The Color Purple (2023 Soundtrack)

The Color Purple gloriously returns to the big screen in a soundtrack adapted from the 2005 and 2015 Broadway stage productions

When The Color Purple movie debuted in 1985 (based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning book), Hollywood was buzzing about the intense storyline about the mistreatment of the black community in the south during the early 20th century. Legendary music guru Quincy Jones took the helm mixing orchestral interludes with period jazz, blues, and gospel, plus a few 78rpm recordings such as Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five. Then two decades later, a musical was born on the Broadway stage composed by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, not once but twice. Meanwhile, the Q returned in 2023 in several capacities including co-executive producing this blockbuster movie soundtrack. That aside, several songs from the previous Broadway productions have been replaced by pieces from composers Denisia Andrews, Brittany Coney, and Morten Ristorp.

On most counts, the songs (new and old) and the slight contemporary edge do not detract from this adaptation and spirit of The Color Purple’s themes. Halle Bailey (Nettie) shares her co-songwriting skills with “Keep It Movin’ driven by a contemporary R&B shuffle. “She Be Mine” focuses on young Celie, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, whose cool alto voice holds it together amongst the foot-stomping, chanting and slide guitar. One of the soundtracks’ solid surprises belongs to Taraji P. Henson assuredly injecting fiery energy through her Shug Avery character with “Push Da Button.” The gospel rousing “Mysterious Ways” centers on Tamela Mann emphatically leading a choir showering old fashioned praise.

Of course, two stars get the opportunity to reprise their roles from the original and revival Broadway productions. Danielle Books (Sofia) stirs the passion on the country blues fueled “Hell No!” speaking out about women who are abused by their partners. As adult Celie, Fantasia shows off her balladry skills with “I’m Here.” Yet Fantasia’s closing number, “Superpower,” sounds a bit flat due to the auto-tuned chorus. Otherwise, The Color Purple 2023 soundtrack serves up excellence in this updated musical perspective – from the vocal talent to the orchestrations. 4-3/4 stars out of 5.

Peggy Oliver
The Urban Music Scene