Jussie Smollett & Alicia Keys Come Together To Bring Something ‘Powerful’ To ‘Empire’

Empire‘s been a bit bogged down with high profile guest stars this season, but recent episodes have reined in the focus back to the show’s main stars: The Lyon clan. However, this week’s episode brings in another A-list cameo when R&B singer Alicia Keys steps into the role of Skye Summers, a purple-haired pop star. Of course this means that like Estelle before her, she has a big duet with Jussie Smollett, the show’s resident crooner. And with just a couple days until the show airs, we get to hear the number.

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“Powerful” is exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration between Smollett and Keys. A piano-driven, schmaltzy ballad about giving peace a chance, the lyrics here evoke Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as they sing of the strength we all have and how powerful we can be if we all just came together. It’s a nice sentiment, of course, but it’s also delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer going through a wall. “Malcolm’s probably turning in his grave,” Jussie sings at one point, with Alicia following up to remind us “every shade was beautifully made.” And, as is almost always the case, as they launch into the chorus, strings begin to soar, a rock guitar begins to buzz and Auto-Tune gets a workout as the two vocalists reach for the rafters.

While we get that this number is supposed to be this season’s “Conqueror” moment, it all comes off just a tiny bit contrived. But of course we say this without hearing the song in context of the show. Take a listen to “Powerful” below and tune into Empire on Wednesday to see how it’ll play into the show’s plot. As well, you can listen to “Powerful” and the rest of the songs from the first half of this season on Empire: Original Soundtrack, Season 2 Volume 1, which landed in stores on November 20th.

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