Billie Eilish & Finneas O’Connell On “Jackson Pollock” Approach To Writing ‘Barbie’s “Heart” Song “What Was I Made For?” – Crew Call Podcast

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“The movie allowed us to be honest in a way that I don’t think we would have been able to achieve had it not been for — had it not been like an assignment,” says Billie Eilish about writing the weepy and moving Barbie ballad “What Was I Made For?”

While meant to be the aorta soul song for Warner Bros. summer blockbuster, the tune is so quintessential Eilish and bro/collaborator Finneas O’Connell: Self-reflective, piercing, poetic, and utterly emotional. How does one not break out crying when listening to it? It’s no wonder that “What Was I Made For?” won Song of the Year at the Grammys (one of two trophies in addition to Best Song Written for Visual Media). Let’s write that again: the song won Song of the Year, beating out “Flowers” (Miley Cyrus), “Dance the Night” (Dua Lipa, also from Barbie), “Vampire” (Olivia Rodrigo), “Butterfly” (Jon Batiste), “A&W” (Lana Del Rey), “Kill Bill” (SZA) and “Anti-Hero” (Taylor Swift). More proof that Eilish and O’Connell are on their way to their second original song Oscar win following 2022’s “No Time to Die” from the 007 movie of the same name.

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Eilish, expounding on her moody inspiration for “What Was I Made For?” says, “It was a dark period of time in life and very not inspiring period of time and a lot of like not feeling excited for the future and not feeling hopeful for the future, and not looking forward to the future.”

“It was a deeply important thing for my life, and also Finneas and my creative life; we needed something to shoot us back into the world of being creative.”

You can listen to Eilish and O’Connell’s conversation with us on Deadline’s Crew Call below:

After the duo was shown roughly a half hour of early footage from Barbie, O’Connell details how the director and co-scribe Greta Gerwig shepherded the duo toward writing what would be the movie’s climax ditty.

“She gave us, she actually said the word ‘carte blanche.’ She was like, you guys can do whatever you want. I think it was sort of a masterclass in getting what you want with generosity. I think that she made us feel like any idea we had was of value to her. Any desire we wanted to chase was the right way to go.”

He continues, “And then she kind of slid under the hotel door like, ‘If you feel like making Barbie’s heart song, we’re missing it’ which is such a really smart, whether it was on purpose or it was just she’s such a pure person, that’s such a smart way of communicating with a person where you say ‘No rules, here’s what I’m looking for’. And that’s a great way to sort of approach all collaboration. I’ve tried to internalize that and do that with other people I work with.”

The moment where the song plays in the movie when Barbie meets her maker, Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman) pays a particular homage to Eilish herself: The scene is filled with nostalgic footage of young girls’ childhoods, a sequence that’s akin to an interlude in Eilish’s concerts where she plays home video footage of herself during the song “Getting Older”

As far as their process goes in writing “What Was I Made For?” don’t ask the duo to deconstruct:

Says O’Connell when it came to finding the first chord of the song, “You’re familiar with Jackson Pollock? He would talk about making what he called automatic art, which was that if he made this kind of splatter paint-thing that is so amazing… if he thought about where he was moving his arm, he wouldn’t make the art he wanted to make. It was letting his arms move and splatter the paint where he wanted it to splatter. It’s really important in music to do that, to not overthink it.”

Chimes in Eilish, “Finneas is not an over-thinker when it comes to playing instruments, which I think is so, so important. He just sits down and plays whatever he plays, and it’s awesome.”

The duo also talk about their familial connection to Barbie (their dad was a carpenter for toymaker Mattel) and what the future holds (Hint per Eilish: “no more songs for movies….we’re going into album land.”)

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