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The ideal Cannes 2024 playlist: The best needle drops of the festival

The ideal Cannes 2024 playlist
The ideal Cannes 2024 playlist Copyright Cannes Film Festival - NEON
Copyright Cannes Film Festival - NEON
By David Mouriquand
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The 2024 Palme d’Or is hours away. And it's all up for grabs - with 'Anora', 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig' and 'Emilia Pérez' emerging as likely contenders for Cannes' top gong. Before the winners though, time to look at this year’s festival in music...

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A well-timed needle drop can elevate a scene, complement the film’s themes, or even comment on character arcs. And there’s been no shortage of them at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

We’ve compiled the ideal Cannes playlist for you - 10 earworms that have burrowed themselves into our ears for the duration of this year’s 77th edition.

NB: We’re excluding the whole damn thing in Emilia Pérez, as it’s an original musical; and Vesta Sweetwater’s Taylor Swift-aping number ‘My Vow’ in Megalopolis, because writing any more about Coppola’s coked-up folly will likely provoke a haemorrhage.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

(Heard in: Kinds of Kindness)

For the press screening of Yórgos Lánthimos’ new film, the audience in the Debussy theatre was clapping along for the opening song – a euphoric moment that showed quite how excited everyone was to watch what the master of Greek Weird Wave had in store for us after last year’s Poor Things. The Eurythmics hit reflects exactly what Kinds of Kindness is: Lánthimos’ bizarre dreamscape as a warped Twilight Zone-style anthology. Except they’re not sweet, not particularly kind, but memorably cruel – making this opening number the film’s first bleak gag. And there were plenty more...

Full review of Kinds of Kindness

Fontaines D.C. – Too Real

(Heard in: Bird)

This whole list could just feature the soundtrack from Bird. Hardly surprising, since director Andrea Arnold has a knack for excellent song choices. The whole film is bursting with tunes, starting off with Dublin band Fontaines D.C.’s punk anthem ‘Too Real’, set to an e-scooter dash through the streets of Gravesend. It mirrors the character of Bug (Barry Keoghan) rather niftily, and the chorus “Is it too real for ya?” is a perfect encapsulation of Bird ’s themes and style, as Arnold fuses social realism with magical realism in a bid to find hope in the most tumultuous of spaces. Other standouts include Blur’s ‘The Universal’; Verve’s ‘Lucky Man’; Rednex’ ‘Cotton Eye Joe’; and one more which we’re saving for this list.

Full review of Bird

The Coasters – Down in Mexico

(Heard in: Les Femmes au Balcon / The Balconettes)

This terrific number was played on the jukebox during the lap dance scene in Tarantino’s half of the collaborative Grindhouse film, Death Proof. It was a sultry moment which also works in The Balconettes. The song by the famous American rhythm and blues band is used to galvanize the unabashedly horny atmosphere and the general riotous mood taking place in sweaty Marseille on the hottest day of the year. It also reflects the film’s main thesis – that women shouldn’t be assaulted no matter how much their reveal their bodies (shocking, we know). The Coasters song features a “chick” who wears fishnets and flirts with men by dancing around them – something which shouldn't have to rhyme with fearing for your life. As flawed and overly didactic as the film may be towards the end - with an afterlife plotline which serves the theme of consent, but feels messy - there’s a punkish verve to the film, Merlant’s second after Mi Lubita, Mon Amour, which makes The Balconettes a fun ride with an excellent soundtrack.

Take That – Greatest Day (remix)

(Heard in: Anora)

Sean Baker’s barnstorming panic attack comedy Anora starts with this remix from the British boyband, and the director does for Take That what he did for NSYNC’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’ in Red Rocket. It drops twice in the film and takes on a bittersweet dimension, as what starts as the greatest day, full of hope and promise for the lead character (the wonderful Mikey Madison), ends up as a chaotic nightmare featuring apologetic Armenian thugs, terrifying Russian mothers pushing for a marriage annulment, and a man-child who has all the backbone of a particularly frail shrimp. In addition to this ironic needledrop is the inclusion of t.A.T.u.’s 2002 hit ‘All The Things She Said’ – which ups the euphoria during a strip club scene. All with a welcome tinge of encroaching melancholy.

