Today’s Song: Billie Eilish’s Somber Barbie Contribution, “What Was I Made For?”

Billie Eilish "What Was I Made For?" © Jack Bridgland
Billie Eilish "What Was I Made For?" © Jack Bridgland
21-year-old superstar Billie Eilish was tapped to write a song for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, and produced something much more fantastic than plastic in “What Was I Made For?”
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“What Was I Made For?” – Billie Eilish

The star-studded original movie soundtrack is a mercurial phenomenon. Sometimes they exceed expectations and allow artists to expand into new or compelling territory—think Beyonce’s Lion King: The Gift or the Kendrick Lamar-helmed Black Panther record—but more often they are corporate ad packages designed to get as much radio play as possible before being laid to rest in the musical graveyard where Pharrell’s “Happy” resides.

'Barbie' movie poster
‘Barbie’ movie poster

It makes sense, then, that the soundtrack for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a film with a marketing campaign so long that the memes already feel ancient, feels fresh out of the perfectly packaged box. Along with the prerequisite Aqua samples, there is Dua Lipa and her faux-disco glitter; reigning rap princess Ice Spice dueting with hiphop’s own Barbie Nicki Minaj; the pastel moods of TikTok sensation PinkPantheress; and even an “Oh, Mickey, you’re so fine” interpolation from Charlie XCX. And then there’s Billie Eilish.

Eilish, whose first foray into music-making for film (“No Time To Die”) won her an Oscar, seems to have understood the assignment differently than her musical compatriots. Where the soundtrack’s other participants have created hot pink, sparkly summer jams, Eilish highlights the darker side of Barbie.

When did it end? All the enjoyment
I’m sad again, don’t tell my boyfriend
It’s not what he’s made for
What was I made for?
‘Cause I, ’cause I
I don’t know how to feel
But I wanna try
I don’t know how to feel
But someday, I might
Someday, I might
Billie Eilish "What Was I Made For?" artwork
“What Was I Made For?” – Billie Eilish

The track itself, written as usual by Eilish and her brother FINNEAS, feels like it could have been lifted from her most recent record, Happier Than Ever; its muted melancholy calls to mind singles like “Your Power.” Over simple piano accompaniment, Eilish’s vocals are delicate and wistful—even by Billie standards. The title and the song’s repeated refrain, “What Was I Made For?,” directly references Barbie while feeling entirely personal to Eilish and her journey through fame.

Think I forgot, how to be happy
Something I’m not, but something I can be
Something I wait for
Something I’m made for

The video, directed by Eilish, eschews Barbie pink in favor of a vintage yellow and green palette, calling to mind Barbie’s era of conception. Eilish sits alone at a school desk in a large, empty room, looking like she just walked off the set of a 1950s hairspray ad. As the track plays, Eilish opens a Barbie closet and begins calmly removing outfits to hang on a miniature clothing rack. Upon close inspection, the clothes are recreations of outfits Eilish herself has worn in public appearances—for example, her black suit with chains from the 2020 Grammys, the yellow sweatsuit from the “Bad Guy” music video, and the white Chanel suit she wore to the 2020 Oscars find themselves in this Barbie’s closet.

But as she neatly hangs her clothes, wind starts to blow and rain starts to fall. Eilish scrambles to keep the clothes dry, to keep them from blowing away. In the end, she can’t do it — she wrings out the clothes, stuffs them back into the case, and leaves, yellow kitten heels clacking on the wet floor.

Billie Eilish "What Was I Made For?" © Jack Bridgland
Billie Eilish “What Was I Made For?” © Jack Bridgland

Of all the singles released for the movie’s soundtrack so far, “What Was I Made For?” is the only ballad,

and the only song that doesn’t feel like it was made for a movie—it slots neatly into Eilish’s existing oeuvre, but not in a way that feels selfish. Unsurprisingly, Eilish once again cements herself as one of the pop’s most fascinating players. Who else but Eilish, a (formerly) teen pop star so adept at dealing with public scrutiny, could make music about an infamous toy feel so devastatingly real.

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:: stream/purchase What Was I Made For? here ::
:: connect with Billie Eilish here ::
“What Was I Made For?” – Billie Eilish


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Billie Eilish "What Was I Made For?" artwork

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? © Jack Bridgland

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