Her latest release is the soundtrack for Netflix’s upcoming film Dumplin’, featuring six new songs and six reimagined classics. Out December 7, Dumplin’ stars Danielle MacDonald as Willowdean, the overweight daughter of a former local beauty pageant queen played by Jennifer Aniston. The film follows Willowdean, who — inspired and encouraged by her idol, Miss Parton herself — signs up for a pageant to prove that beauty can take all shapes and forms.
On the soundtrack, Parton and producer Linda Perry track an epic story of emotional growth. Aniston personally asked if Parton could get involved with the movie — first by allowing the studio to use some of her existing music, then seeing if Parton would be open to writing something new for Dumplin’.
Parton’s new songs for Dumplin’ speak to the film’s themes. Tracks like “Who” and “Girl in the Movies” render in heartbreaking detail the physical insecurities women of all ages live with. Reimaginings of Parton’s prior hits such as “Jolene” and “Dumb Blonde” work as devices to build the inner world of Dumplin’s main characters.
Parton also reimagined “Here You Come Again,” and it’s a standout track. The 1977 single was one of Parton’s biggest hits, a love song dressed in a catchy amalgam of ‘70s sounds: sweeping strings over a bed of bouncy keys, cameos from weeping electric guitars, a winking, persistent bassline.
Some 40 years later, Parton has stripped “Here You Come Again” down to its musical parts. The Dumplin’ version is a ballad anchored by a simple piano tune and powered by vocals with decades of earned wisdom. When Parton closes the song with a triumphant, “Here I go,” it’s no longer about the thrill of the chase — it’s her intention to thrive.
Perhaps the most striking part about this ballad is Parton’s interaction with her singing partner, 14-year-old singer Willa Amai. Amai opens the song, her voice bold and yearning and struck with the slightest tremble. Then Parton enters, effortless yet dazzling, and it’s a passing of the torch.
The message of self-love and empowerment works for Dumplin’, considering how Willowdean is one of Parton’s biggest fans. And it speaks to one of Parton’s superpowers as a singer-songwriter: her ability to connect with everyone.
“It’s very natural for me to love people, and I think people just sense that I like them,” Parton said on the Today show. “I’ve been around a long, long time, and people kind of relate to me like a family member, like a favorite aunt, a cousin — someone that you like.”