Pop Culture

Published March 11, 2024

'Barbie' ballad 'What Was I Made For?' makes Billie Eilish the youngest person to win 2 Oscars

The first Oscar was in 2021 for “No Time to Die”
Finneas O'Connell - Billie Eilish - AP BY Chris Pizzello

By Maria Sherman

LOS ANGELES (AP) — What were Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell made for? Winning awards, apparently. The sibling duo’s “Barbie” blockbuster ballad “What Was I Made For?” won the Academy Award for best original song on Sunday night.

In doing so, Eilish, 22, has become the youngest person by far to have won two career Oscars.

That beats a very old record set by Luise Rainer, who won her second best actress Oscar at 28 in 1938.

The second youngest is now Eilish’s 26-year-old brother and co-writer Finneas. The pair won their first Oscar for “No Time to Die” in 2021. That year, they beat out some impressive names, including Beyoncé, Van Morrison, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Diane Warren.

Hilary Swank and Jodie Foster — a best supporting actor nominee this year — are the only others to win two before 30.

“Thank you so much to the Academy. I feel like, I just didn’t think this would happen,” Eilish started her speech. “I’m so grateful for this song and for this movie and the way that it made me feel. And this goes out to everyone who was affected by the movie and how incredible it is. And I want to thank my team and my parents. I love you guys so much.”

She continued, “I want to thank my best friend Zoe for playing Barbies with me growing up, and being by my side forever," and was met with laughs from the audience. "I want to thank my, like, dance teachers growing up. I want to thank my choir teachers. Miss Brigham, thanks for believing in me. Mrs. T, you didn’t like me, but you were good at your job.”

Eilish and Finneas beat out another “Barbie” cut, “I’m Just Ken,” as performed by Ryan Gosling and written by “Barbie the Album” executive producer Mark Ronson and his creative partner Andrew Wyatt. Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson’s “It Never Went Away” from “American Symphony,” Warren’s “The Fire Inside” from “Flamin’ Hot” and Scott George’s “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People)” from “Killers of the Flower Moon” rounded out the category.

Eilish and O'Connell are no strangers to the Oscar stage. In addition to t aking home the trophy for their James Bond them “No Time to Die,” they performed during the in memorium segment in 2020.

In the months leading up to the Academy Awards, “What Was I Made For?” has raked in numerous trophies: In 2024 alone, they’ve won a Golden Globe for best original song and two Grammys. Not bad for a song written about an 11.5-inch-tall plastic doll.

“What Was I Made For?” debuted at No. 34 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, eventually peaking at No. 14.

In the “Barbie” film, “What Was I Made For?” plays a key role — an instrumental version of the song pops up like a leitmotif, soundtracking introspective, existential moments for its protagonist. Eilish’s voice isn’t heard until the final scene, but at that point, the audience is well-prepared for its emotional impact.

Clearly, the duo excel at making music for movies. Before “Barbie” and Bond, three songs they wrote made it on Disney’s “Turning Red” soundtrack, pulling heavily from the likes of (asterisk)NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys.

In another music category, Ludwig Göransson won the Academy Award for original score for his work on “Oppenheimer.” It is his second Oscar and third nomination, having previously won in the category in 2019 for “Black Panther.”

In doing so, Göransson beat John Williams (“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”) and three first-time nominees, Jerskin Fendrix (“Poor Things”) Laura Karpman (“American Fiction”) and the late Robbie Robertson (“Killers of the Flower Moon”).

“Oppenheimer” is director Christopher Nolan ’s own adaptation of Martin J. Sherwin and Kai Bird’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2005 book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” chronicling the Manhattan Project and its fallout.

“Christopher Nolan, it was your idea to use violin in the score, and it allowed me to work and collaborate with my wonderful wife and acclaimed violinist Serena Göransson. We (were) recording at night and we were rushing to go home to put our kids, Apollo, Romeo, to bed. But the result of that was amazing,” he said in his speech.

“And to my parents up there, thank you for giving me guitars and drum machines instead of video games. Thank you,” he concluded.

The film starring Cillian Murphy “is poised between the shock and aftershock of the terrible revelation, as one character calls it, of a divine power,” AP Film Writer Jake Coyle assessed in his review. Naturally, the score accomplishes something similar: Göransson composing from a first-person perspective for the first time, using his characteristic plays with rhythm and tempo to make one man’s history-altering endeavors feel larger than life.

“To be recognized on this score especially, it was a very personal score,” Göransson told The Associated Press when the nominations were announced in January. “It was also obviously extremely challenging to achieve these emotions and to tell the story of this complicated man’s feelings, his ambition and what he’s going through in his journey and from his perspective because the only way to do that is, I’ve had to go to some to some uncomfortable places.”

He added that “the way that Chris Nolan uses music in his storytelling is so unique and special and inspiring.”

“So, give all the music awards to Nolan and his collaborators,” he said. “I’m just very grateful to be working with him, and this is our second film together.”

Their first film together was the 2020 time-bending thriller “Tenet.”

Feature image of Finneas O'Connell & Billie Eilish - Associated Press by Chris Pizzello

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