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Not your ‘Barbie Girl’

Thinking back to that phase between the ages of 5 and 10 as a 2010’s girl, much of what I remember are fluffy dresses, fairy-tales and nail polish, all in a shade of hot pink, spiced up with a dash of glitter. Girly was the trend, from the things we wore, the content we consumed, and the ideas we internalized; especially those that valued us for fragility, gentility and silence.

It was during this phase that the Barbie craze reached a climax in our lives; one of the most powerful female icons ever created, who really showed us that we could be anything we dreamed of being.

So, it was only natural that when we stumbled upon Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” that it became our anthem. It was about Barbie after all, right? However, it is now a well-known fact that the song is actually bringing out underlying themes of high-fashion consumerism and sexism. Something we probably should have known before singing phrases like “You can touch my hair, undress me everywhere” or “you can touch, you can play”

Although the song still brings about nostalgia of those innocent days, the world is evolving to be a more understanding and accepting place for girls and women. And “Barbie Girl” has most certainly not been forgotten.

Multiple artists have had their take on the iconic melody, switching up lyrics, adding their own verses and layering the production. There’s YouTuber Tori V’s self-promotional and more kid friendly recreation, and even Ava Max’s powerful and literal version of the song.

But the most recent rendition of this song by Hannah Grae really takes the cake. A young singer gaining increasing popularity on social media, Grae is known for her trademark rewriting of popular songs in different perspectives, and her version of “Barbie Girl” is her crowning achievement so far.

The song, titled “2021 Barbie Girl”, begins with the lines “I’m a Barbie girl/ Living in a man’s world/ They think I’m plastic/ It’s fantastic”. We are quite sure these four lines tell you what a powerful grounding this song has.

She goes on to sing about how men call it romance, and ask women to “stop being dramatic” in an implied situation of harassment or assault. Her lyrics address concerns such as how most facets of the modern world are catered to men, how women and girls should have choice over their bodies without risk of judgement or objectification, and how even the smallest, most singular voice should thrive to make a difference, because it will most certainly do so.

The song ends “You’re a Barbie girl/ If not, then it’s still your world/ To make a difference/ It’s our existence”, a memorable and profound conclusion, overall. Moreover, the airy tones of Grae’s voice, combined with simple production and harmonies, accompanied by piano truly makes a statement in its simplicity.

“2021 Barbie Girl” gained much popularity, with 4.3 million views on YouTube alone. It sparked the age-old conversations once again, and the young artist replied to criticism and praise alike with another song “if Barbie girl was written in 2021: the other perspective”. The song is a breakdown of some stereotypical male responses to this cause (Yes, we know, “not all men!” but still, all women), with lyrics garnering our praise as a song worth listening to.

Listen to both songs here: 

While the feminist movement still faces much backlash and controversy, even in 2021, it is simplistic pieces such as these that provide an unadulterated perspective on the struggles still faced by half the world population, and how equality isn’t in sight yet, while giving us hope, that it soon will be.

- Amaya Perera