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'Empire' fan react: Rating the music from 'Sins of the Father'

Season 1 | Episode 10 | “Sins of the Father” | Aired Mar 11, 2015

This week on Empire, Jamal and Hakeem both sing about the most important women in their lives, Jennifer Hudson heals Andre through the power of song, and Mary J. Blige is sorely underused.

“Sins of the Father” was billed as a double-diva doozy: The show has been promoting Blige’s and Hudson’s appearances for weeks now, and I was prepared to sit back and let the pros teach the Lyons a thing or two. But when the clock struck 10 and the episode ended, I realized neither of these legendary ladies had made much of an impression—probably because Empire decided to squeeze 15 other plotlines into its 42 minutes, along with new music from the two Lyon brothers who are not currently heavily sedated. Just adding insult to injury is the fact that these singers are forced to share musical billing with Naomi Campbell—who is lovely, I’m sure, but not exactly renowned for her musicianship.

Blige’s talent, especially, is misspent on a single scene, which includes just a few bars of her duet with Lucious. You can listen to the entire song here:

“Shake Down”—Lucious Lyon and Angie (Mary J. Blige)

Like last week’s “Conqueror,” “Shake Down” is also a cover performed by both the original artist and a Lyon. The song, featuring Usher, originally appeared on Blige’s 2007 album Growing Pains, for which she won a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album. (Guess who else also collected a Grammy for her own album that same year: Jennifer Hudson).

Surprisingly, Empire‘s version is more affecting than the original. Even more astonishing: Its emotional intensity comes courtesy of Lucious. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect I’d enjoy the CEO’s take on a song more than Usher’s, but Lucious’ gruff intensity is a better complement to Angie than Usher’s silky smoothness. Lucious’ runs—particularly that unmistakable, throat-ripping growl—expressed more true feeling than the character has all season.

But don’t think that just because Lucious belts out a line or two, Angie gets left in his dust. She easily holds her own, and it’s encouraging to hear that, eight years later, Blige can still hit that undulating, spine-tingling note.

“Lola”—Jamal Lyon and Hakeem Lyon

It’s difficult to remember the last time Jamal sounded this happy on a song. Dude’s an angsty guy most of the time—and he often has a right to be. But “Lola” is a fun respite from all that gloom. His vocal has just a touch of rawness on the end of some of his lines—enough to bring home how deeply he feels the song’s content, while still keeping everything upbeat. I just wish the production weren’t so heavy-handed. What does that clunky electronica backing music have to do with the rest of the track? This is a love letter to Jamal’s daughter, so I wish we’d gotten something a little more stripped down and personal, rather than a charged-up dance track.

But still, there’s no way to hate this song, especially when Empire starts piling on the scenes of Jamal and Lola (Leah Jeffries) playing together. It’s not fair, but it works: I can’t criticize anything in the face of all that adorable. Even Uncle Hakeem’s verse had an uncharacteristic sweetness to it.

“Remember the Music”—Michelle White (Jennifer Hudson)

Honestly, I’m a little put out that, after hearing “Remember the Music” in person, Andre isn’t just immediately cured of all his ills and discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health. What’s a little off-balance brain chemistry, after all, in the face of those perfect high notes?

Michelle’s tone is striking in its purity, strong and soft in equal measure. She’s a music therapist, so the whole point of “Remember the Music” is to express pain and then guide her patient through a healing process. Well, consider me healed. There’s so much more in this song to admire than just technical skill. There are moments when Michelle’s control slips just for a second, when the weight of her words seems enough to nearly topple her. Those instances build and build, and the payoff at the height of the track is blissful agony.

(Now, about the percussive bursts that interrupt the song every few seconds: I can’t be the only one who was immediately reminded of the sound effect The Voice uses whenever a singer is picked or stolen. I kept expecting Adam Levine to pop up and shout, “Michelle, who do you pick as your coach?!”)

 “Nothing but a Number”—Hakeem Lyon and Camilla Marks (Naomi Campbell)

Finally we get to see just what Yoko can do. If this is the “new direction” she wants to send Hakeem in, I say give Camilla a seat on Empire’s board of directors. Though “Nothing but a Number” doesn’t actually sound that far removed from anything the boy wonder has put out before, it explores a mellow, almost hypnotic feel that stills brims with ‘Keem’s mischievous, smirking wordplay and overconfidence—the qualities that make his best songs so damn enjoyable.

I started out hating that creepy-cute intro, but it grows on me each time I listen. It has a dark edge that plays off the track’s just-shy-of-wrong subject matter. “They all say she a cougar/I hope they take me to the zoo” is exactly the type of clever, filthy lyric I love to hear from the rapper. Just next time, skip the more exotic animal sounds—is that a donkey I hear? This show already has enough asses.

Next week, Empire’s two-hour season finale features another performances from Hudson (this time with Juicy J), plus songs from Snoop Dogg, Rita Ora, Patti LaBelle, and the Lyons, of course.

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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