Full review of Anora

Danzel – Pump It Up

(Heard in: The Substance)

Coralie Fargeat’s body horror mind-melt The Substance is one of our highlights of the festival, and features several choreographed sequences for workout shows, with spandex-clad models moving to dance tunes. The original host was Elisabeth Sparkle (Demi Moore), who is replaced by her younger self (Margaret Qualley). The newly spine-cleaved starlet (don’t ask – read the review) makes a hit of the show and some of the sequences are incredibly reminiscent of the infamous and sexually suggestive music video ‘Call On Me’ by Swedish DJ Eric Prydz. It was directed by Huse Monfaradi, and featured an aerobics class of women wearing 1980s styled aerobics outfits. The ‘Pump It Up’ song (or something reminiscent to it in the film) and this visual callback bolster Fargeat’s bloody exploration of society’s impossible beauty standards, the fetishization of youth, as well as internalised self-loathing stemming from systemic misogyny. That or they needed a song for the dance sequences and they picked one that sounded like ‘Pump It Up’ – whatever.

Full review of The Substance

Billy Idol – Eyes Without A Face

(Heard in: Amour Ouf / Beating Hearts)

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Gilles Lellouche’s decades-spanning French comedy is hardly one of the most memorable entries in this year’s Competition, but the soundtrack is all kinds of fun. Quite a few people were humming this 1983 track by Billy Idol (who was inspired by French director Georges Franju’s horror film Les yeux sans visage) when coming out the screening; and just for that, we’re giving this crowd-pleasing and overly sentimental melodrama a passing grade.

Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side

(Heard in: Limonov: The Ballad)

Cannes loves a bit of Lou Reed, especially after last year’s Perfect Days. This year, the Velvet Underground singer-songwriter could be heard several times in Kirill Serebrennikov’s Limonov: The Ballad. The film is based on Emmanuel Carrère's 2011 book "Limonov", a novelized biography of the Russian dissident writer and politician Eduard Limonov - played by Ben Whishaw, giving one of his best performances to date. His writing is at one point directly compared to what it must be like to listen to ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, so it’s only fitting the classic track from the 1972 album 'Transformer' makes an appearance.

Coldplay – Yellow

(Heard in: Bird)

Bird features a lot of rooftops, mostly so that the titular character played by Franz Rogowski can perch on them like Bruno Ganz did in Wings of Desire. There’s one scene in which the young Bailey (Nykiya Adams) burritos herself into a sleeping bag and looks out of her window, where she can see a nearby council block. Then drops Coldplay’s single ‘Yellow’ off their first album 'Parachutes': “ Your skin / Oh yeah your skin and bones / Turned into something beautiful ”. It’s a superb and emotionally generous moment that embodies what director Andrea Arnold does so well: finding a unique space where marginalized existences can co-exist with empowering aspirations to find the uplifting in turmoil. Each track in her film perfectly complements the mood of every scene – and if you can employ an overplayed song and give it a goosebump-inducing quality, that is something genuinely worth treasuring.

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Dennis Harte – Summer’s Over

(Heard in: Rumours)

This wonderfully silly satire from Canadian directors Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson was a low-key highlight of the Out Of Competition section. The title is inspired by the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album, a reference to the emotional hullabaloo that accompanied its recording. It's an absurd send-up of ineffectual G7 leaders and their pompous summits, which are full of meaningless corporate-speak and even Neil Young song lyrics. They pontificate about how they are changing the world one statement at a time... before it all goes apocalyptic. Think Dawn of the Dead with a massive woodland brain popping up and burning up. It’s a sharply scripted lampoon, complete with a melodramatic score. Rumours does run out of steam towards the end and could have been significantly stronger as a short. However, the ending works and the last track to play is Dennis Harte’s ‘Summer’s Over’ – a gentle folk ballad about the loss of innocence, which is the ideal way to cap off this political satire. It functions as both a wake-up call and a reminder that ineffectual global leaders will lead the world to a swift and snivelling conclusion.

COBRAH – Brand New Bitch

(Heard in: Kinds of Kindness)

We started this playlist with Kinds of Kindness, so we may as well loop that twisted loop. Swedish rapper COBRAH’s track drops towards the end of the final anthology story “R.M.F EATS A SANDWICH”, which has Stone play Emily, a woman who has abandoned her marriage and family to drink the Kool Aid (or teary water) of kinky cult leader OMI (Dafoe). The latter has tasked her with locating an elusive messiah figure who can resurrect the dead. When Emily finally accomplishes her mission, she breaks into a carpark dance soundtracked to ‘Brand New Bitch’. And she is just that, having proven to the cult she can deliver – despite being kicked out for reasons which shan’t be spoiled here. It’s a cathartic renaissance, one that was teased in the film’s trailers. And then... Well, again no spoilers, but it goes to shit real quick, severely dampening this moment of joy for Emily. It’s macabre in all the right ways. And an infectious banger. 

Happy listening.

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