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Barbie Girl by Aqua
Album: AquariumReleased: 1997Charted:
Although the lyrics seem meaningless, they could be making a statement about the inflated value of sex appeal in society. With abnormally tiny waists and enormous breasts, Barbie dolls are unrealistically proportioned, which her critics claim leads to self esteem and body image issues in young girls. Barbie's maker, Mattel, responds to these charges by pointing out that Barbie is not supposed to be realistic, and that her outlandish shape is designed so make her easy to pose and dress.
Aqua are a group of Scandinavian musicians and DJs who had originally formed under the name Joyspeed. This yielded some small chart success in their native region, but the group grew disillusioned and started over as Aqua.
This was written after the group saw an exhibit on "Kitsch Culture."
Mattel sued the band, saying they violated the Barbie trademark and turned Barbie into a sex object, referring to her as a "Blonde Bimbo." Aqua claimed that Mattel injected their own meanings into the song's lyrics. In 2002, a judge ruled the song was protected as free speech under the first amendment, and also threw out a defamation lawsuit Aqua's record company filed against Mattel. The judge said in the ruling that "The parties are advised to chill." The case was dismissed, and in the process, it garnered loads of media attention for the song and the band.
In late 1997, a few months after this song peaked on the American charts, Mattel announced that they were changing Barbie's body for just the third time in her history. Barbie's new body had a bigger waist, slimmer hips and breasts that were shrunk to an honest B cup.
Aqua is not the first group to be sued over Barbie. Director Todd Haynes was also sued by Mattel for his use of the doll in the 1987 film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.
Aqua had commercial success in Denmark and Sweden with their first single, "Roses Are Red," going to #1 there. The group is considered a one hit wonder in the United States, but in England, they followed "Barbie Girl" with two more #1 hits: "Doctor Jones" and "Turn Back Time."
magazine rated this the 33rd worst song ever in its 2004 article "Run for Your Life! It's the 50 Worst Songs Ever!" in a section entitled "Scandi-wegian pedo-pop alert! Erk!" They suggest that "perhaps the gambit sounded acceptable in helium-huffing singer Lene Nystrom's native Norwegian," but that "in English it's just plain wrong." They labeled "'rapper' Rene Dif's basso profundo 'come on, Barbie, let's go party'" as the worst part of the song.
In 1945 Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot founded the toy company Mattel with their close friend Harold Mattson. The idea for Barbie came about after Ruth watched their daughter Barbara cut dolls out of magazines and carefully choose clothes and accessories to clothe them in. All other dolls on the market at the time were baby dolls, but Ruth realized there was enormous potential in a doll with adult features, allowing children to act out their dreams. Barbie, named after their daughter, made her debut at the New York Toy Fair in March 1959 and took toy stores across the US by storm - more than 351,000 dolls were sold that year at $3 each. Today Barbie is the best selling toy in the world - more than one billion dolls have been sold since 1959 in 150 different countries.