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'Empire' fan react: Rating the music from 'Unto the Breach'

Season 1 | Episode 9 | “Unto the Breach” | Aired Mar 4, 2015

This week on Empire, Jamal sexes it up and records a pop duet with Empire’s newest artist, Delphine (Estelle). Veronica returns just to remind everyone else she’s still on another level. And the whole gang gives us yet another take on “You’re So Beautiful”—in case you missed it the first three times.

Here are my takes on last night’s song selections!

“All of the Above”—Jamal Lyon

It may have taken Jamal a minute to come out of the closet, but now that he’s out, the singer is fully embracing his sexy side. His latest single is “All of the Above,” a spare, electronically infused slow jam about gettin’ it on. More than any other performer on Empire, Jamal pushes himself to explore new musical genres and try on different styles, which I appreciate. This one, however—which sounds like a combination of The Weeknd and a guided meditation CD—doesn’t work. Spending the entire song up in his falsetto leaves Jamal no room to convey any emotion besides a kind of post-coital haziness, and the backing music sounds like something you’d hear playing out of a fake rock at a yoga retreat.

Then, of course, there’s that music video. Note to Jamal: You are not D’Angelo. Put your shirt back on, stop rubbing your stomach like you’ve got food poisoning, and find a new videographer. Your guy is cute and all, but I’m seriously questioning his skills if all he can come up with is a single shot of you standing in front of an Empire logo. “All of the Above” is Jamal’s first single since his big announcement, and it’s a sensual song. So why doesn’t the video feature any sort of romantic interaction at all, and why are the lyrics completely free of any gendered pronouns? Come on, ‘Mal: Sam Smith won four Grammys last month. You can sing the word “him” (especially considering the gratuitous amount of scantily clad female models featured in Hakeem’s video for “Drip Drop”).

“Black & Blue”—Veronica

Jamal may be a little off his game this week, but I’m not even mad, because Veronica finally took a break from harp playing (or whatever it is musical goddesses do) to bequeath us mere mortals with another song.

In the episode, she sang “Black & Blue” a cappella for Baretti (Judd Nelson) and the rest of Creedmore’s board. It’s understandable if that rendition didn’t have quite the same wow factor as her first performance, “What is Love” … if only because her scratchy voice, which breaks repeatedly, isn’t as polished as most radio releases. But that raw, hoarse tone—combined with Veronica’s powerful, captivating voice and her mastery of the song’s complex emotional terrain—is exactly what makes her the most fascinating artist on all of Empire. Lucious and all the rest may chitchat about how “it’s all about the music,” but Veronica is living it. The version of “Black & Blue” that’s available for download isn’t the same as what she sings on the show. Instead, it’s a full studio production, complete with backup singers and a synth, but that only adds to the song’s impact. Like Cookie loves to say, V’s voice is above the mix—exactly where is belongs.

“Conqueror”—Jamal Lyon and Delphine

Empire has done a few covers before, but never with the original artist singing along. “Conqueror” is an Estelle original off her most recent album, True Romance (which was released just two weeks ago). I only wish that the show’s production hadn’t so exactly mimicked the first version (even down to the same tinkling piano). What’s the point of a cover that hews so closely to its predecessor?

Ironically, Jamal’s duet with Delphine feels like a more fitting coming-out anthem than his solo track, “All of the Above.” Their voices pair work well together, and it was clear from their scene that the two performers amped each other up and fed off each other’s energies.

But it’s also obvious this song is Delphine’s to own. And own it she does—there’s a reason Estelle won that Grammy, after all. If you’re going to make a defiant song that’s also upbeat, you’re bound to lose a little edge (not that “Conqueror” has much to start with). But it’s not hard to get swept up in the jubilant message, or in Delphine’s soaring voice.

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


And finally, the song that just won’t die. This week’s version marks the fourth rendition of “You’re So Beautiful” that Empire has aired over the last three weeks. When will it end? Will Jamal’s daughter be releasing her own Kidz Bop version next? She’s pretty much the only Lyon who hasn’t taken a crack at it—except for Andre, who was off having a bipolar episode while the rest of his family gathered round the piano for a singalong.

For all my misgivings, however, “You’re So Beautiful” 4.0 is my favorite version of the song. We finally get to hear Lucious really sing a verse, and his smooth and smoky vocal is a nice complement to the kids’ takes on the chorus. Hakeem’s rap, like the entire song, is also much more playful and lighthearted than what he spit during “The Lyon’s Roar.” Best of all, there’s a little switcheroo going on: Jamal raps a few lines, while Hakeem attempts to sing background runs. The middle Lyon brother is more successful than his younger sibling, but judging from the laughter that closes out the song, no one really minds.

Next week, in the season’s penultimate episode, two true divas—Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson—grace Empire with their presence. Bow down.

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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