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That selection of music makes the film

‘The Color Purple’: Labor Songs, Blues and Gospel, Music Reflecting the Era and its Discrepancy



© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Richness Brought by the “Discrepancy” in Historical Accuracy

As mentioned above, while the “realistic” music is carefully scattered throughout the film, it is not necessarily overly concerned with strict historical accuracy, which is one of the reasons why the music in this film is so richly appealing. For example, the gospel song “Mysterious Ways” sung at the beginning of the film is clearly contemporary in style, and similarly, many of the songs have a distinctly modern sound compared to the styles actually popular in each period.

This tendency seems to be more pronounced in songs where the performers sing as if they are revealing their own feelings, except when the “it” sound is used for dramatic purposes as some sort of stage set-up. In particular, “Keep It Movin’,” a song newly written for the 2023 version, sung early in the film following the sequence in which Nettie visits Celie after her marriage, almost completely ignores the historical background of the film. The song, a Motown-style soul song filled with euphoria, wins its fundamental positivity precisely because of this “non-chronological” nature of the song. In the climactic scene, Celie sings “I’m Here,” a straight-forward and moving power ballad that no longer inspires the notion of a specific era by describing it as “00-esque. Naturally, these “discrepancies” are not always easy to distinguish.

Naturally, the director and other producers have already taken these “discrepancies” into account from the beginning, and it would be tactless for us to complain about them. We would rather think that it is these “discrepancies” that allow us to enjoy this film as a story rich in imagination and containing a strong desire for freedom.

Excessive thoroughness in period research can sometimes trivialize the message and scale of a film. Rather, it is precisely because of the “shakiness” and “room” that the film encompasses, and the rich possibilities it suggests, that it is able to shake off the negative forces of convergence to something specific and naturally spread the wings of the imagination (needless to say, ‘The Color Purple’ is neither a strictly musicological text nor a trivia film for Afro-American music buffs to gloat over).

If this 2023 version of ‘The Color Purple’ can be read as an imaginative/creative rereading of African American history and an aspiration to break free from its yoke and connect to the future, then the music, as discussed above, may also be a major contributing factor. Listening to the boldly modern production of the newly written closing theme song “Superpower (I),” I also could not help but let my own imagination be captured in this way.

The Color Purple

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, February 9, 2024
Director: Brits Bazaule
Based on the novel by Alice Walker
Cast: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Daniel Brooks, H.E.R., Harry Bailey and others
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
© 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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NiEW Best Music is a playlist featuring artists leading the music scene and offering alternative styles in our rapidly evolving society. Hailing from Tokyo, the NiEW editorial team proudly curates outstanding music that transcends size, genre, and nationality.