Sophie Ellis-Bextor has spoken to NME about the resurgent success of her classic single ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ after its feature in Saltburn – as well as the experience of watching the movie with her mother and teenage son.

‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ was first released in 2001 from Ellis-Bextor’s debut album ‘Read My Lips’ – reaching Number Two in the UK singles chart at the time and going on to become a pop cult classic. Now, the song has found a new audience after soundtracking an already infamous nude scene in the 2023 hit film Saltburn, and is currently at Number Eight in the UK as well as breaking into the Billboard 100 in the US for the first time.

Speaking to NME, the singer explained her shock after having “nothing at all” in terms of awareness or success in America until now.

“That’s what’s been quite extraordinary. To them it’s a new song, and that’s bonkers,” she said. “It didn’t do anything there the first time around, and I’m fine with that. If I’ve learned anything along the way it’s that you’ve got to go where the momentum is.”

She continued: “The glamour of being big in America would have meant a lot of time away, and I’d rather go where there are already things happening. I had an absolute ball with the first record in Latin America, South East Asia and all these places – but if this ends up being something that takes me there now then let’s see what happens.”

Asked if she’s set for a US tour or perhaps a surprise appearance at Coachella 2024, she replied: “Oh golly! I’ve always been quite open to what happens next and love the dot dot dot of whatever I do. Energy and momentum are what you need if you’re a creative to keep things going and things are much harder from a standing start.”

Ellis-Bextor described how she came to be involved in Saltburn, and was always on board with soundtracking the NSFW finale scene that sees lead Barry Keoghan dancing naked around the titular hour.

“A little while back I was asked for approval for having ‘Murder On The Dancefloor’ featured in a film,” she told NME. “I was told very little information apart from the key components, like: Emerald Fennell was the writer/director (and I was already familiar with her and thought she was great), that the film was called Saltburn and that the main character would dance to the whole of the song with nothing on!

“That was all I knew and it was plenty. I said, ‘Count me in for that! That sounds fun’.”

After months of not thinking about the project, Ellis-Bextor started to hear “murmurs” about how the film was “really special”.

“I went along to a screening with my whole family – including my mum and my eldest – and luckily we all survived and we all loved it,” she said. “I got that feeling that I find really delicious where afterwards you just want to think about the movie and talk about it. There was a whole atmosphere to it and I just wanted to get back into that headspace as quick as I could. It was funny and had so many great songs in there, so it was special to be a small part of that.”

Tom Ackerley, Margot Robbie, Archie Madekwe, Barry Keoghan, Emerald Fennell, Sue Kroll, Paul Rhys, Jennifer Salke, Jacob Elordi, Julie Rapaport, Josey McNamara, Carey Mulligan, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Latasha Gillespie and Anthony Willis at the premiere of "Saltburn" held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on November 14, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto Rodriguez/Variety via Getty Images)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor with the cast and creators of ‘Saltburn’ in Los Angeles, November 2023 (Photo by Alberto Rodriguez/Variety via Getty Images)

The film caused a further stir online as it hit Amazon Prime’s streaming services just before the Christmas period – leading many to watch it over the festive break and take to social media to voice their discomfort at viewing the more NSFW scenes with their parents or elderly relatives.

For Ellis-Bextor however, this was not an issue.

“I wasn’t too worried about my mum!” she admitted. “We don’t have a penchant for watching particularly challenging films together, but it was more about the fact that my teenage son was sat in between his mum and his grandma. I just kept thinking, ‘I hope he’s OK!’ There were definitely a few moments where I had my head in my hands thinking, ‘This is quite a lot!’ But he was completely fine and dealt with it very calmly. He said it was one of the top 10 films he’d ever seen, so he was very happy!”

“I don’t think my dad has got around to watching it yet, but he has seen the bit that’s got my song in it…”

Asked about her part in creating such a memorable Christmas for so many families, Ellis-Bextor replied: “I’ve always been a fan of juxtaposition; it really tickles me. The fact that Saltburn went on Amazon Prime the same weekend that I sang the song from [Channel 4 special] Mog’s Christmas was perfect for me. Those are the two ends of the spectrum. Mog’s was such a sweet and wholesome family affair then you’ve got Saltburn – I like that.

Saltburn
Barry Keoghan plays Oliver Quick. CREDIT: Warner Bros.

After an eventful 2023 – that saw Ellis-Bextor perform at Liverpool’s Eurovision village and deliver a fan-favourite set at Glastonbury as well as releasing her “psychedelic, proggy” seventh album ‘HANA‘ – now she’s focussed on new material for the year ahead.

“I’ve been songwriting with plans for making a new record,” she said. “I did three albums with [acclaimed singer-songwriter and producer] Ed Harcourt and we’d always decided it was going to be a trio. In a weird bit of serendipity, I had plans to go back and work with people from my first album. It’s like I’ve bumped my head and it’s 2002 again. I’ve been working with a lot of top writers that I’m really fond of.”

“I felt so safe writing with Ed and found it really liberating. It was a decade of working together and I’m so grateful as I needed that space to write with complete freedom without second-guessing anything or sending it to a committee of people for their thoughts. Now it’s quite strange to go back out blinking into the light, but I’m feeling really enthusiastic.”

After a resurgent few years that saw her enjoy a renaissance with the success of her Kitchen Disco lockdown streams and subsequent tours – along with her podcast Spinning Plates – Ellis-Bextor said that she wouldn’t be letting her growing popularity shape what’s to come.

“I don’t know if that’s really how my head works,” she admitted. “When I finished Strictly Come Dancing, they expected that I’d make an album of covers from musicals – but instead I made an Eastern European-inspired folk album with Ed. Then I did the Kitchen Discos then ‘HANA’. I can only do what I feel like doing and not what’s expected, but as luck would have it I was already planning to do a pop-dance record.

“If anything, it feels like having a nice breeze behind me. You have to do what your heart wants.”

She added: “I don’t want to analyse anything; I just want to enjoy things and jump on the momentum and have as much fun as possible.”

Sophie Ellis-Bextor will be embarking on a European headline tour in March, before supporting Nile Rodgers and Chic on a UK and Ireland tour June and July before joining The Human League on the road at the end of the year. Visit here for tickets and more information.





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