With songs overseen by Timbaland (who produced hits for Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, Justin Timberlake and Jay Z) and partner Jim Beanz, "Empire" has boasted plenty of tunes that could easily fit on radio. Here are 10 great tracks from its debut season with comments from those behind the music.
10. "Conqueror" — Estelle and Jussie Smollett
The soaring ballad, lifted from the British R&B singer's latest album, was flipped into a duet after Columbia's senior Vice President of A&R Shawn Holiday brought it to Smollett. ("A lot of songs get rejected," Holiday says of the process.) It rocketed to No. 1 on iTunes' hip-hop/rap chart after airing.
9. "Keep It Movin' " — Serayah McNeill and Yazz
"It was really fun to record," McNeill said of the club banger. "I went from the studio right into filming the scene. Performing it live on set with the music loud was an experience I won't forget."
8. "No Apologies" — Jussie Smollett and Yazz
An early showing of the series' hip-hop grit, the anthem also serves as its main theme song. "I love working with Jussie and Timbaland," Yazz said. "When me and Jussie are together, it's like a dynamic duo."
7. "Can't Truss Em" — Yazz
Despite Hakeem's arrogance, the youngest of the Lyon brothers has had to prove his mettle. And this incendiary track helped. "He was not a very likable character until [recently]," said Geoff Bywater, Fox's head of music. "When you have originals, people have to learn who the characters are. And now you see the tracks he's involved with are starting to sell."
6. "I Wanna Love You" — Jussie Smollett
Before landing the role of Jamal, Smollett was recording his album in a home studio, and this track is from those sessions. "There was supposed to be another song in that scene, and it just felt wrong," Smollett recalled. "I had never pitched my music before, but it felt right. It's just a fun, sexy groove that has an 'Off the Wall' type of vibe."
5. "Walk Out on Me" — Courtney Love
Love's bluesy, Raphael Saadiq-produced tune is one of a few contributed by star guests. "It's always about the song," Holiday said of the celebrity guests. "The exciting part about 'Empire' is that it has stimulated the music business."
4. "You're So Beautiful" — Jussie Smollett and Yazz
The jubilant party track is among the tunes Smollett penned. "Jussie, you've gotta give him credit," Holiday said. Added Smollett: "There's so much of myself in Jamal and so much of Jamal in me. These will be my stories that I tell as an artist."
3. "What Is Love" — V. Bozeman
The searing ballad set the tone for the series in the pilot's opening minutes. "It really touched the heart and people all over," Bozeman said of the song. "There have been so many people who have done YouTube and Instagram covers," Beanz said. "I've never seen that happen off of just a snippet of a song."
2. "Drip Drop" — Yazz
Before "Drip Drop" was a viral sensation, with its ear-wormy chorus and infectious bounce, it was collecting dust from producer-writer Justin Bostwick's since-abandoned rap aspirations. "We did it almost two years ago and didn't really know what to do with it," Bostwick said. "It took some getting used to hearing someone else rapping on the song."
1. "Good Enough" — Jussie Smollett
Smollett's fiery declaration is classic Timbaland, with its thumping production and sweeping chorus. "The dilemma for us was finding the right songs that fit Jussie and the character," Holiday said. "And 'Good Enough' was perfect to play off the emotions of the powerful scene where the dad threw him in the trash can [for being gay]."