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Watch Ryan Gosling’s Incredible Oscars Performance of ‘I’m Just Ken’

4 minute read

"What Was I Made For?" may have been the frontrunner in the Best Song category—and one of Barbie's best chances to win an Oscar—heading into the 96th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. But the most anticipated performance of the night was undoubtedly another nominated song from that movie's Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack: Ryan Gosling singing Barbie's viral incel-lite anthem "I'm Just Ken." While Billie Eilish and Finneas have performed "What Was I Made For?" and given acceptance speeches several times in recent months, the question of whether Gosling would perform hung over the lead-up to the Academy Awards until the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences confirmed Gosling's performance, alongside Ronson, in late February.

“It might be too much of a risk to have me do it,” Gosling had told Variety earlier in February. “I don’t know how that would work. But I’m open to it.”

96th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Ryan Gosling performs 'I'm Just Ken' from "Barbie" onstage during at the 2024 OscarsKevin Winter—Getty Images

He wasn't the only one wondering how it might work. What would the production look like? Can Ryan Gosling sing live? (You better believe it.) Would the duo be backed by a sea of fellow downtrodden Kens, as in the movie? Would he be joined by fellow movie Kens like Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Ncuti Gatwa? Would Gosling appear shirtless in a fringed leather vest and dance the number's full choreography? Or would they opt for a more stripped-down version of the track?

Read more: The Most Memorable Acceptance Speeches in Oscar History

The answer finally arrived about two and a half hours into the ceremony, when Gosling, in a fabulous Barbie-pink suit, began singing the song from his seat in the audience, then took the stage in a production that was clearly engineered to be the standout moment of the night. With dozens of male back-up dancers on risers, large cardboard cutouts of OG Barbie's face parading all around him, and his fellow Kens from the film joining him for the performance, the end result was anything but stripped down. Oh and lest we forget: Slash showed up to execute the song's guitar solo, because, well, it's the Oscars.

And as expected, Gosling—who released a statement following director Greta Gerwig and co-star Margot Robbie's perceived snubs when they were not nominated for directing and acting, respectively—paid tribute to the two of them by inviting them to sing along, which they and other cast and crew from the movie did, gamely. (Emma Stone joined in as well.)

Read more: The Best, Worst, and Most Memorable Moments of the 2024 Oscars

Unsurprisingly, the performance was well received online, with some pointing to its references (see: Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and others praising his charisma and vocals.

"I'm Just Ken," written by Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, was one of Barbie's eight Oscar nominations, which also included Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Gosling. In the Oscar for Best Original Song category, in addition to "What Was I Made For?," it was up against “The Fire Inside” by oft-nominated Diane Warren, from Flamin’ Hot; “It Never Went Away,” by Jon Batiste from the Netflix documentary about him and his wife Suleika Jaouad, American Symphony; and “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People),” by the Osage Tribal Singers, Killers of the Flower Moon.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com