Meaning of “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling
Ryan Gosling is known as an actor and an A-lister at that, having recently starred in big-budget films such as Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and The Gray Man (2022). But a lesser-known fact is that he also has a small discography, having dropped a few tracks throughout the years.
A couple of those entries are attributable to another film he starred in, 2016’s La La Land, in which Ryan contributed to its soundtrack.
More recently, he has been enlisted to serve as the male lead of the highly-anticipated movie Barbie, which is slated for its general release on 21 July 2023. On that same day its soundtrack was officially made public through Atlantic Records. And along with it comes “I’m Just Ken”, a song written and produced by Andrew Wyatt and Mark Ronson which Ryan Gosling, in the character in “Ken”, sings.
“‘Cause I’m just Ken
Anywhere else I’d be a ten
Is it my destiny to live and die a life of blonde fragility?
I’m just Ken
Where I see love, she sees a friend
What will it take for her to see the man behind the tan and fight for me?”
The Backstory behind “I’m Just Ken”
As the story goes, this was one of the first songs written for the soundtrack. Mark Ronson is the executive producer of the album and as such got his hands on the Barbie script early. He wound up feeling sorry for the “Ken” character and relatedly wrote this song as sort of a gag, i.e. not expecting it to make the final cut.
But Greta Gerwig, who directs the film, took a liking to it, and Ryan Gosling, upon hearing it, was “deeply” affected by the tune. And according to Ronson, it is the energy that Ronson brought to the recording of I’m Just Ken that “lifted the whole thing”.
Ronson proceeded to go all-out in recording this piece. That is to say that he enlisted Slash, of Guns N’ Roses, to serve as lead guitarist. Slash also holds down rhythm guitar duties alongside Wolfgang Van Halen, of Van Halen fame. And on drums we have John Freese, who earlier this year became a member of Foo Fighters.
The Lyrics of “I’m Just Ken”
“Barbie”, traditionally speaking, is primarily kids’ fare, but it appears as if the upcoming film is going to deal with some moderately-adult themes. For instance, what we are met with in this song, most concisely explained, is a vocalist going through an existential crisis as the result of being the victim of an unrequited love.
Or put otherwise, “Ken” knows that he’s a catch in the romantic sense of the word, i.e. the type of guy that many women would love to date. But as for the apple of his eye, that being Barbie, apparently one of the subplots of the movie revolves around her relegating Ken to the friend zone.
So basically that’s why he’s lamenting like this, i.e. being in love with someone who, by the looks of things, only appreciates his physical beauty rather than what actually lies inside.
But that said, the song does end on more of a positive note, with that vocalist realizing his worth and seemingly concluding that he can’t base his self-confidence on whether or not the woman he adores will ever appreciably return that sentiment.