Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the Saltburn effect and her career comeback

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the Saltburn effect and her career comeback


A few months after its release, opinion remains divided on Saltburn’s artistic merit, but one thing everyone can agree on is that Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 single Murder on the Dance Floor absolutely goes off.

The song closes out Emerald Fennell’s film, soundtracking a climactic final scene that sees Irish actor Barry Keoghan prancing through a stately home, totally naked. The combination of full-frontal nudity and Ellis-Bextor’s much-loved noughties hit gave the scene instant viral potential, and unsurprisingly, the internet did the rest.

Sophie-Ellis Bextor’s 2001 single Murder on the Dancefloor has propelled back to the charts thanks to its part in Emerald Fennell’s hit film Saltburn.

Murder on the Dance Floor is back on the charts, thanks to the film, peaking at number six in Australia and number eight in the UK, and even charting in the Billboard 100 in the US, marking the first US chart appearance ever for Ellis-Bextor.

All of which is to say, Sophie Ellis-Bextor should be on top of the world right now. Instead, she is hiding in a closet surrounded by extravagant gowns. “I’m sorry, I’ve got all five children home right now, and this is the only place I can find peace and quiet,” laughs Ellis-Bextor, 44, while speaking to this masthead.

Peace and quiet have been hard to come by for the singer ever since “the Saltburn Effect” relaunched Murder on the Dance Floor back into the public arena.

When we talk, Ellis-Bextor is fresh from making her US TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and will soon head our way as the headline act at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ 2024 Bondi Beach Party. While some artists struggle to reconcile being known for one huge hit, Ellis-Bextor is embracing her second wind.

“I’ve never had a complicated relationship with the song. I’ve been singing it really happily for 20-odd years, so it feels quite magical and celebratory,” she says. “When I first wrote my first album, it was the one my friends picked out as a single, so it’s always reminded me of my friends, and we love to dance to it.”

The re-emergence of the song has been largely driven by the Gen Z audience, who have embraced Saltburn’s TikTok-ability. The song even inspired a Saltburn TikTok trend, which sees users showcase their lavish homes while Murder On The Dance Floor plays.

At the time of writing, the #MurderOnTheDanceFloor hashtag had over 200 million views, while the #Saltburn hashtag boasted over six billion.

“The social media popularity has probably been the strangest thing, especially for my teenagers, who have been quite bemused to bump into the song on TikTok,” laughs Ellis-Bextor. “I think that was quite challenging for my 15-year-old, like imagine finding your mum on TikTok.”

While it might seem strange to Ellis-Bextor, Murder on the Dance Floor is the latest in a long line of ‘nostalgia’ hits to return to the charts off the back of well-crafted viral moments.

In 2020, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams soundtracked a viral skateboarding TikTok and promptly hit the charts, and in 2022, Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up That Hill reached number one in the UK thanks to a spot on Stranger Things.

Even Ellis-Bextor’s fellow 2000s pop star Natasha Bedingfield is back in the charts after her 2004 song Unwritten was featured in the recent rom-com Anyone But You, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glenn Powell.

“You get very clever people like Emerald Fennell to sort of tap into the cyclical nature of things,” says Ellis-Bextor. “In the 1990s, we reminisced about the 1970s, the music came back, the fashion came back, and now it feels like people are repeating that with the 2000s. Either way, it’s very fun for me and Natasha.”

Ahead of her trip to Australia for Mardi Gras, Ellis-Bextor has already been in touch with her newest fans, Sydney duo Royel Otis. The pair recently covered Murder on the Dance Floor for Triple J’s Like A Version, their cover exploding online and racking up millions of views.

“It’s very cool; we’ve been chatting online, and they’re so lovely; it’s quite remarkable to see how well their version is doing,” she says. “That, for me, is the real enduring legacy of this song; it was always intended to be a communal moment, and everyone that interacts with it seems to enjoy it, and I think that’s really lovely.”

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