Empire: A definitive ranking of Jamal's best songs in Season 2 (VIDEO)
The second season of Empire is now well underway and, just as we'd hoped, the characters are more compelling than ever. And just as Jamal is now front and center at the family company, Jussie Smollett — the phenomenal talent who plays the middle Lyon son — commands every scene he is in.
In addition to bringing arresting sensitivity to the role of a young gay artist struggling to reconcile his personal life with his industry aspirations, Smollett delivers musical performances that pack such a powerful punch they take our breath away. And with Smollett garnering even more buzz this season than last, it's no wonder fans are dying for the entertainer's highly anticipated album to drop.
Even his costars are obsessed with his voice.
So, here's what we know. Smollett's album is expected to drop later this year. In January, when a fan asked if he had another album in the works following his 2012 EP, The Poisoned Hearts Club, Smollett responded, "Yes... album coming this year." In fact, we've already seen a few Smollett originals on the series — and will likely see more. "Before I booked Empire, I was recording an album," he told ETonline. "Four songs of mine have been chosen for this season," before citing "I Want to Love You" as a song he wrote and produced.
During that interview, Smollett admitted that he and Jamal are similar artists in that they are both "very autobiographical songwriters."
Could this mean that watching Empire each week is like getting a sneak peek into Smollett's upcoming album? It sure sounds like it. And, in other good news, the album definitely seems to be moving forward, since Smollett tweeted this out before tonight's episode.
But seeing as his album release can't come quickly enough — and his performances on tonight's episode still have us mesmerized — we decided to count down Jamal's Season 2 performances so far. Since he can apparently do no wrong, this isn't a worst to best hierarchy. Think of it more as amazing to, well, even more amazing.
5. "No Doubt About It" (feat. Pitbull)
C'mon... this is fun, fun, fun. Smollett and Pitbull pair nicely together, and the end result is a track that could easily be a club hit. It doesn't hurt that "No Doubt About It" has a killer official video directed by Gil Green (who has worked with John Legend and Diddy).
4. "Born to Lose" (feat. Sean Cross, Swizz Beatz and Yazz)
This wasn't just a song this season — it was an event. More so, it was a message. "'Born to Lose' was just a phenomenal song to record," Smollett said. "It's just the rawness of what's going on in the world today. I love it. It's actually about something." And with Smollett, Sean Cross, Swizz Beatz and Yazz coming together to tackle topics like police brutality and racial equality through song, is it ever about something. Listen to the full track here.
3. "Ain't About the Money" (feat. Yazz)
Empire isn't holding back this year — and it's a glorious thing to hear. From tonight's episode, "Ain't About the Money" features Smollett and Yazz — as Jamal and Hakeem, obviously singing about the dynamics of power using a post-apocalyptic Black Panther theme with the brothers metaphorically fighting police oppression.
2. "Battle Cry"
Yes, this is another song from from tonight's episode. What can I say? Tonight's music was on point. This song very nearly made the top spot and, to be honest, I'm almost inclined to call it a toss up — particularly when you factor in that Ne-Yo (swoon) is the executive producer. It's also interesting to learn it was the most difficult track for them to knock out. Listen to the full track here.
1. "Born to Love U"
Perhaps we're partial to this track because we know Smollett wrote and produced it. But, regardless, it's just a haunting song in which Smollett's voice soars — not to mention, that beat and synth thrown in the mix! With music like this, how is Smollett not an international superstar by now?