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VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Joe Shetina
Where would we be without music? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the best songs from the musical version of “The Color Purple.” Our countdown includes songs “What About Love?”, “Push Da Button”, “Too Beautiful for Words” and more!
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the best songs from the musical version of “The Color Purple.” What’s your favorite song from “The Color Purple”? Tell us in the comments!

#10: “Lily of the Field”

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There is no shortage of awful things Celie Harris endures but, at least she has Nettie. Despite being her sister, she’s also her only real friend. This is why it’s so devastating when Celie’s abusive husband, Mister, banishes Nettie from their home. In the aftermath, Celie’s sense of self and even her faith are left shaken. “Lily of the Field” finds her pleading to God to bring Nettie back. The latter promises to write, but when Celie doesn’t hear from her – or isn’t allowed to hear from her – she loses hope. It’s a haunting song, and a difficult one to shake off once you’ve heard it.

#9: “Opening” / “Mysterious Ways”

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The first rousing number introduces us to Celie and her sister, Nettie, as well as the group of church ladies who will reappear throughout the show as a sort of Greek chorus. Despite their uproarious praise, Celie’s sad story breaks through their joyful noise. They remind her and us that God works in mysterious ways, and those ways don’t always make sense. Setting up the religious themes that will follow her throughout the story, this uplifting score serves as a reminder to keep faith during even the most troubling of times.

#8: “African Homeland”

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Years down the line, Celie’s discovery of letters sent from Africa detail Nettie’s experiences as a missionary. “African Homeland” is presented in tableaus and fragments of memories. Instead of the American gospel-and-jazz-inspired numbers we’ve been treated to, this number is infused with African drum beats. There’s a lot to fit into this song given that it represents years of lost letters, and we get to hear about Nettie’s journey to the continent and all its beauty. We also hear about her own suffering, and her final letter concludes on a note of faithfulness that she will see her sister again.

#7: “Too Beautiful for Words”

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Celie’s life is completely upended by the arrival of her husband’s old flame, singer and all-around good time, Shug Avery. Needless to say, Shug has lived a lot of life. She says what she means, means what she says, and doesn’t care what other people think. However, she’s struck by Celie’s grace and resilience. Even though Celie’s walked through life believing every terrible thing that’s been said of her, Shug can see her in a way no one ever has. It’s an eye-opening moment for both of them. The tenderness between them is a highlight of the show, coaxing Celie out of the doom and gloom.

#6: “Push Da Button”

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Shug’s first song at the local juke joint is as playfully erotic and lyrically suggestive as any classic jazz song. ‘Til then, she’d been recovering from illness so this is really the first time we get to see her at her full, seductive power. She slinks and howls through the sexy track with freewheeling abandon, in total control of the scene. Although it’s a showcase for the performer playing Shug, it’s also a rowdy ensemble number that goes a long way in throwing us into the world of a boozy backwoods 1920s saloon.

#5: “Hell No!”

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Miss Celie’s stepdaughter-in-law, Sofia, barrels into the story and becomes an early influence on Celie’s journey of self-discovery. Her song, “Hell No!” is a testament to all she’s had to endure at the hands of men. She leads the women of the ensemble in her determination to never again be any man’s victim. Broadway cast member Danielle Brooks described how empowering it was to sing the song every night. Defiant and wickedly funny, it’s the perfect encapsulation of Sofia’s place in the world of the musical. She’s brassy and unwilling to back down. She has to be that way to survive.

#4: “Mister’s Song / Celie’s Curse”

Although the 1985 movie doesn’t totally redeem Celie’s abusive husband, the novel and the musical follow his transformation after Celie leaves him. His fortunes sink and his life goes downhill, all because of Celie’s supposed curse on him. It’s more than a simple case of what goes around comes around. Left alone with himself, his fears, and his misfortunes, he sings a rollercoaster of a song where he bares his soul and resolves to change his ways for the better. It may be hard to swallow after what we’ve seen, but if this show does one thing, it’s explore nuance.

#3: “What About Love?”

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Celie may be naive and Shug may know almost everything about everything, but both of them are on the same page at the end of Act I. “What About Love” is their duet after discovering their burgeoning attraction to each other. Each woman has to realign what she knows about love. The realization they come to is that love is not defined by the tangible things, but by how they feel and what they can be for each other. This relationship, while it lasts, provides a lot of healing for Celie, making “What About Love?” and its reprise one of the most moving numbers in the show.

#2: “The Color Purple”

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In a riveting counterpoint to “Lily of the Field,” Shug first sings the title song to Celie in the second act of the show. Realizing how much of Celie’s anger and despair is still unresolved, Shug tries to comfort her with the conviction that God is not vengeful, but a force that lives in every living being. By the end of the story, the two reprise the song in a powerful, showstopping climax. Their anthem of gratitude, strength, and beauty closes the show, leaving the audience on a note of tremendous hope and love.

#1: “I’m Here”

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There was no way it wouldn’t be number one. It’s hard to compete with a crowd pleaser like this. Taking its refrain from Celie’s iconic and heartstopping speech from the original story, “I’m Here” is her triumphant moment of self-realization. Despite what the world has done to her, and despite her mistreatment by Mister, she knows how much she matters. Her reward is her self-worth. Just as a piece of music, it’s impossible to hear the song and not feel something. With its soaring vocals and stirring message, it never fails to bring the house down.

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