Mattel Protests the Image Portrayed in ‘Barbie Girl’
You might think that a company would love to have its product mentioned prominently in the lyrics of one of the country’s hottest pop singles.
Not the makers of the Barbie doll, who are furious with Aqua, the Danish quartet responsible for the dance-pop smash “Barbie Girl.”
“It’s great publicity,” says Tracy Austin, music director at L.A. radio station KIIS-FM (102.7).
It’s an outrage, says Mattel Inc., which believes that song portrays young women as sex objects.
Lawyers for the El Segundo-based company that manufactures the doll have been “in discussions” with lawyers representing MCA Records for more than a month over the content of the single, which was released commercially in the United States on Aug. 19 and is now in its second week in the national Top 10.
In the song, Aqua’s Lene Grawford Nystrom assumes the role of Barbie and bandmate Rene Dif takes the role of her longtime paramour, Ken.
Sample lyrics from the Barbie character: “Make me walk, make me talk / Do whatever you please / I can act like a star/I can beg on my knees.”
“Barbie Girl” entered the Billboard pop singles chart at No. 7 last week, the highest debut ever for an act’s first hit. The song is on Aqua’s debut album, “Aquarium,” which is due in stores Tuesday.
Austin says it’s KIIS-FM’s most requested song by almost 2 to 1 over the runner-up single.
Meanwhile, Mattel fumes.
“We have expressed our extreme dissatisfaction with the song and with what we believe is a strong case for trademark violation,” says company spokesman Sean Fitzgerald. “If Aqua or anybody else is interested in dancing with Barbie dolls, they’re going to have to ask us first.”
Fitzgerald declined to say what Mattel wants from Aqua or MCA, but added: “We will pursue the protection of our legal trademark through all available legal channels.”
Said a representative for MCA: “ ‘Barbie Girl’ is just intended to be a fun, upbeat summer song, and there is a disclaimer on the record.”
Indeed, the packaging for the CD single carries this notation: “The song ‘Barbie Girl’ is a social comment and was not created or approved by the makers of the doll.”
All four band members share writing credit for the song, but Aqua’s Soren Rasted said in a recent interview that he was inspired to write the novelty while riding his bicycle.
The band, which was unavailable for comment Friday, has said that Mattel management in Europe had given the song its blessing.
Fitzgerald denied that Mattel overseas approved of the song. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” he said. “We are not amused.”