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'Empire' fan react: Rating the music from 'Our Dancing Days'

Season 1 | Episode 7 | “Our Dancing Days” | Aired Feb 18, 2015

This week on Empire, Lucious shows off his unexpected soft side, Elle sings the blues, and Jamal and Hakeem feud, but end up making beautiful music together (twice!).

“Our Dancing Days” was all about Empire Entertainment proving how family friendly the company can be to potential IPO investors (never mind that the label’s roster seems filled with addicts, criminals, and rappers who expose themselves in fancy dining establishments). To prove the point, Cookie made sure that one Elle Dallas showed up to rehearsal as sober as Sunday—and ready for her comeback:

“Walk Out on Me”—Elle Dallas

Elle’s second Empire performance vastly outshines last week’s debut. “Walk Out on Me,” a bluesy original, is backed by a three-piece band, rather than the full brass section featured in “Take Me to the River.” The simpler production really allows Elle’s voice to shine. And shine it does. Look, we all know that Courtney Love is no longer 30 years old (her age the year Hole released Live Through This). But Love’s raw, husky tone remains intact, as does her ability to sell a sad song.

I’m still holding out for a real grunge moment from Elle, but it’s certainly not unusual for rock singers to take on less aggressive genres late in their careers (see: Robert Plant). “Walk Out on Me” gives Empire‘s viewers a glimpse of the singer whose platinum records started the company. Her pained lament isn’t just a send-off to some boyfriend. It’s an “F you” to everyone who’s counted her out. Can’t get much more rock ‘n’ roll than that.

“Live in the Moment”—Jamal and Hakeem Lyon

We first heard “Live in the Moment” in the pilot, back when Jamal and Hakeem were showing off on Lucious’s massive yacht. Of the two collaborations we’ve seen from them before “Our Dancing Days,” I would have preferred a second rendition of “No Apologies.” But considering the brothers already performed that at the opening of Leviticus, it makes sense that Timbaland decided to dust off this track for another go-around instead.

That’s not to say “Live in the Moment” isn’t a fun jam. The slightly ominous piano chord that sits beneath Hakeem’s verses gives the rap a bounce, and makes not bobbing your head along impossible. (I only wish the episode’s director, Sanaa Hamri, had included a reaction shot from Becky, my dance-move guru.) His lyrical claims about being “the best that ever did it” are as preposterous as ever, but like always, somehow Hakeem’s overconfidence comes off as charming. (The line “Lucious gave me birth” still makes me pause, though. He has met Cookie, right?)

Jamal takes a more backseat role on “Live in the Moment,” but his part on the chorus is still rich and full, with just enough edge to keep things fresh.

“Money for Nothing”—Jamal and Hakeem Lyon

The middle Lyon certainly doesn’t play second fiddle on Jamal and Hakeem’s second duet of the episode, “Money for Nothing,” which they perform at the party that Empire throws for investors. The song is a weird choice in lots of ways: For starters, it’s a cover of a Dire Straits single from in 1985—which makes it an odd pick for the boys to play at Empire’s big bash, as opposed to a Lyon original. It was also originally a pop song, but the show’s version has a distinct rock-guitar element (more rock than anything Elle has yet put out)—and neither genre is Empire Entertainment’s calling card. Last, the original lyrics make frequent—like, excessively frequent—use of a certain homophobic slur. I’m choosing to believe that Jamal rearranged “Money for Nothing” as a way to subtly appropriate the homophobic track for his own purposes … but it could just as easily have been an oversight by Empire‘s musical team.

Nevertheless, if we divorce “Money for Nothing” from all that context, Jamal and Hakeem’s version (about how excessively wealthy the company has made them) is one of the most unique and intriguing songs Empire has put out thus far. Jamal’s voice has a real bite—for once, he’s not relegated to just crooning on the chorus, though he does that too. He even gets in a few screams and woofs at the end of his verses, which are normally Hakeem’s specialty. I like this look on him (maybe he needs to break up with his boyfriend more often). “Money for Nothing” explores the genre-bending possibilities of everything Jamal’s career could be, if he’s smart enough to break away from his comfort zone of R&B ballads on occasion.

“You’re So Beautiful”—Lucious Lyon

Finally, another song from Lucious’s glory days as a chart-topping performer. At least, that’s the sentiment “You’re So Beautiful” is meant to evoke in viewers. In practice, the track is much more “Huh?” than “Hell yeah.” Since when does Papa Lyon sing sappy love songs? I thought he was the founder of Philly’s gangsta rap scene.

I get that the number, which serves as the soundtrack to Lucious and Cookie’s reconciliation, is meant to hark back to a time when they were together and in love. But that idea could have been conveyed just as easily through a song that actually jived with Lucious’ character— a song that does not include a twangy acoustic guitar intro.

And another thing: Why does “You’re So Beautiful” include references to Cookie’s weight, like “Sexy comes in every size” and “I call that baby fat, but it sure look good to me”? We’ve seen flashbacks to the couple in the 1990s. Cookie’s body looked exactly the same then as it does now (probably because Taraji P. Henson didn’t take a time machine back two decades to film those scenes). I have no complaint about the lyrics’ sentiments, but again, they don’t at all fit with the characters’ actual backstories.

Next week, Jamal puts his own spin on “You’re So Beautiful,” and Hakeem is in solo mode once more.

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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