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Matchbox Twenty on Being Included in ‘Barbie’ Film: ‘We Were an Easy Takedown’



Rob Thomas is no stranger to his band Matchbox Twenty being the butt of jokes — after all, it’s been happening for three decades now.

But don’t think for one second that the frontman is easily offended by his band’s hit song “Push” being covered by Ken in one particularly hilarious scene in the new Barbie movie, which is presently lighting up box offices worldwide.

In the unforgettable scene, Ken, played by a platinum-haired Ryan Gosling, sits by the campfire in so-called Kendom, strumming his guitar while singing Matchbox Twenty’s alt-rock classic over and over as he serenades Margot Robbie’s Barbie.

“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.’ So I did this thinking I’d be the butt of the joke, and I was fine with that. I’m pretty thick-skinned.” Thomas told USA Today. “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. Alright, really good!’ ”

Perhaps Thomas, 51, was initially hesitant about his song being featured in a movie because he is well aware of Matchbox Twenty’s notoriety as a band that is cool to ridicule.

“There was a whole period during the ’90s where the more successful we got, the bigger target we were. We were an easy takedown,” Thomas explained. “I want to preface this by saying that I thought it was hilarious. But in Bring It On, [Kirsten Dunst’s character] has this douchey boyfriend. And there’s a scene where he was in his dorm room with a Matchbox Twenty poster in the background.”


Hitting the Billboard Top 10 in 1997, “Push” was taken from Matchbox Twenty’s 1996 debut album Yourself or Someone Like You. The autobiographical lyrics are about a man who is experiencing emotional abuse from his partner.

In the world of Barbieland, delicate Ken, who feels disrespected and taken for granted by the matriarchy, belts out “Push” — which features the lyrics, “I wanna push you around, well, I will, well, I will” — as his anthem as he embraces his toxic masculinity.
At the time of the song’s release in the ’90s, some feminist groups expressed outrage at what they perceived to be misogynistic lyrical content from the Orlando band, with people attempting to get the song banned from radio for encouraging violence against women.

“I wrote that song about someone I had been with who I felt was manipulating me and taking advantage of me. The ’90s was a time of manufactured angst, and nobody wanted to be a victim in a song,” Thomas said. “But at the time I was in my early 20s. I didn’t even know what I was writing about. It takes being in my 50s now, and being married for 24 years, to look back and go, ‘Oh, man, I was going through some [stuff].’ “

Thomas admitted it was a no-brainer allowing his band’s song to be featured in the Barbie movie, given his infatuation with the movie’s director and co-writer.

“Greta Gerwig has been one of my crushes forever,” Thomas admitted, “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.’ So just the fact that it didn’t diminish my crush of Greta, that’s even better.”

“Growing up, I loved that song,” Gerwig said to USA Today, referring to ‘Push.’ “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.”


As for whether Thomas has any plans to see Barbie in theaters, he said, “I’m probably going to stream it on my bus when it’s available. … I’m excited to see two of the most beautiful people on the planet while I listen to my own song. That’s pretty amazing, in and of itself.”

Barbie the movie is in cinemas now. The soundtrack album Barbie: The Album was released on July 21. A deluxe edition of the soundtrack titled Best Weekend Ever Edition was also released the same day and features two bonus tracks, Gosling’s cover of “Push” plus a cover of the Indigo Girls’ “Closer to Fine” performed by Brandi Carlile and her wife Catherine.