There isn’t much precedent in pop music for Billie Eilish and Finneas teaming up when it comes to brother-sister duos performing or writing songs. But in the world of film scores, it may not be too early to start comparing them to a very famous married duo: Alan and Marilyn Bergman, the long-reigning king and queen of film theme songs. The Bergmans were not entirely independent songwriters; They worked primarily as lyricists, joining outside composers such as Michel Legrand or Marvin Hamlisch on Oscar-winning material such as “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “The Way We Were” and the “Yentl” soundtrack. But it is their names that are synonymous with movie songs, like the names of several others. Perhaps the O’Connells are following in their footsteps?
It’s too early to tell, as their still-nascent career has only a handful of film songs to cite (including less notable work in Roma and the Pixar boy band comedy Reds). But they certainly got off to a stunning start, one day claiming a similar legacy by winning an Oscar for No Time to Die, the best Bond theme of the modern era. (A rather heady achievement considering Eilish was 4 years old when Daniel Craig took on the title role in the franchise.) It looked like it might be a premature one-off achievement until the duo returned with a Barbie theme that easily surpasses even theirs a Bond song. , achieved as it was. Nobody wants them to quit their day job and work full-time in Hollywood, but film scores… well, it’s like what they were made for.
“What was I created for?” there may actually be a film closer, since Aimee Mann’s Rescue Me is stuck in the late ’90s with Magnolia, at least when we’re talking about dramatic climaxes that wouldn’t register as strongly on the emotional Richter scale. without such a touching musical highlight. But there’s another song from a late ’90s movie that resembles this song in terms of its potential awards impact. Eilish and Finneas’ song has a chance to become the first number one since “My Heart Will Go On” from the 1997 film Titanic, which won the Oscar for best song. And record of the year Grammy, a double award that is long overdue.
Believe it or not, only three movie songs have ever won both of these awards. This feat was achieved by Henry Mancini’s back-to-back hits “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses”, written in 1961-62. But it took another 35 years for it to happen again, with a ballad sung by Celine Dion; since then there have been no repeats in a quarter of a century. Trivia buffs may note that, putting aside the Best Picture Grammy of the Year, there were a half-dozen other movie themes that managed to win the Grammy Award. song of the year, and also received Oscar awards: “The Shadow of Your Smile” (from “Kulchik”), “The Way We Were,” “You Light Up My Life,” “Evergreen,” “A Brand New World” and “Streets.” from Philadelphia.” But even all of them go back to the corners of the pre-Titanic 20th century. The Grammy and Oscar pair couldn’t even come together for “Let It Go” or “Shallow” to take home the double top award.
But contrary to the claim that soundtracks don’t mean what they used to, what excels is the Barbie OST, which isn’t just a collection of random synchronizations but is replete with songs that at least fit the narrative. to small degrees. Many of them were built for laughs rather than for centuries, and this is Ken-ou. But, alone among them, the Billy/Finneas tune isn’t afraid to sidestep the serious doldrums on the way to the film’s deeper, richer themes – something that was perceived by listeners as a feature rather than a flaw. brought it to 380 million streams on Spotify alone. That’s a lot beyond cinema for a song whose main purpose is to tie together all the metaphors that Greta Gerwig’s brilliant comedy has relied on over the previous hour and 45 minutes.
With as few words as possible, the song manages to talk about the expectations placed on women; poor dating prospects; the nature of God, creation and existence; free will and the pursuit of happiness; and, by the way, on a very literal level, what it means to be made of plastic. Taking the melancholic elements of the script to the extreme (but still with a hint of hope), “What Was I Made For?” may represent the purest essence of what it means to be a sad doll since Henrik Ibsen.
Finneas recently analyzed the composition and production of a song for Diversity video that shows there’s more going on than meets the eye in its deceptively simple structure. The melody is so strong that screenwriters Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt used it several times for warning inserts in the film: during Barbie’s encounter with an elderly woman on a bus bench; meeting the ghost of Ruth in the kitchen at Mattel’s 17th floor; in Gloria’s childhood memories. (Bringing in whistling champion Molly Lewis to sing the final instrumental version was a nice touch because it doesn’t say anything bittersweet better than whistling.)
However, the song’s lyrical poignancy is its strongest point of impact. “I used to float, now I just fall” is a clever callback to the very first hint of the fragile mortality that Barbie experiences at the beginning of the film. “Looked so alive, turns out I’m not real / Just what you paid for” speaks to the Barbie character’s understanding of what “The Box” means, as well as the eureka moment that women have experienced in business relationships since the beginning of time. “I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend / He’s not cut out for this” has to rank as the song’s most chilling moment for anyone who’s ever realized that their partner suffers from a lack of emotional intelligence or empathy, so essentially, these shortcomings are quite could come directly from the manufacturer. And “I don’t know what to feel”: in the context of a song about an inanimate object suddenly realized (but a song that doesn’t have when it comes down to it), this may be one of the greatest ambiguities of all time.
And the whole existential central conceit of the song? The phrase and title “What was I created for?” it’s actually kind of like Christian rock…without the Christianity. This echoes the film’s variation on the creation myth, with Rhea Perlman appearing as Goddess Barbie, creating a sincere spiritual resonance rarely realized in modern hymns.
It would seem that all these possibly stupid ideas actually foreshadowed against Eilish’s song is the most popular song from such a frothy soundtrack. Take that tune out of the equation, and the Oscars’ Best Song competition would likely still be filled with Barbie songs like Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night” (which has its own subtle undertones of melancholy) or two great songs from film. comedy numbers, Lizzo’s “Pink” (with or without a hilariously dark reprise) and Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken.” But it was Eilish and Finneas who came up with the controversial summer hit. In a year as crisis-ridden and heartbreaking as this one, they made learning about feelings desirable, and not just for Barbie.
The song has serious competition for a Grammy or an Oscar. Who doesn’t want to see “I’m Just Ken” as an Academy production? And if you like weird, hesitant, intensely personal pop songs, shouldn’t you be rooting for “Anti-Hero” at the Grammys, too? But if “What was I created for?” truly lays claim to both crowns, it would mark a revival of the idea that film songs can still have meaning in the wider culture. Not because they’re overrated, but because storytelling that clears the decks to make room for cathartic music can still hit us harder than anything else if done right.
And now, to quote another Bond song other than Billy and Finneas’, no one does it better.