Empire, Fox’s mega hit series about a family of musical moguls taking over the attention and admiration of the entertainment industry, has begun to make its name beyond the popularity of its viewership. It is, in itself, a gem to music industry. But what is it about Empire? What have they done that goes beyond that of a show or a musical artist?
When we think of a television show as a hit, we do not usually associate it for its musical ingenuity. But for Empire, music is what makes it so great. It is the heartbeat and soul of the entire show. Yes, they were not the first show to provide musical performances such as Glee or the Voice, but they are the first to portray new and unique music. Let me say that again, they are the first show to perform fresh and original music.
For Glee, the Voice, American Idol, and all the other musical inclined shows, much of their performances are based on popular or mainstream songs that are already admired by the public. While there is nothing wrong with that, the overall formula of attracting a population to a song that is already a hit will guarantee public satisfaction. We saw this countless time with Glee’s musical hits such as the Britney Spears renditions, Lady Gaga duets, or Bruno Mars’s collection. Similarly, we saw the same trend with shows like the Voice or American Idol where contestants were asked to sing popular songs to showcase their vocal and performance talent. As much as we can enjoy these covers, we need to keep one thing in mind. They are not original. Yes, they can add their own flare and style to the song, but at the end of the day, the song is essentially not theirs.
Before Empire debuted, the public did not know exactly what to think of it. The commercials popularized the drama aspect of a former drug dealer, Lucious Lyon (played by Terrence Howard), now musical icon and CEO of a music entertainment industry deciding which of his three sons is worthy of the “Empire” crown. In addition to his ex-wife, Cookie Lyon (played by Taraji Henson), and other characters, the popular television show was able to hit various hot-topic issues such as gay rights, class systems, poverty, social-economical politics, and corporate greed. Though the show was going to be a hit with those topics alone, the music, however, pushed the Fox series into a whole different league.
For those who watch the show, they can attest to the power and ingenuity that Empire brings to every song. Unlike those other shows that stick to the formula of what is popular (like Glee), Empire creates its own songs. It takes that risk that many shows are uncertain to do. And why? The reason is because it is about the music. With the help of top musical producer and songwriter Timbaland, Empire was and is able to produce a variety of sounds such as old school hip-hop, rap, soul, R&B, alternative, pop, and modern day EDM. The music, like any song, tries to capture the emotion and mindset of every character. As a fan, you are not only hearing and seeing them perform a song. Instead you are connecting with them and watching them grow as characters each and every episode. That type of talent within a show is truly rare to see. For example the musical list Jamal Lyon (played by Jussie Smollett) performed at the beginning of the season in a coffee house is completely different from the star quality music he is performing in season two. But that is what is to be expected from these icons. In reality, we see stars grow into their own niches with their music. For Empire, they are doing the same thing, but leveraging it to paint the character.
While there are so many great things to say about the show, the best way to understand it is by watching it. So if you are a fan of music and are looking for a good series to watch, come to the Empire.