Why Barbie Girl is Voted 'Worst Song of the 90’s'

Illustration by Erin Fung

By Nicole Chan
Published on March 6th, 2021

Barbie Girl is composed and performed by a Danish dance-pop group Aqua. Released in May 1997, it was the third single from the group’s debut studio album.

Listening to the song Barbie Girl certainly brings back a lot of childhood memories. I used to dance around the house jamming to this catchy theme song of Barbie, and till this day, I will still say the rhythm of the song is captivating. Yet, there’s a reason why Aqua’s Barbie Girl ranks first in “The worst song of the 90’s”, according to Rolling Stones readers featured on 999thepoint.com.

I believe that the main reason for Barbie Girl’s mass disapproval is the fact that upon closer examination, it is exceedingly sexist. This song is likely to trigger even the most lenient feminists. In the first verse of Barbie Girl, a line of lyrics sing “You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere”. This line can be interpreted to reduce women to mere playthings, allowing them to be manipulated by men. Why should Barbie be undressed everywhere according to Ken’s (the male lead as suggested in the lead of the song) desires, but not her own consent? The next line, “Imagination, life is your creation”, seems to further convey Ken’s control of Barbie’s life. It is saddening to see Barbie’s life is a creation of someone else’s other than herself, even if she’s just a cartoon character.

As the further the song progresses, the more inappropriate the lyrics appear to be. “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky” and “You can play, you can touch, if you say ‘I’m always yours’” are seen in the second verse of the song. Promoting and normalizing sexual affection to children is definitely not what we need more in society. I found the lyrics “Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please" in a children's song incredibly beyond my belief. We cannot overlook the possibility that bullying based on sexuality might be provoked from such lyrics. Why? Well, if boys have the power to reign over girls in cartoons, why should real life be any different from cartoons? After all, cartoons are based on real life. I am concerned that if songs with such unseemly lyrics continue to be introduced to children, it can really change their mindsets.

A worrying point to note about this song is its widespread influence. It’s not merely a song a small number of people listen to while taking a shower - Barbie’s got movies, short films, dolls etc that can be found all around the world. Indeed, the upbeat rhythm conceals the harmful values of Barbie Girl. This might lead to careless exposure of children to this song - allowing the perpetuation of sexist ideals. Having it voted “The worst song of the 90’s” fortunately signals a change in public mindset, yet It’s influence remains widespread. The impact of this song on shaping social norms should not be understated.

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