Mark Ronson scored his second Oscar nomination Tuesday for best original song for the track, “I’m Just Ken,” which he co-wrote with Andrew Wyatt for the film Barbie.
The songwriter and producer received word of the nomination while on a morning flight and spoke with The Hollywood Reporter after landing to share his reaction. During the chat, the hitmaker, who won the best original song Oscar in 2019 for “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, opened up about his love for Barbie and all the music in the film, including fellow nominated song “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish and Finneas.
The two best original song nods were among the eight 2024 Oscar nominations Barbie received. However, Barbie herself Margot Robbie was noticeably absent from this year’s list of best actress nominees, as was Greta Gerwig from the best director category. Ronson also spoke about how he wished they would’ve been among the honorees, his thoughts on a potential “I’m Just Ken” performance at the Oscars and more.
Congratulations! How did you hear about the news?
I was actually on a plane and I suddenly got all this barrage of texts from people and at the same time, and I had a feeling it was something to do with the nomination. My one-year-old daughter was sleeping right next to me on the plane, so I was just, like, obviously holding it all inside. She’d just gone to sleep, so my wife’s just looking at me like, “Don’t you dare.” But it was, of course, it was super exciting.
Have you talked to anyone else from the Barbie cast and crew, yet?
I haven’t, no. Of course, I wanted Greta and Margot to be recognized for their incredible work as well. I mean, obviously, Greta is for screenplay and Margot for producing the film. But their spirit is in every single piece of [the movie], there’s no way that Ryan, America, myself, there’s no way that we would be doing the work that we did without their contribution anyway.
Going back to that first day in the studio with Ryan, how did the song come together?
I read the script and then I was just so inspired by it, not just obviously by the brilliant comedy, but just it was so heartfelt and these stories of these two people trying to find their way. One just happens to be a lot smarter than the other in the case of Barbie and Ken. I was just kind of bursting, just sort of emotionally. When I put the script down, I came up with that idea, “I’m Just Ken… anywhere else I’d be a 10,” and wrote at the piano. And then my songwriting partner, Andrew [Wyatt] came in and we finished it together. We sent this very rough demo to Greta, who just loved it. And then played it for Ryan, who was really into it and was like, “Yeah, I want to sing this in the film.” So, we went in the studio to record with Ryan, and he just brought the Ken to it. He brought the “Kenergy.” He took this song — because he’s such a brilliant actor and had already found his Ken and his process and what he was doing — [and] he brought something extra to it. Not only just a great singer, but also a great emotional conveyor of this song.
Can you talk about the song’s impact and the reception it’s gotten from people?
It’s just amazing when we saw people really seemed to dig [Ken and the song] in the trailer, that was exciting. We love this movie so much. And then when it went to TikTok, social media and people started making videos, “This is my husband, he’s my Ken,” people dressing up in the minks — it was so exciting. It was like the song was obviously resonating on a sort of other level. I think it’s a lot to do with the message that’s in this film. It’s definitely a women’s story that drives this film, but there’s also this other parallel message of finding your worth and your value, and even if you feel kind of lonely and isolated and all these things, by the end, when it’s like, “Put that manly hand in mind,” you found your people. So, it could have been that. It could be just people thought it was a catchy tune. It could just be how charming Ryan and Simu [Liu] and Kingsley [Ben-Adir] and all the Kens were in their performances, and just what an incredible 11-minute musical sequence that Greta made. I think it was all those things, but also what’s been so crazy lately is hearing from a lot of my friends who have boys who are just watching that sequence over and over again. You only have to listen to one podcast to know that there’s sort of this crisis with boys in the Internet era and how that can breed this insane isolation and loneliness, and I think Greta’s delivered this beautiful message in this film that counters that, and we just put it to music. And obviously, the song is for everybody. We didn’t just write it to be for boys or men or whatever. It’s like the movie — it’s for everybody, but that’s been a nice little unexpected side thing of it.
How do you feel about going up against Billie and Finneas whose song “What Was I Made For?” from this film is also nominated in this category?
Yeah, we love that song. We love that song. The moment that we heard it — and Andrew and I, we did the orchestral arrangement for that song — we wove it into the film and the melodies and in the score in the same way that the Dua [Lipa] “Dance The Night” motif is in the score. It was just so wonderful. We knew that we had to do that. So, they’re amazingly talented and it would be nice if there could be more than two songs. I feel like every song in this film, especially “Dance The Night” and “Pink” and Nicki [Minaj] and Ice [Spice]. Each song has just done such a wonderful thing in kind of making the movie feel like it does. The movie lifted the songs and the songs lifted the movie. So, it’s really hard that it has to come down to just two. But there’s some other incredible songs that were nominated alongside, so I understand why the rules are the rules. I think we’re just like, at this point, we’ve worked on this music together for eight months. I think I had the first conversation with Greta and Billie and Finneas goes back almost a year and a half ago. They’re brilliant songwriters, and they wrote really such a poignant, introspective song for the film, and we wrote the sort of triumphant song. They have the introspective one, and they’re both great in the film, and it’s at this point now, it’s sort of up to everybody else to decide.
At this point in your career, what does getting this nomination for this song mean to you?
I mean, it’s so crazy because no matter what field you’re in, the Oscar is still considered the most prestigious, highest [honor] and to be recognized in that is of course really meaningful.
I love this film so much. We loved writing the score, writing these songs, working on this music, helping put this whole soundtrack together. If we had not been nominated for anything, it would not have soured the experience by any means. It’s not the be-all-end-all, of course, but the people that have acknowledged us from the music branch specifically are our heroes. They’re people like Carter Burwell and John Williams and contemporaries like John Batiste and Diane Warren and Marc Shaiman and Benj Pasek. Our peers and our heroes — it’s very special in that way.
Do you have any early thoughts or ideas on how “I’m Just Ken” will be performed on the Oscars broadcast?
I haven’t thought about any of that stuff, yet. I’m not sure. I mean, obviously, we would love more than anything for Ryan to perform the song. I mean, that’s always just been the dream since sort of that first day in the studio, but all that stuff still seems like a while away.
Maybe all the Kens will be on stage?
Oh my goodness. That’s from your mouth to God’s ears.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Find the complete list of 2024 Oscar nominations here.