Drama, a stellar cast, phenomenal guest stars and most of all…music. Everything mentioned best describes the new FOX hit drama television series, Empire, created by Academy award winning director Lee Daniels and renowned actor/writer Danny Strong. Being based on a Hip/Hop entertainment company, Empire Entertainment, you can expect a well thought out and delivered original soundtrack to the lives and struggles of the show’s characters. The show has an admirable array of guest stars including Mary J. Blige, Rita Ora, Estelle and Juicy J, all of whom contributed to the soundtrack; big names such as Timbaland, Jim Beanz and more were on production duties. This album is the first soundtrack to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart in five years since Glee, and the show itself has broken ratings records in the US. Empire is becoming just as its name suggests.
Jussie Smollett portrays Jamal Lyon in the series, and the heart wrenching ballad Good Enough nails his portrayal of a son desperate for his father’s acceptance through the emotional vocal performance. V. Bozeman performs the snappy What Is Love, questioning what love is if that special someone has made themselves scarce, tugging at your heartstrings. Jussie jumps back on the mic with Empire co-star Bryshere Y. Grey (Yazz), who plays the youngest Lyon brother (Hakeem), they collaborate on the beat happy No Apologies as Yazz spits out the rhymes and Jussie belts out the tune. Serayah McNeill plays Tiana, an artist of Empire Entertainment and Hakeem’s ex-girlfriend; the track Keep It Movin’ also features Yazz, teasing him in song as well as in character with the upbeat RnB vibes. The broken up pair collaborate again with the energetic Drip Drop, the array of sounds and melodies going on throughout the song make it an interesting listen.
Courtney Love plays troubled rockstar Elle Dallas who battles drug addiction and wants to make a musical comeback: her song Walk Out On Me is an emotional soft rock ballad where she insists on being abandoned as the love that was once there has gone. RnB singer Estelle guest stars as Delphine, a musician of interest to Empire Entertainment: she sang Conquerer as a duet with Jussie and their emotive voices complimented each other so well. Jennifer Hudson sings a powerful solo. Playing a music therapist and gospel singer in the series is a key driver for her song’s concept, Remember The Music is as inspiring as it is advisory. Terrance Howard plays former drug dealer gone Empire Entertainment CEO Lucious Lyon: he duets with Mary J. Blige for the piano driven Shake Down, and it’s not a disappointing performance. Yazz’s stand alone track Power Of The Empire has a darker sound, depicting his character’s clear hunger for power. Jussie’s Nothing To Lose is another meaningful ballad for his troubled character. Rapper Juicy J appears as himself in the series: he teams up with Jennifer Hudson for Whatever Makes You Happy, possibly one of the catchiest tracks on the album. Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora’s contribution New York Raining is a cool piano and beat driven track that ends the soundtrack on an ambient note.
Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season One is an admirable piece of art carefully put together by some of the best producers suited to the project. The cast did a phenomenal job on portraying the struggles of their characters through song. The difference between Empire and Glee is that this new show has its own original track list that its cast sing, whereas Glee focused on its cast covering popular songs old and new; they are both in their own respective leagues, so you really can’t compare them. The whole cast turn in commendable performances, and the best news is that Empire has been renewed for a second season, so we get to enjoy another soundtrack with songs that are hopefully just as compelling as those from its first season. This collection is possibly one of the best original soundtracks from a series released in the last decade: you really connect with and feel what’s going on in every moment.