Empire’s Rising Star

There is a lot to talk about when it comes to Fox Television’s hit show Empire. Taraji P. Henson’s amazing performance as Cookie Lyon for one, who seems to have a crowd of people rooting for her every week. The amazing fact that ratings have increased every single week that the show has been on the air is another. But the one thing I want to write about here is a musical talent that has seemingly come from out of nowhere: Jussie Smollett, who plays Jamal on the show.

Jussie Smollett (l) and Taraji P. Henson in a scene from Empire (Fox)
Jussie Smollett (l) and Taraji P. Henson in a scene from Empire (Fox)

Like anyone who seems to become an overnight sensation, Smollett isn’t necessarily one ether. He was, like many other artists before and since, just a bit under the radar.  A little background: Smollett is the older brother of Jurnee Smollett-Bell, an actress you may have seen on television in  Full HouseFriday Night LightsParenthood or True Blood,  or in the movies Eve’s Bayou, The Great DebatersRoll Bounce or Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. He has done some acting as well, and also released an EP entitled Poisoned Hearts Club about three years ago. Unfortunately, that music is difficult to find, but on YouTube you can see a few videos of Smollett’s early musical efforts.

His first single, “Get ‘Em Up” :

One of the songs from that early EP “The Storm” :

But those early efforts only offer a taste of what we’ve been getting on Empire from week to week. I mentioned on Facebook that if he were on The Voice right now, he would win in a walk. He is that good. Every week seemingly features a musical number from Smollett’s character, and they haven’t disappointed yet.  With him offering gems both solo and in tandem with other characters, they have all been good. Much credit should go to Timbaland, the music supervisor for the show, who with his staff keep bringing brand new tracks that sound great and manage to fit in with the drama every week.

Some of the best efforts (most, if not all are available for purchase at iTunes, Amazon and Google Play):

His duet with Estelle (playing Delphine), “Conqueror”:

The duet with Yazz, “No Apologies”:

A solo performance, “You’re So Beautiful”:

The final two weeks of the first season of the show are upcoming, so there should be some more great performances in store. Smollett has announced that he has signed a music deal with Columbia Records with music scheduled to come out later this year. A soundtrack album for the show is scheduled to be released on Tuesday. If you like what you hear, head to your favorite music retailer and get the songs, or stream them on Spotify. A Spotify playlist of the songs featuring Smollett is below.

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