PROMOTION: Purple Rain At 40 – 5 Best Musical Moments From Prince’s Rock Opera

Purple Rain

by Team Empire |
Published on

39 studio albums. 97 singles. 33 Grammy nominations, with 7 wins. One Oscar. It’s fair to say that Prince was one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived. In 1984, the songwriting legend brought his musical genius to the big screen with Purple Rain – a semi-autobiographical romantic rock opera starring Prince as The Kid, the talented but troubled frontman of Minneapolis-based band The Revolution, who are regular performers at nightclub First Avenue. One night, he meets aspiring singer Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero), and the pair fall for each other, as The Kid gets to grips with his difficult family situation and musical ambitions.

The film won Prince that Oscar, for Best Original Song Score, and as such is packed with many mega goosebump-inducing on-stage sequences and musical moments – now available to watch in higher quality than ever, with the film receiving a 4K restoration in honour of its 40th anniversary. Here's a list of some of the most memorable:

Purple Rain

'Jungle Love'

Apollonia sees The Kid performing on stage when she initially walks into First Avenue, but the moment the pair really meet for the first time is right after. The Kid leaves the spotlight and rival band The Time, fronted by Morris Day, step into it, bursting into the funky beats of ‘Jungle Love’, complete with choreographed backing dancers. Apollonia watches on when The Kid almost walks right into her. They look each other in the eye, Apollonia giving a small smile, before The Kid goes and stands behind her, his gaze now impenetrable behind big black sunglasses. The tension between them is palpable, and the vibes being generated from The Time on stage are impeccable.

Purple Rain

‘The Beautiful Ones’

After a mischievous escapade by Lake Minnetonka, The Kid and Apollonia’s feelings for each other are amped up during The Revolution’s rendition of epic romantic rock ballad ‘The Beautiful Ones’. The Kid’s jealousy flares when he sees Apollonia with Morris, and he gives a magnetic performance on stage that completely draws her in. Doused in purple and blue light, The Kid sings – “Do you want him? Or do you want me? ‘Cause I want you” – pointedly at Apollonia, raw with emotion. Director Albert Magnoli then zooms in on her, eyes brimming with tears in a sea of neon red.

Purple Rain

‘When Doves Cry’

One of Prince’s most iconic anthems, ‘When Doves Cry’ is used for maximum impact during Purple Rain, over a montage that captures the emotional core of the film. The song comes just after a scene in which The Kid hits Apollonia when she tells him she’s joining Morris’ girl group – a violent example of The Kid following in his abusive father’s footsteps. Cut to clips of The Kid riding on his motorbike, flashbacks to intimate moments with Apollonia and more, the lyrics “Why do we scream at each other? Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold” acting as a direct representation of the internal conflict The Kid is going through.

Purple Rain

‘Darling Nikki’

With Apollonia now firmly a part of Morris’ group, her and The Kid are further apart than ever. Once again, Purple Rain uses on-stage performances to convey moments of drama that the characters themselves can’t verbalise, with The Kid lashing out at Apollonia by singing ‘Darling Nikki’, a seductive number about a mysterious lover. Magnoli truly captures Prince’s explosive stage presence here – stripped to the waist, writhing around, surrounded in red smoke – before a high-energy tracking shot follows The Kid’s sweat-drenched back as he leaves the club in a fit of rage.

Purple Rain

‘Purple Rain’

Of course, the titular tune provides most of Purple Rain’s big finale – but the climax comes in two stages. Firstly, after his dad attempts to take his own life, The Kid hits an emotional rock bottom. Though he’s spent the entire film rejecting his band members’ song contributions, he finally listens to the tape now, stopping and starting the melancholy chords over and over. Magnoli deploys another spine-tingling slow-pan, the camera moving down the hallway and into a room to find The Kid at a piano, slits of sunlight on his face, taking the initial recording and transferring it onto the melodic keys. Then, we see the song in its full glory on stage, The Kid dedicating it to his father as the audience watches, hypnotised. The harmonies build; the guitar solo is epic; the crowd goes wild.

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