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'Empire' fan react: Rating the music from 'The Lyon's Roar'

Season 1 | Episode 8 | “The Lyon’s Roar” | Aired Feb 25, 2015

This week on Empire, Jamal uses Lucious’ own song to finally “share his truth,” and it’s a family affair in the studio—minus Andre, of course.

In every previous episode, Empire has presented viewers with a variety of musical genres and performers to sample. We might get a taste of Hakeem’s quick and dirty raps, a bit of Jamal’s angsty R&B ballads, and a dash of Elle’s soulful rasp, all in a single hour—plus, if we were lucky, an extra song by whatever incredible guest artist was joining the Lyons that week.

But “The Lyon’s Roar” takes a different approach: Instead of three different songs, we are treated to one song performed three different ways, by three different Lyons.

At the beginning of the episode, Cookie and Lucious are still on cloud nine after their, um, reconciliation the night before. Cookie suggests that, to go along with Empire’s IPO debut and the whole general rebranding of the label as a family company, they should rerelease one of Lucious’s old hits, with Jamal and Hakeem adding their own twists to the track.

Thus, “The Lyon’s Roar” includes a repeat of the original “You’re So Beautiful,” which Papa Lyon recorded in the 1990s, as well as versions featuring his two musical sons. I reviewed Lucious’s rendition last week, so I won’t harp on it again, except to say that the lyrics do make a bit more sense in context. Though Empire doesn’t make it totally clear, the show implies that the CEO wrote the song soon after Cookie was sent to prison, which somewhat explains its general mushiness and lack of bite (though its references to his wife’s supposed “baby fat” remain a mystery).

But enough about that old windbag. Let’s take a look at the updated versions of the song:

“You’re So Beautiful” —Jamal, Hakeem, Lucious, and Cookie Lyon

With the original as a starting point, it would have been hard for the family not to improve “You’re So Beautiful.” And yet, even with the four of them in the studio—that’s Cookie’s voice you hear sassing “How much you pay for it?” and Lucious doing backup vocals—the song still comes off as pretty uninspired. Would it get radio play? For sure. But that doesn’t make it worthy of four Lyons’ worth of talent. I appreciate the choice to turn the track into an uptempo dance jam, but Jamal’s voice is underused, and Hakeem doesn’t exhibit his typical dominating energy.

Speaking of, perhaps the only way this version of “You’re So Beautiful” distinguishes itself amid the Empire catalog is that it includes the corniest rap we’ve heard yet—and we’ve all heard “Drip Drop.” Seriously, who let the line “You gotta be a beaver to get wood from me” ever see the light of day? And don’t even get me started on the rapper referring to himself as “the Hakeem.” (Though, in his defense, “up down, up down, up down” is super catchy.)

As everyone who watched “The Lyon’s Roar” knows, however, there’s another version of “You’re So Beautiful” that defined the episode, and it only features one performer:

“You’re So Beautiful (White Party Version)” —Jamal Lyon

Like the previous rendition, Jamal’s solo take on “You’re So Beautiful” also nixes the sad acoustic guitar that opened Lucious’ version, in favor of some funked-up electric strumming. Also gone: the “Watching you like a camera do” line (thank God).

There are a lot of moving parts on this track: two different choruses, a bridge, verses that include both singing and rapping, and whole bunch of unnecessary auto-tune. Plus, the entire production sends a somewhat confusing message: Obviously, Jamal makes it clear he’s singing about a guy, and yet he doesn’t omit lyrics about manicures and big thighs (which are gender-neutral images within hip-hop only by the greatest stretch of the imagination).

Considering all this, when I first listened to the song before watching the episode, I wasn’t particularly keen on it. But on Empire, the music and the storylines aren’t meant to be separated. Seeing Jamal perform his big coming-out number at the White Party dissolved most of my doubts about his “You’re So Beautiful” arrangement. Because Jamal’s defiance is infectious. Easy, sexy confidence radiates off his vocal. Watch him belt out words about loving another man, and suddenly the song becomes a powerhouse. In this case, at least, the message is greater than the medium. And nothing beats the irony of using what was, originally, Lucious’ hit to publicly announce his sexuality.

On next week’s episode, “American Boy” singer Estelle guests as an aspiring Empire artist and duets with Jamal, and Veronica (V. Bozeman)—one of the most exciting performers to appear on the show—returns to school everyone in how it’s done.

Empire airs on 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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