No Contest: Empire versus Power
50 Cent, our country’s largest manufacturer of beef, is sniping at Empire again. The MC and mogul took to his Instagram to make yet another mockery of Fox’s hit show, deriding it as “sh*t you can get for free,” while pushing the premium value of his show, Power, on Starz.
This despite the fact that Empire is NOT EVEN ON THE DANG AIR and Power just earned some RECORD RATINGS. Sorry I’m getting loud and I know this is 50’s thing to profit off of feuds, but I’m kind of boiling because these are two shows with outstanding Black talent in front of and behind the scenes. Why pit them against one another, man?
Aside from themes of wealth, greed and lust, there are five major points of difference on all aspects of these shows. Don’t believe me, just watch.
1. Leading Ladies
Other than both of them being integral to the rise of the central male characters on the show, the similarities skid to a stop as it pertains to Ghost’s wife, Tasha and Lucious’s spurned ex, Cookie. Cookie (the amazing Taraji P. Henson) is already an ex, cast aside and left to languish in prison, while her scheming music mogul man rose to the top and raised her kids. Naturi Naughton’s complicated Tasha, for now anyway, maintains wife status and though confrontational, is much cooler in temperament than Cookie, and clearly still taken with Ghost. Not so much for Cookie who, after a brief slip, recognized Lucious for the pond scum parasite he was and told him to kick rocks with no socks. They are both within the realm of ride-or-die chicks, but clearly at different stages of that cycle. Tasha still believes it can work and that she can pull her man back into the drug underworld where she is most comfortable. And the energy each of these women gives off is unique to the respective role. Comparing them isn’t fair to either talented actress.
2. Male Call
Ghost (fine arse Omari Hardwick) looks like he could crush any mortal with just his pinkie finger. Crazily muscular, a man of few words and contemplative, he is the perfect foil to his hot-head partner, Tommy, who is definitely wild for the night. (I’d actually like to see Cookie and Tommy out on a date.) Lucious (portrayed by Terrence Howard) is a simpering, scheming and mouthy villain whose harsh words to his sons, Cookie, employees and even his Boo Boo Kitty are liable to make someone knuckle up and smash him in the lips. He and Ghost bear almost no similarity other than being wealthy, powerful and beset by sketchy pasts. True, both are trying to go legit but in different ways. Ghost’s club is his refuge while Lucious lives to take his Empire label public and reap the spoils. Not to mention, Lucious looks like he can’t even take Cookie’s assistant in a fight. Next!!!!
3. Music, Please
It’s true that both these shows revolve around music, but it’s much more of a throbbing soundtrack on “Power” than on Empire, as the latter is laser-focused on the hip-hop and R&B industry. I’d argue “Power” has the better aural assortment, tapping into contemporary hits and the gritty, true-to-Fiddy’s-roots theme that reflects the show’s coldness. Empire mixes music into the narrative, with original songs performed by Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Terrence Howard and Hakim. Because of the men’s different musical sensibilities, you’ll hear soul, mainstream rap, radio-friendly pop and even some New Jack swing while Power pushes play on a harder, street sound.
4. Who Shot Ya?
Power looks like a slickly produced theatrical release awash in sober grays and blues. From the club scenes to the safe houses, its environment screams “Scorcese” rather than “soap opera.” When you watch Empire, you’re overwhelmed with garish, braying bright colors whether on the set or draped on Cookie’s amazing frame. The shades on the camp-tastic hit scream louder, in fact, than the beloved heroine when she catches her ex-man, Lucious, involved in yet another shady scheme.
There are very few laughs on Power. Ghost himself is perpetually scowling, unless he’s snuggled up with his ex-girlfriend/mistress in her cozy bed. Tommy, though he provides a little levity ribbing Ghost and cracking wise with rivals, is also a ruthless killer and there’s little to giggle about as he makes his way about town threatening and beating he and Ghost’s enemies into submission. Though Empire covers serious themes from mental illness to homophobia to domestic violence, the contemporary hip-hop Dallas adds its own laugh track through Cookie’s on-point insults, Lucious’ occasional hits at his own image, and Hakeem’s awful radio rapping. Drip drop, anyone?
So, there you have it. Let’s just enjoy these two shows on two different networks with a multitude of Black talent. What do you say, Fifty? Truce?
YOUR TURN: Do you find Power and Empire similar? Back up your opinion on the subject in comments. I promise to respond!