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“I was forced into using my little girl voice”: Aqua’s Lene Nystrøm on the legacy of Barbie Girl

By Eliza Sörman Nilsson

Photo: Francesco Nazardo

As the frontwoman of Aqua, Lene Nystrøm is Europop royalty. On the 25th anniversary of the Danish-Norwegian band’s breakout hit ‘Barbie Girl’, the artist opens up about Aqua’s unusual band dynamics as well as its unprecedented rise to icon status

Lene Nystrøm never played with Barbie dolls. “If I got my hands on one, I cut the hair off,” she says. As the person responsible for the earworm lyrics ‘Life in plastic, it’s fantastic’, this is the last thing you’d expect to hear. But for the lead singer of Aqua, the success of the band and that iconic hit is partly because she herself is no ‘Barbie Girl’.

“[The public] were totally expecting me to be Barbie Girl. Look like Barbie Girl, act as Barbie Girl. They took it very literally,” Nystrøm says, as she sits on a couch in her new Copenhagen home. Her response? To turn “very punky, very, very early on to contradict it.”

Cast your mind back 25 years, where, on the US Billboard Hot 100, at number seven sits bubblegum pop song ‘Barbie Girl’. Slotted between Third Eye Blind’s ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ and ‘Never Make a Promise’ by Dru Hill, the track, which is a tongue-in-cheek take on plastic surgery, is about to completely explode worldwide.

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