What Songs Would ‘Saltburn’ Characters Have Spun in 2007?


Over the weekend, I finally watched “Saltburn,” the provocative, polarizing and occasionally downright icky coming-of-age thriller that no one can stop talking about right now.

The movie, written and directed by the “Promising Young Woman” filmmaker Emerald Fennell and starring the current It Boys Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi, charts the fates of two unlikely friends who meet at Oxford and later spend a debauched summer at the titular estate where the (much) wealthier of the two boys lives with his aristocratic family.

“Saltburn” plays out like a diabolically dark, millennial take on “Brideshead Revisited.” And the operative word there is millennial, since the 38-year-old Fennell delights in planting innumerable period-specific details — including an evocative soundtrack — that remind viewers that these boys belong to the Class of 2006.

The soundtrack has elicited such potent nostalgia that it has catapulted Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 neo-disco hit, “Murder on the Dancefloor,” used in a crucial scene, back into the Top 10 on the British charts. This week, the song cracked the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.

Fennell has confirmed that most of the movie takes place in summer 2007, and ever since, armchair script supervisors on social media have made a sport out of pointing out the film’s most chronologically questionable cultural references. (For example: Some of the characters are watching a DVD of “Superbad,” which was still only out in theaters that summer.)

The most egregious music cue is a karaoke scene featuring Flo Rida’s party anthem “Low,” which was released in October 2007 and didn’t become a global smash until early 2008. Eagle-eared listeners have also pointed out that an Arcade Fire song released in mid-2007 plays in a pub scene meant to take place near the beginning of the 2006 school year, and that MGMT’s “Time to Pretend,” the song that’s the soundtrack to a languid summer 2007 montage, appeared on an album that didn’t come out until that fall. (The movie’s music supervisor has responded, “It’s as close as possible, really, just to put you back in that space. If it had been a couple of years later, that would have been an absolute no.”)

Still, ever since watching the movie, I’ve become obsessed with these quibbles and consumed with one question: What would the characters in “Saltburn” have actually been listening to in summer 2007? Today’s playlist is my attempt to answer that.

I am not a professional music supervisor, nor am I member of the king’s nobility — I’m not even British. But I do have credentials that make me exceptionally qualified to create this particular playlist: In the summer of 2007, I was a rising junior in college with a nearly full 160GB iPod.

I consulted a number of primary sources, including a playlist on said iPod that I actually created at the end of the year “Saltburn” takes place (titled, with undergraduate melodrama and for reasons I now truly do not recall, “2007 Was a Bad Year”). It features a few artists whose music does appear in “Saltburn” (MGMT, Bloc Party) and quite a few whose songs do not, but whose sounds I think would have potently conjured the era (M.I.A., Hot Chip, that auteur of the aughts sound Timbaland). It is probably not as quintessentially British as the film’s actual soundtrack, but alas, I did not go to uni, I went to “college.”

As you can probably already tell, I had way too much fun putting this playlist together. You may call this sound “indie sleaze,” but I just call it my early 20s.

Listen along on Spotify while you read.

Hilariously, or perhaps just fittingly, the first song on my actual 2007 iPod playlist is a song that was prominently featured in “Saltburn.” Few albums were debated as hotly around my college radio station office that year as MGMT’s glam-pop debut, “Oracular Spectacular.” While it technically wasn’t released until Oct. 2, this song is such a perfect, montage-ready encapsulation of that era’s sound that I will permit Fennell a little poetic license with this one. (Listen on YouTube)

Another one from my 2007 iPod playlist, from another album I played a lot that summer: Spoon’s effortlessly tuneful sixth album, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” I can picture the elegantly wasted denizens of Saltburn vibing to this bass line. (Listen on YouTube)

Any 2007 playlist worth its salt had to have at least one semi-obscure, critically adored indie-pop track downloaded from a music blog. This 2006 should-have-been-smash from the short-lived British duo Johnny Boy checks that box, with flair. (Listen on YouTube)

It was also the summer of “Kala,” M.I.A.’s bold, blown-out sophomore album, which I think still stands as her greatest achievement. Though “Kala” was not released until early August, this exuberant single came out in June, setting the season’s tone. (Listen on YouTube)

I actually cannot believe this song was not used in “Saltburn”: The title says it all! Though released in 2006, the British electro-pop group Hot Chip’s moody dance floor anthem would still have been getting plenty of play the following summer, especially in Britain, where it peaked at No. 40 on the singles chart. (Listen on YouTube)

Another 2006 banger that would have still been ubiquitous the following summer, the Timbaland-produced “SexyBack” was released at the height of Justin Timberlake’s commercial popularity and his poptimist-approved hipster cred. (Listen on YouTube)

This is the song I would have put in place of “Low”: another instantly recognizable, era-defining hip-hop track, but one that would have by then been out for long enough that an out-of-touch bloke could have credibly mangled it at karaoke. (Listen on YouTube)

It was simply not a party in the summer of 2007 until someone put on “Maneater,” the sublime and slightly hipper alternative to Furtado’s other 2006 single about a lascivious woman. (Listen on YouTube)

Of course there was song from the post-punk revivalists Bloc Party’s 2005 debut, “Silent Alarm,” in “Saltburn”; I just would have chose this more propulsive and admittedly on-the-nose selection instead of “This Modern Love.” (Listen on YouTube)

And finally, nothing said “college party in the mid-to-late-aughts” like a cut from Girl Talk’s 2006 hyperactive mash-up opus, “Night Ripper” — or maybe just someone stealing the aux cord and playing the entire album from start to finish. (Listen on YouTube)

Take ’em to the chorus,

Lindsay


Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“2007: The Summer of ‘Saltburn’” track list
Track 1: MGMT, “Time to Pretend”
Track 2: Spoon, “Don’t You Evah”
Track 3: Johnny Boy, “You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve”
Track 4: M.I.A., “Boyz”
Track 5: Hot Chip, “Boy From School”
Track 6: Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland, “SexyBack”
Track 7: Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone, “Ridin’”
Track 8: Nelly Furtado, “Maneater”
Track 9: Bloc Party, “Banquet”
Track 10: Girl Talk, “Bounce That”


After I featured the British musician and poet Labi Siffre in Friday’s newsletter, a Times editor sent me a link to Siffre’s exquisitely funky 1975 song “I Got The …” — which is prominently sampled in Eminem’s star-making 1999 single, “My Name Is.” I admit that this kind of blew my mind. It also led me to two fascinating facts I’d like to share with you.

First, that Beck and his producers the Dust Brothers were planning to sample “I Got The …” on a single from the 1999 album “Midnite Vultures,” but Eminem beat him to it. (What could have been!) Also, even more impressively, Siffre refused to clear the Eminem sample for the producer Dr. Dre until they removed all lyrics that Siffre had deemed homophobic. “Diss the bigots not their victims,” Siffre said years later in an interview. “I denied sample rights till that lazy writing was removed.” If only every Eminem song had undergone the Labi Siffre test!



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