Slash teams up with Ryan Gosling for Barbie soundtrack power ballad I’m Just Ken – and Wolfgang Van Halen is on it too

Slash, Ryan Gosling and Wolfgang Van Halen
(Image credit: Harry Durrant/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic; Mario Skraban/Redferns)

There is no escaping Barbie. If you have been near a cinema or taken public transport in the past two weeks you will know fine well that Greta Gerwig has taken Mattel’s most-famous creation and put her onscreen, with Margot Robbie in the lead, Ryan Gosling playing her hapless S.O., Ken. 

Ordinarily this would not be news in electric guitar land but there are some big-hitting guitar players on the soundtrack, with Slash and Wolfgang Van Halen both contributing to a Gosling-fronted track, I’m Just Ken.

Speaking to Variety from the red carpet, the producer Mark Ronson, whose job it was to put this soundtrack together, revealed that he reached out to Slash and asked him to take a solo on the track. 

Ronson admits that he has been Slash super-fan since a young age, and thought there was no harm in asking the Guns N’ Roses rock guitar icon if he would contribute to the score. And he had just the track; I’m Just Ken, an ‘80s power ballad in the traditional sense – big production, candied melodies, a sense of theatre, here for a good time and nothing overly taxing on the cerebral cortex.

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“Slash is my hero. I was what, seventh grade, when Appetite For Destruction came out. He is my all-time hero,” said Ronson. “I had pictures of Slash all over my wall, so when we were getting this film being done, I was like, y’know, it never hurts to ask. It seems like such a long shot.

“I sent him the song, and he was like, ‘This is a good song.’ I didn’t know Slash that well before this. He was like, ‘Cool, I’ll play on it.’ And he was so cool and he killed it. He played the solo at the end, and the rhythm parts, and it’s wonderful.”

Also attending the Barbie premiere was Wolfgang Van Halen, who revealed on Threads that he is all over the soundtrack, including I'm Just Ken. 

“My buddy Mark Ronson hit me up earlier this year needing my ‘mammoth guitar sound’ and I happily obliged,” he wrote.

I have a lot of textural stuff throughout the film with two major spots where I do some soloing

Wolfgang Van Halen

To hear some of Van Halen deploy two-handed tapping on a Barbie score, however, you might have to wait for the film. 

“I have a lot of textural stuff throughout the film with two major spots where I do some soloing,” he continued. “One in particular is pretty cool because it’s the big song that Ryan Gosling sings and Slash plays on it as well! There’s a specific moment in the song that’s only in the movie where I’ve got this fun solo with some tapping and stuff. Such a cool opportunity. Honoured to be a part of it.”

As for the movie, Van Halen was a fan, describing it as “hilarious/surreal/heartfelt”. It opens 21 July. You can check out Gosling and Slash’s efforts above.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.