Halle Berry's all-woman 'Bruised' soundtrack is inclusive feminism in action
Stories by and for women deserve to have music that matches.
This week, Halle Berry and Warner Bros Records will be releasing a movie soundtrack that’s just as much a statement to the music industry as it is to the film it’s for. The soundtrack to the Netflix film Bruised will feature only woman artists, a rarity that needs to become the standard.
The soundtrack will feature six original songs and seven previously unreleased tracks inspired by the film. The lineup of artists isn’t just some of the best women in hip-hop and R&B, but some of the best artists in all of music. Seven months after becoming the youngest African-American to win an Academy Award for her song “Fight For You,” H.E.R. lends her golden touch to the soundtrack with her song “Automatic Woman” and possibly the title track of the film, according to Berry in an interview with Variety. Cardi B not only executive produced the soundtrack and helped handpick the songs to be featured, but the record-breaking rapper also contributes her own track, “Bet It.” TikTok mastermind Saweetie and club goddesses City Girls join Young M.A, Baby Tate, Erica Banks, Big Bottle Wyana, Ambre, DreamDoll, Latto, Rapsody, and Flo Milli for an all-woman soundtrack fit for a film celebrating the complex strength of womanhood.
Bruised will be Berry’s directorial debut and stars the Academy Award winner as Jackie Justice, a mixed martial arts fighter who is years past her prime but making a return after leaving the sport following a humiliating defeat. Her redemption arc is complicated by her six-year-old son, who she gave up for adoption, literally being dropped at her doorstep after his father’s death. By the looks of the trailer, she goes from disgraced fighter and a subject of YouTube ridicule to the mother of a son she hardly knows, while training her way back to the Jackie Justice of old.
The Bruised soundtrack follows Birds of Prey’s all-woman soundtrack from last year, turning what was historic into the start of a much-needed trend. The soundtrack is a part of the soul of a film; the musical translation of the visual storytelling. As such, the best films telling stories from uniquely specific communities often have soundtracks that mirror those perspectives. For an afrofuturistic film like Marvel’s Black Panther, Coogler tapped arguably Black music’s greatest innovator of the time, Kendrick Lamar, to create a pan-African paradise of a soundtrack that had Vince Staples rapping over tribal drums and Lamar paralleling his story with the character T’Challa on the titular track. Beyonce turned the Lion King soundtrack into a showcase of stellar African artists like Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi, and Wizkid. The cultural significance of these four soundtracks shows how there were missed opportunities for the soundtracks of other woman-centric films.
The classic 1996 heist movie Set It Off centered on a group of women resorting to robbing a bank to better their lives, yet the soundtrack mostly features male artists. While allowing a 15-year-old Ray J to debut his first-ever single (“Let It Go”) was kind, it probably had more to do with his label Elektra Records helming the soundtrack than the song having any connection with the film. Lil Kim, Aaliyah, and Foxy Brown all dropped seminal albums around the Fall 1996 release of the soundtrack, were already succeeding in spaces dominated by men, and would’ve been perfect for the soundtrack. The same can be said for the soundtrack to Hidden Figures, a 2016 biopic about Black women who disrupted NASA’s all-white boys club to historic results. Instead of reflecting the disruptive spirit of the film, the soundtrack was basically a Pharrell album with a few women as guests. Janelle Monae literally had a multi-album arc about an intergalactic android finding love on Earth and could’ve turned this Hidden Figures soundtrack into an album in that same vein, a la Prince’s 1989 Batman soundtrack album.
These woman-centric films aren’t lesser because of their male-dominated soundtracks, but Bruised will be a shining example of how women don’t need anyone to tell their stories on-screen or in the booth but themselves.