Jussie Smollett vs. Jamal From 'Empire's Music: How Do Their Sounds Compare?
Growing up, one of the biggest debates among my friends is whether or not the actors on Saved By the Bell really sang "Friends Forever" and the other songs they crooned as the band Zack Attack. Or was it merely autotune? At 10 years old, it was a discussion for the ages. Luckily, it's one that never has to be had about Fox's Empire , which stars plenty of real-life singers, including the very talented Jussie Smollett. The 31-year-old actor/singer has been making music even before playing Jamal on Empire. And it's a role that fits him perfectly, because Jamal and Smollett have a similar sound.
Smollett comes from a very talented Hollywood family and many of his siblings also act and sing. You know his sister Jurnee as Jess from Friday Night Lights. But Smollett become a breakout star on his own. He has a record deal with Columbia records and received a rave review from the Associated Press for his work on the recently released Empire soundtrack. "Smollett is the soundtrack's breakout star," wrote AP writer Melanie J. Sims. "The upbeat 'I Wanna Love You' and irresistibly sunny 'You're So Beautiful' — both co-written by Smollett — give audiences a sense of the actor's off-screen musical abilities."
Smollett co-wrote the two pop-ish singles and, in real life, Smollett's music seems to veer more toward upbeat pop, while Jamal leans more toward soulful R&B. Take a listen for yourself.
Smollett Dances It Up
Smollett has posted a number of acoustic pop covers, like Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and "Heartless" by Kanye West. Smollett gets dancing in this video for this very energetic pop song called "Get Em Up" from his 2011 EP Poisoned Hearts Club.
He's also the featured vocals on a catchy pop/EDM single called "U Don't Love Me" by Gina Star, released in 2012.
Jamal Croons At His Keyboard
Sure, Jamal knows how to put on a show, but he tends to stick to sitting and singing at his keyboard or in the studio most of the time. He's not into making a flashy music videos like Hakeem. And that's just fine, because Jamal lets his voice do the magic for him. In the pilot, Jamal shined and commanded the stage as he sang the sadness-tinged "Good Enough" (above) from behind his keyboard. Recently, the character sang an epic ballad with Estelle called "Conquerer" in the studio.
"Keep Your Money," Jamal's declaration of independence from Lucious, has a dark angry tone to a very catchy earworm. Not much to smile about there.
Smollett & Jamal Come Together
Smollett co-wrote "You're So Beautiful," a decadent upbeat pop treat, and the lyrics contain a very important part of Jamal's performance — when he officially comes out as gay, changing the lyrics to "This is the kind of song that makes a man love a man." I think this is officially where Jamal and Smollett's music merges, combining a distinct character moment for Jamal with Smollett's pop sound.
Image: Chuck Hodes/Fox