Jussie Smollett has shown off his musical talents for years as one of the stars of FOX's musical drama "Empire." Now he's stepping outside of the show with his first album, Sum of My Music, which is available on iTunes and showcases a different side of the actor-singer that music fans will be interested to hear.
The R&B record is close enough to what Smollett has performed on "Empire" that it will feel familiar to the millions of fans who have heard him on TV every Wednesday; it's not taking any wild musical leaps. Songs like the sincere "Freedom," which is a ballad with interesting lyrical imagery beyond the usual love song, and "Hurt People," which implores the audience to be more mindful of their actions, wisely put Smollett's vocals front and center. Those vocals are exceptionally clear, which makes it an even better listen because fans will be able to hear almost all of his lyrical wordplay.
There are some areas that could be stronger, which is to be expected from anyone's first record. There are places in Sum of My Music where Smollett's performance gets a little lost in the effects, as in "What I Would Do," which takes an electronic turn. The resulting warping of Smollett's vocals takes away from how good he already sounds. It's a record where less truly is more, and when there are other things going on in the background it takes away from the overall experience. Album closer "I Know My Name" is too busy of a song, and the rap element just doesn't mesh with the R&B on the rest of the album.
That doesn't mean Sum of My Music is without merit. Jussie Smollett has put together a solid first album that will give his fans everything they want and proves that he has an exceptional voice. The relative lack of risk-taking is normal for a first album, and this record will get you excited for what he could do with the next one. If he strips back some of the production and sticks to what he does very well, he could easily climb the R&B ranks and become a music sensation as well as a TV one.
Per the album's press release, Smollett self-released the album as an independent artist under his own Music of Sound label. Already having been recording and releasing his own music before "Empire" found him, he's continuing the do-it-yourself tradition with his latest album. That lends Sum of My Music a certain extra charm because you can hear on the record that Smollett is just someone who loves music and wants to share his with the audience. Even though he may have a bigger profile and more tools at his disposal, the intent of the album is pure and endearing. It's a good start, and he has plenty of room to get even better on the second one.
Sum of My Music is now available on iTunes. Smollett has not yet announced any tour dates in support of the record. Below is the album's track listing:
2. "Catch Your Eye"
3. "Hurt People"
4. "Ha Ha (I Love You)"
7. "Don't Go"
8. "What I Would Do"
10. "I Know My Name"
For more on Jussie Smollett, visit his artist page at AXS.