‘The Color Purple’: How Nova Wav’s New Song Kept the Broadway Beat

TheWrap magazine: The Grammy-winning duo talks about “Keep on Movin,'” one of the new songs in the long-awaited musical Christmas release

nova wav
Denisia Andrews and Brittany Coney of Nova Wav at the Musicology GRAMMY Day Brunch in April 2022 (Photo by Sam Morris/Getty Images)

As far back as Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s game-changing novel, “The Color Purple” has always had a musical legacy. In addition to being scored by none other than Quincy Jones, the film boasted an earworm of an original song, “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” that was co-penned by Lionel Richie (whose “Say You, Say Me” would actually win the Oscar that same year for another film, “White Nights”). So it wasn’t shocking that “Purple” would spring to life in Broadway musical form, first in 2005 and then in a multi-Tony-winning revival 10 years later, which would launch the career of an exciting upstart named Cynthia Erivo.

When the prospect of an adaptation of the musical into an all-singing, all-dancing major film bloomed into reality, it was clear the team would need some new tunes to goose the already-rousing ones in the two-act musical. Enter Nova Wav, the Grammy-winning, Atlanta-based duo behind a mass of Beyoncé’s 2022 “Renaissance” album, not to mention the song-whisperers for artists such as
Rihanna, Teyana Taylor and DJ Khaled. “Purple” director Blitz Bazawule happened to be the filmmaker behind 2020’s Beyoncé music feature “Black is King,” and Brittany “Chi” Coney and Denisia “Blu June” Andrews needed little convincing to write original tunes for the new picture.

“I grew up watching (the 1985) movie, countless times, so it just kind of embedded in my mind, I just know the tone of it,” Andrews said of composing the 2023 film’s kicky, up-tempo bop “Keep it Movin’.” The song was written for the young Nettie and Celie characters (played by Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and Halle Bailey, the latter of whom is also a lyricist for the track).

The songwriters knew little of what the scene would eventually look like. “Halle, I think, was already cast in it,” Andrews said. “She had some sense of what her scenes were going to be and came in with some ideas. I’m happy that we didn’t see it beforehand, because I think it would have stifled our creativity. We would have been overthinking it. We went off emotions and what we thought it should feel like.”

“Keep it Movin’,” with its catchy hooks (cowritten with Danish superproducer Morten Ristorp), sounds right as rain as a Broadway-adjacent track. It has a sweet meta vibe, because the friendship angle between Celie and Nettie matches that of Andrews and Coney, who delighted in the challenges of writing for the film.

“It’s very meticulous,” Andrews said. “Sonically it’s a little bit different in the instrumentation you use, for instance — we wouldn’t normally use harmonica in an everyday record. But it pushes up our creative boundaries. When you nail that, you feel like you’ve done something phenomenal.”

The new film is the first mainstream “Color Purple” property to have a Black director, who joins legends from previous “Purple” hues over the years, including producers Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey and the musical’s original composing team (except for late songwriter Allee Willis). “We love, love, love Broadway,” Coney said. “We left extremely empowered, I felt different in my soul and my spirit.”

This story about The Color Purple” composers Nova Wav first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap magazine.

Read more from the Race Begins issue here.

Sandra Huller Race Begins 2023
Sandra Huller shot for TheWrap by Jeff Vespa


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