Carly Lane
March 10, 2015 12:29 pm

Empire is, without question, the hit of the 2015 television season. The show has not only topped must-watch lists — but its viewership keeps increasing week-by-week, and at a seriously impressive rate. So what’s drawing people in?

The show has already earned a bevy of hat tips from critics and fans alike for its over-the-top drama and its portrayal of complicated family dynamics — not to mention its excitingly diverse cast. The plot is also rock solid with an unquestionable Shakespearean undertone — co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong have cited both King Lear and The Lion in Winter as their loose inspiration for the story, as well as the ’80s TV show Dynasty.

In case you missed it. . .here’s the premise (if you’re already a devoted viewer, please ignore my rudimentary explainer): Record label mogul Lucius Lyon (Terrence Howard) receives the untimely news that he has less than three years to live after being diagnosed with ALS. He’s then forced to revisit his priorities — and the fate of his music label — and turns to his three sons, in the hopes that he can groom one of them to take over the company. Oldest son and CFO Andre (Trai Byers) is hungry for the promotion, but also struggles with bipolar disorder. Middle child Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is trying to reconcile his part in the music industry with his personal life. And the youngest, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) would rather party than work. Meanwhile, everyone’s taken for a ride when ex-wife and matriarch Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) walks back into their lives. That’s the long and short of it.

From the very beginning of the series, the audience is made to understand how important the music is — and will be — to the fabric of the show. “It was the music that saved my life,” Lucius explains in an opening scene, when reminiscing about his life as a former drug dealer. Music is the heart of Empire, and it bleeds into every scene. Each song is as important as each line of dialogue — playing as a backdrop to an exposition scene, revealing a secret about a character that’s never been spoken out loud, or even just taking us back to a moment in history.

IRL there’s a killer team of artists behind the music of Empire — Timbaland, Jim Beanz and several other musical collaborators take their cues from the show’s writers every week, crafting and choosing songs to fit the theme of the episode. “The story drives the music, the music doesn’t drive the story,” Daniels explained in an interview with Variety.

Several of the shows songs have already ascended to peak positions on the iTunes charts. The great thing about the music of Empire is that by making it accessible to fans outside of the show, it also makes the audience feel like they’re even more immersed in the story. With the official season one soundtrack finally released today, we decided to take a look at some of the most memorable musical moments from the show so far. These songs and scenes pretty much speak for themselves.

“Good Enough” feat. Jussie Smollett (from “Pilot”)

“You’re So Beautiful” feat. Jussie Smollett (from “The Lyon’s Roar”)

 

“No Apologies” feat. Bryshere Gray & Jussie Smollett (from “The Unspoken King”)

“Keep Your Money” feat. Jussie Smollett (from “Dangerous Bonds”) 

“Tell The Truth” feat. Jussie Smollett (from “The Unspoken King”)

“Take Me To The River” feat. Courtney Love (from “Out Damned Spot”)

“Conqueror” feat. Jussie Smollett and Estelle (from “Unto the Breach”)

You can get the Empire Season One soundtrack online via iTunes or pick up a copy wherever CDs are sold (are CDs still sold?). Now, if you don’t mind me, I’ll be over here listening to mine on repeat.

[Featured image via]

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