A scene from the 2019 film Hustlers.

A Time Capsule Movie Soundtrack: Hustlers

By Kaitlyn Watson
Music Journalist

Some people look back on “Saturday Night Fever”  or “Dazed and Confused” and experience nostalgia dating back to the formative years of their adolescence. Personally, the sounds of Usher’s “Love in This Club” and Rihanna’s uncompleted studio version of “Birthday Cake” immediately take me back to the middle school days of “My mom can drop us off at the dance if your mom can pick us up.”

As Janet Jackson’s wise words promised in the opening scene, Hustlers (2019) was a story about control featuring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu as the dynamic duo of the year. The juxtaposition of our favorite guilty pleasure radio hits from the era of low waisted jeans and Silly Bandz backdropped by Wall Street during the 2008 recession is almost too good to handle. 

“Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston

I could never dream of setting the scene for this film without bringing up Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girls.” The music video ran so many times on television during the summer of 2007 that I feel fairly confident I could recreate it from memory. The song itself sampled Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” furthering the earworm effect of the reggae summer sound that made it one of the most popular tracks of the year.

“Gimme More” by Britney Spears

If there’s a Britney needle drop, I’m in. The history of “Gimme More” and Britney’s highly publicized struggles in 2007 are very often referred to in pop culture, and thus this song became one of the most important to the soundtrack. During an important, plot building montage, this song highlighted a very specific point in America. Morale was high, Britney’s meltdown was everyone’s favorite punchline, and we definitely were not about to experience the biggest stock market crash since The Great Depression. Right?

“Love In This Club” by Usher

The rumors are true: Usher and his entourage attended the real club that Hustlers is based on, and I am still reeling from real-life Usher’s cameo in the film. “Love In This Club” is one of his many hits throughout this era, and no one would pass up the opportunity to blare it while 2019 Usher played his role as 2008 Usher. 

“Royals” by Lorde

As the story’s wrapped up, we are brought into a new era of music. Lorde’s first hit, “Royals” began peaking on the charts in 2013. Lorde fits in with our new wave of pop stars, and this song’s placement in the last scenes of the movie highlights how much time has passed within the story itself. While “Beautiful Girls” and “Royals” are not widely separated in time, they come from entirely separate generations, and those few years marked a transitional point for popular music. 

In emphasizing the soundtrack so much, director Lorene Scafaria was able to set the tone for Hustlers to perfection and provide full immersion into a complex storyline. An added bonus is that we are transported back to a playful time for pop music, and the realization that we might still know every word to a few Usher songs.

Featured image via IMDb.

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