TV - Empire


Romeo Kennedy with his thoughts on a music based drama show from Fox TV...

Sometimes being a chronic insomniac pays off, albeit very rarely. In my case, after finishing a few comics and reading that last chapter of a novel, the time came to channel surf in the early hours of the morning, finding all sorts on the television, from people selling steam cleaners that can do everything to old episodes of Hawaii Five-O. But sometimes along comes a repeat of something that you missed the first time round and you discover something wonderful.

This is what happened with me with the Fox TV series, Empire.

Serial dramas that incorporate music are not new and have been around for a while i.e The Kids From Fame etc, but in the last few years there have been a few. Glee was obviously a bit of a phenomenon but sadly one that I could never connect with, then along came Nashville that focuses on the American Country music scene. I’m a bit of a fan of Nashville, and always hoped that there would be another similar series that perhaps focuses on another genre of music, as well as the dramatic elements, and the rise and fall of stars.

Empire is this and so much more.

Created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong; Empire focuses on Lucious Lyon and his very talented family, along with the multi billion dollar record label he and the truly wonderful Cookie Lyon, (who also happens to be his ex-wife) have built.

Empire is a well written, diverse and wonderful TV show, with some truly wonderful performances from Terrence Howard, who plays the love-to-hate King of Empire, Lucious. The absolutely fantastic Taraji P. Henson plays Cookie, the outspoken mother of Andre, Hakeem, and Jamal and throughout the first series they have some wonderful scenes together and are definitely ones to watch out for. Jamal is an R&B singer who has a voice that sends chills down your spine, Hakeem is a rapper and the “next big thing” or so he would like to think, and then there is Andre who is a really good business man, and runs the financial side of Empire Entertainment.

But nothing is ever simple and each character has their own problems of trying to make it in their Father’s eyes and so much more. This isn’t a show about the music, this is a show about how music shapes people and encapsulates life.

Each episode is full of drama and conveys many real life issues such as homosexuality, racism and mental health, as well as the real struggles of Black Americans and, of course, there is the question of who will eventually be the heir to the Empire throne. I suppose in some way you could describe it as a sort of contemporary Game Of Thrones-esque story, in the respect that all of Lucious’ children have to prove themselves in order to have that seat at the top.

Music supremo, Timbaland is responsible for the show's musical side and my goodness, the music is just stunning, You’re So Beautiful has such a hook that, after seeing the incredible performance by Jamal Lyon, it will be in your head for days. My personal favourite was a song entitled Nothing To Lose which is in the penultimate episode (episode 11) and shows Lucious and Jamal duetting a song that has so much rawness and power, and pure damn soul. As well as the songs that are performed by the main characters, the series has many cameos from todays stars of R&B and Hip Hop, i.e Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Estelle.

One more thing about the music throughout the series is that its use within the dramatic scenes is just sublime. For example, two characters will get into an argument and then the beat starts and adds a rhythm to these characters drama turning it into a performance in itself. It’s incredible.

I could talk in depth about so many of the shows finer points and story lines, but I’m not going to spoil it. All I will say is go and watch it before the second series starts which Is very soon.

Image - IMDb.
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