Dua Lipa Breaks Down ‘Barbie’ Song of the Summer: ‘It Was Kind of a Jigsaw Puzzle’

The singer came onto the project after the melody for “Dance the Night” had already been written

"Barbie"
Margot Robbie in "Barbie" (Warner Bros.)

This story about “Barbie” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap magazine.

Of all the songs from Barbie, it was Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night,” the first song released from the movie’s soundtrack, that had audiences quite literally dancing their way into the theater. But it wasn’t easy to come up with a song for the exuberant dance number that comes early in the film. “The song took blood, sweat and tears,” Lipa said. “We rewrote it so many times.”

Lipa and her co-writer Caroline Ailin worked with Barbie composers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt to figure out a way to tell a story that captures and distills the essence of Barbie into a song. “(This is) a character who has to be perfect all the time, even when things aren’t going her way,” she said. “How (do we) show strength and resilience, even through the bad days?” Gerwig laid out the entire plot to Ronson and Lipa early on, showing them clips from the movie as well as allowing them to sit in on the dance rehearsals for the song itself.

The process was unlike working on a Dua Lipa album, according to the singer. “When you write a song for an album, it really depends on what you’re feeling on the day,” she said. “I come in with whatever ammo I have from things that have happened in my life that I want to write about or what I’ve been feeling.” In this case, she had to embody a vision that was already set up by Gerwig and, to an extent, Ronson, who had already composed a disco-styled backing track.

“It was kind of a jigsaw puzzle, in a way,” she said. Gerwig was highly involved in the songwriting process, listening to every iteration of the song as it developed. Rehearsals for the dance sequence were also a huge help, allowing Lipa and Ronson to tailor the song to specific movements. “Margot (Robbie) would do this ‘come along for the ride’ type of thing with her hand,” she said. “And so we were like, ‘Oh, that’s a perfect place to put that lyric in. Every little thing had to be matched to the movement, what was happening, what was going on in (Barbie’s) mind.”

Before they finished, the songwriters wrote what Lipa said were “12 different options that maybe, one day, will see the light of day. “I went to the studio six or seven times just to get it right on one lyric. We were looking at it with a magnifying glass.”

Gerwig herself was influenced by disco, with Ronson’s driving orchestral arrangement the jumping-off point to bring in ’70s sound beats without dating the song to any specific time period. “With a lot of my music, I love duality and trying to find modern melodies that fit in that world to essentially create something new,” Lipa said. “It had to be a bit glittery. I couldn’t see this being a dark, sad song. It had to be dance. It had to be fun.” 

Read more from the Race Begins issue here.

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