Songs By: Various Artists
Distributed by: Columbia Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Not too long ago, I told you about a new television series airing on FOX about a hip-hop/R&B mogul with a shady history who, after learning he hasn't long to live, decides to put his sons into a competition with one another over control of his empire. Empire became a television series I had to watch every week until the season finale on March 18, 2015. But it wasn't just the drama or the fine acting that kept me coming back for more - it was the music. On March 10, 2015, Columbia Records released the music of this first season of Empire in standard and deluxe format. I went for the deluxe version.
The deluxe version of the Empire: Season 1 features all of the great songs I loved from the show in almost the exact same order that they appeared. First off is Good Enough, a song from Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) to his father Lucious Lyon (Terence Howard), in which Jamal laments that no matter what he does, he will never be good enough to receive the love he so needs from his father. This is followed by the beautiful ballad What Is Love by V. Bozeman. Then comes the Empire theme, No Apologies, a slamming hip-hop track featuring Jussie Smollett and Yazz (AKA: Bryshere Y. Gray who plays Hakeem Lyon). I immediately fell in love with this song the minute I heard it on the first episode: "I'll do what I want and say what I want with no apologies!" It's got a great hook, great rap and powerful lyrics that are an anthem for those tired of taking crap.
Keep It Movin' is a great hip-hop duet between Yazz and Serayah McNeill who plays Tiana Brown, an up and coming artist and short term lust interest for Hakeem. Their voices play off of each other well and the music is awesome. Keep Your Money, another song dedicated by Jamal to his father, is an edgier track than Good Enough and basically tells Lucious that Jamal can make it on his own without his father's help. Jessie Smollett's vocals really shine on this track...and that isn't even the best Smollett track on the album! Then comes the catchy, Drip Drop, a duet between Hakeem (Yazz) and Tiana (Serayah) with some interesting sexual connotations.
Can't Truss 'Em is an angry Yazz track about trusting the ladies, performed after Hakeem discovers that Tiana (Serayah) has been two-timing him...with another woman. I Wanna Love You is a beautiful ballad by Jussie Smollett and this is followed by Money for Nothing, a duet by Smollett and Yazz. This song is rather interesting - a mix between the old Dire Straits song and new lyrics regarding the Lyon Empire. Walk Out On Me by Elle Dallas (Courtney Love) cuts things on the album. Different from all of the other songs on the soundtrack, Walk Out On Me is a song about a lover in that stage of realization that their relationship is over. Courtney Love's execution of this song is reminiscent of her days with Hole, only a great deal less grunge rock-ish.
Things pick up again with my second favorite track on the album, a duet between Smollett and Yazz called You're So Beautiful. This is Lucious Lyon's signature song performed by his sons and some guests. The lyrics are great, the music and beat perfect and the hook! So catchy! Conqueror, a ballad performed by Estelle (Delphine) and Jamal (Smollett) with some amazing lyrics: "We all make mistakes / You might fall on your face / But you gotta get up! / I'd rather stand tall / Than live on my knees / 'Cause I'm a conqueror." Next up is Remember the Music, a song performed by Michelle White (Jennifer Hudson) while trying to soothe Andre Lyon's frayed nerves. A music therapist and gospel singer, Michelle is trying to equate music to the important things in life...the essentials that make Andre what he really is deep inside.
Shake Down, performed by Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) and Angie (Mary J. Blige), a woman from Lucious' past is rather interesting. We all know that Mary J. Blige has some pipes, though she tones them down a bit for this song. But prior to watching this show, I had no idea that Terrence Howard could sing - and he is pretty darn good at it. Hakeem (Yazz) is up next with Power of the Empire, an angry rant to his father about taking over his Empire. Nothing to Lose is another track in which Jamal (Smollett) realizes that this is it - he has to buckle down and show the world what he's got...that he is just as good or better than his father. Rounding things up are Whatever Makes You Happy by Michelle (Hudson) and Juicy J, a fun track with catchy lyrics, and NY Raining, a ballad by Charles Hamilton and Rita Ora.
I had a great deal of fun listening and singing along with the Empire: Season 1 Soundtrack. Not only was I treated to some great original hip-hop and R&B music, but having seen them performed on the television series, I could picture those moments in the series in my mind's eye while listening. Jessie Smollett's vocals are particularly noteworthy. The man has a beautiful voice and I would line up to listen to him sing just about anything just to hear that voice. The soundtrack is definitely worth the money, but I have to caution Empire fans out there to purchase the DELUXE edition of the soundtrack. Buying the standard edition may be cheaper, but you will be missing out on seven tracks that you can only find in the deluxe version. Believe me, those tracks are worth the extra five bucks!