and Japan, when they were at their peak.
The Band sold an estimated 33 million albums and singles, making them the most successful Danish Band and the second most successful Norwegian band. (Source: Music Pop Stars)
The Impact of Barbie Girl song
Regardless of where you grew up, this is a song you have almost certainly heard at least once. The ‘Barbie Girl’ song was and continues to be the universal hymn that comes to mind whenever the subject of Barbie is discussed. It’s cheerful, catchy, and enjoyable. (Source: Medium)
The song was inspired by the exhibit Aqua band member Søren Rasted visited, a kitsch culture in Denmark, where the Mattel dolls were featured. The song’s lyrics refer to both Barbie and Ken, with Barbie stating that she is a “blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world” and that you can “dress me up, make me tight, I’m your dolly.” (Source: Story of Song)
Some feminists in today’s world are claiming that the song is anti-feminist. It depicted women as, like toys, wherein anything can be done to them.
I find the “Barbie Girl” lyrics are much less in support of women choosing to do with their bodies and lives what they will; it’s actually in opposition to the feminist ideas around female agency, independence, and empowered sexuality that Millennial women these days are being encouraged to embrace.Allie Gemmill
In the song, Barbie has a predetermined mission, and it is not for her gain. This is for Ken’s benefit. It doesn’t help that she demeans herself by referring to herself as a “bimbo,” and Ken’s attempt to sexually control her for his pleasure is hardly feminist.
Aqua sparked controversy with the wordplay in their Barbie Girl single, prompting Mattel, the makers of Barbie dolls, to file a lawsuit against the group. In 2002, a judge dismissed the action, stating that the parties are advised to “chill.” (Source: Bustle)
Where is the Band now?
As mentioned above, Aqua disbanded in 2001. During their breakup, Nystrøm, Dif, and Rasted all enjoyed solo chart success, while Norreen continued to work in the music industry as a remixer of other artists’ songs. (Source: Music Pop Stars)
The group reunited in 2007 and continued to be in the music scene but failed to reach their popularity as they did in 1997. They are currently still active and are featured in 90s festivals. (Source: The Sun)