Rob Thomas loves how ‘Barbie’ used ‘Push’: ‘I did this thinking I’d be the butt of the joke’

Separate photos of Rob Thomas singing onstage, left, and Ryan Gosling in costume as Ken in "Barbie"
Matchbox Twenty singer Rob Thomas recently talked about having his band’s song “Push” featured in “Barbie.”
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press, left; Jaap Buitendijk / Warner Bros., right
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Rob Thomas knows that Matchbox Twenty is easy to push around and drag down, but he never takes its successes for granted.

Thomas recently opened up about having his band’s song “Push” featured as the Ken national anthem in a pivotal moment of Greta Gerwig’s box-office winner “Barbie.”

In the scene, Ryan Gosling’s Ken leads an army of his fellow guitar-wielding, horse-loving, patriarchy-upholding Kens as they attempt to serenade an audience of Barbies with an intimate yet ridiculous rendition of the 1997 song.


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“When I got the call for ‘Barbie,’ they told me, ‘Ken’s by the fireside, he’s playing the song and it’s his favorite band,’” Thomas told USA Today in an article published Sunday. “So I did this thinking I’d be the butt of the joke, and I was fine with that. I’m pretty thick-skinned. But Julie Greenwald [from Atlantic Records] came to the Hollywood Bowl a month or two ago. She had just seen the movie and was like, ‘You come out of it loving Ken and loving “Push.”’ And I was like, ‘Aww. All right, really good!’”

Fittingly, the track’s lyrics mirror the dynamic between a Barbie and her Ken in the movie — a man talking about an emotionally absent lover and the revenge he plots. A perfect song to capture the toxic Ken-ergy present at that moment in the film.

“What’s funny is, I wrote that song about someone I had been with who I felt was manipulating me and taking advantage of me,” the singer explained. “So in a weird twist of different times, there’s something very problematic about ‘Push,’ if it wasn’t for the innocence of how it was written. But everything about it was about emotional manipulation. It was just about this idea that it’s so much easier to find someone you can take advantage of than it is to actually put work into a relationship.”

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At the time of its release, the track was the subject of controversy after some feminist groups labeled the song “misogynistic.” Critics of the tune pointed to lyrics like, “I wanna push you around / Well, I will, well, I will / I wanna push you down,” as examples of promoting physical and emotional damage to women.

One thing the “Unwell” singer made clear was his deep affinity for Gerwig, the film’s co-writer and director.

“Greta Gerwig has been one of my crushes forever, to the point where I was on a plane one time and I called my wife, like, ‘Baby, Greta Gerwig just came on the plane, oh my God,’” Thomas shared. “So just the fact that it didn’t diminish my crush of Greta, that’s even better.”


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Gerwig reciprocated the love for Thomas’ work and talked about her emotional attachment to the song.

“Growing up, I loved that song,” Gerwig said in the same interview. “I was like, ‘This is my rock ‘n’ roll, Dad. Enjoy the Who, but these are my guys.’ And it wasn’t until college that I actually thought, ‘What is that song about?’ Just thinking about 13-year-old me singing along and really meaning it, I was like, ‘That is so interesting.’ I looked it up and, in a way, [Thomas] was playing a character. It’s almost like a story song.”