How Greta Gerwig Convinced Ryan Gosling to Sing Ken Song in 'Barbie'

Ryan Gosling’s anthem in the Barbie movie has become an instant pop culture phenomenon – but director Greta Gerwig had to do some slight coaxing to make it happen. 

“He has a beautiful voice, and he’s a beautiful dancer. We got there organically,” Gerwig, 39, told Rolling Stone in an interview published on Wednesday, July 25. “I think if I had said, ‘I want you to sing and dance in this movie,’ he would not have necessarily done that for me. But it was kind of that thing of boiling a lobster. I think by the time he was singing and dancing, he didn’t even totally know how we had gotten there. But he’s so fabulous at it.”

Gosling, 42, who stars as Ken in the summer blockbuster, has a history of song and dance throughout his career. He starred on The Mickey Mouse Club in the early ‘90s alongside Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears before moving on to film. His musical talents made their onscreen return for 2016’s La La Land,  in which he took home the Oscar for Best Actor. It was Gosling’s innate skills that helped inspire producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt while crafting Ken’s big moment. 

“They didn’t even have all the lyrics. They just had a feeling and the skeleton and the lyric ‘I’m just Ken,’ and it just evolved from there,” Ronson, 47, told the outlet on Wednesday, adding that rockstars like Meat Loaf were big influences while creating the song.  

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The track, officially titled “I’m Just Ken,” acts as a monologue for Gosling’s character to sum up his feelings throughout the movie – and is even available to stream on Spotify. 

“He really got [that] it had to walk this line of not being funny or parody. But obviously, the song is also kind of ridiculous at times,” Ronson told Vanity Fair earlier this month. “So he was really amazing, and when he really did start hitting the big notes, I was like, this dude is a vocal powerhouse!”

Gerwig, for her part, shared with Rolling Stone that she “wanted to create a moment that felt like those movies from the Nineties when they had soundtracks to movies that ended up at Costco. I have this memory of looking at the track listing of all these movies at Costco.”

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In addition to “I’m Just Ken,” Gosling also lent his vocal pipes to the cover of Matchbox Twenty’s “Push” for the movie, which he and the other Kens sing to the Barbies on the beach. Gosling recorded the tracks at Abbey Road Studios in London and admitted that his Mickey Mouse days came in handy. 

“At a certain point, I thought I had left that kid behind, and I realized that I needed his help to make this movie. So I had to go back and make peace with him and ask for his help. It was good for me,” he quipped during the July 17 episode of Entertainment Weekly’s Around the Table. 

Matchbox Twenty lead singer Rob Thomas, meanwhile, opened up about Gerwig approaching his team for permission to use the song, noting that he found the idea “hilarious,” but figured his band would be the butt of a joke. 

“In Bring It On, [Kirsten Dunst’s character] has this douchey boyfriend. And there’s a scene where he was in his dorm room with a Matchbox Twenty poster in the background. There was a whole period during the ‘90s where the more successful we got, the bigger target we were. We were an easy takedown,” Thomas told USA Today after Barbie was released on Friday, July 21. “When I got the call for Barbie, they told me, ‘Ken’s by the fireside, he’s playing the song and it’s his favorite band.’”

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Thomas noted that he was genuinely “fine with” being poked fun at as he’s “pretty thick-skinned,” he was pleasantly surprised when he heard more about the scene — and even dedicated “Push” to Gosling while on stage at a concert last week. 

Barbie is in theatres now.

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