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'Empire' fan react: Rating the music from 'Out, Damned Spot'

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “Out, Damned Spot” | Aired Feb 11, 2015

This week on Empire, Jamal’s second single starts getting major radio play, Hakeem lashes out in song, and the Queen of Grunge herself, Courtney Love, finally makes her grand entrance—complete with cocaine, crying, and a little Al Green.

Empire has quickly become known for packing a helluva lot of guest stars into each episode. This week alone, Derek Luke, Raven-Symoné, and Sway all show up to hang with one Lyon or another. Plus it’s been announced that Snoop Dogg, Fabolous, Jennifer Hudson, Rita Ora, and even more famous faces will drop by before the end of season 1. But ever since those promos featuring Love started running, she was the performer I was most excited to see grace an Empire recording studio. Timbaland’s modern hip-hop vibe melded with the Hole singer’s whiskey-soaked growl? It’s an intriguing concept that, if done right, has the potential to be unexpectedly epic.

“Take Me to the River”—Elle Dallas

However, it appears we’ll have to wait a week (or more) before the show lets Love entirely off the leash. For her character, Elle Dallas’, first song, Empire Entertainment’s oldest artist takes an odd left turn into 1970s funk, and covers Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”

It isn’t clear from the episode if the song was meant to be an Elle original, or if Green’s hit (which has been covered by everyone from the Grateful Dead to Annie Lennox) already existed in the show’s universe. Those excited at the idea of a punk version may have their hopes briefly confirmed by the scuzzy guitars that open the song, but as soon as Elle’s vocal comes in, we’re in full Motown mode, complete with background singers ooh-ing and aah-ing and horns a-blaring.

Of course, Love’s impish snarl can’t be entirely suppressed, not even by a full brass band. Elle remains in control of the song, rasping away over those background singers and carrying some impressively long notes. Still, the lyrics of “Take Me to the River” (about leaving behind a no-good lover) are perfectly suited to the minor-key, punch-to-the-gut howl that Love does so well. Not getting down and dirty with the whole production feels like a missed opportunity.

“I Wanna Love You”—Jamal Lyon

Jamal has been hustling the past few weeks, and now his sudden interest in a having a career is starting to pay off. “Keep Your Money” is climbing the charts, and he debuts his new track, “I Wanna Love You,” live on Sway’s radio show. But with fame and success, it can be easy to lose yourself. I fear that’s the lesson Empire is deliberately imparting via Jamal’s newest song.

“I Wanna Love You,” which Jussie Smollett wrote and produced himself, is a smooth R&B jam, and Jamal’s voice coasts through several acrobatic runs that remind me all over again how great a singer he actually is. But for all that, the song lacks the vulnerability and heart of a Lyon original. There’s a lot of Usher in there, a little Michael Jackson, and not nearly enough Jamal. Smooth can be good, but not when it’s sanded flat.

It’s also interesting that, for the first time, we don’t see Jamal slave over the track before releasing it. “I Wanna Love You” comes to the screen fully formed, without any indication of the trials that inspired it. Hopefully next week, Jamal and Michael’s ongoing relationship troubles will spark a song with equally admirable vocals, but also a little more life.

“Can’t Truss ‘Em”—Hakeem Lyon

At last, that “animal” energy Lucious knows Hakeem possesses rears its head again. When the youngest Lyon son gets in his zone, there really is no stopping him. “Can’t Truss ‘Em,” the fiercest performance we’ve heard from the rapper since “No Apologies,” doesn’t even rely on a singer to chime in on its chorus. The song is 100 percent Hakeem, blasting his anger at Tiana into his microphone.

Of course, Cookie is right—because when is she ever not?—that the song’s lyrical content (about her son’s hurt feelings and retaliatory misogyny) makes him sound immature. Which he is. But as usual, Hakeem’s impressive, energizing delivery, smart wordplay, and sheer confidence overshadow the single’s flaws. He basically wills his music to be compelling and fun, and so it is, even when his music’s subject is anything but.

“Can’t Truss ‘Em” was only featured briefly in the episode. (Playing snippets of songs throughout the hour is an annoying side effect of the way the recording process is portrayed on the show.) That leaves the door open for a full performance next week, which I hope Empire capitalizes on.

But by far the most exciting song coming up next week on Empire‘s seventh episode will be Jamal and Hakeem’s second collaboration of the season. Those two are always better together—which I think might be the endgame the show is headed toward.

Empire airs Wednesdays at 9/8C on Fox.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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