“Empire” has added some new faces to its music team for Season 3. Singer and songwriter Ester Dean will now help create hits for the Fox show, along with songwriter Rodney Jerkins, who will serve as supervising music producer.
Dean commented on the news via an Instagram post Thursday, writing: “So blessed to be a part of this amazing musical moment @ empirefox @theoriginalbigdaddy.”
According to Billboard, Jerkins and Dean will replace Timbaland, who led the show’s songwriting team for Season 1 and 2. Shawn Holiday, senior VP of A&R for Columbia Records, which releases the music heard on “Empire,” explained to Billboard that Timbaland isn’t returning because the series wants to go in a different direction for the upcoming season. “We wanted to take a different approach for Season 3. We dealt a lot with family drama in the first season,” he said. “So we’re going for the same success with upcoming songs like ‘Mama,’ about Cookie being the backbone of the family, and a duet with Mariah Carey and Jussie Smollett.”
Jerkins is best known for working on Michael Jackson’s “Rock My World,” Beyoncé’s “Déjà vu,” Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and Brandy and Monica’s hit song “The Boy Is Mine.” Dean, who is best known for her song “Drop It Low,” starred on “Pitch Perfect” and is behind songs like Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” and Katy Perry’s “Firework.”
Billboard reported that songwriters Johntá Austin, Makeba Riddick and Jesse St. John are also joining the music team for Season 3. New-Yo and J.R. Rotem are both returning after joining in Season 2.
In another Billboard report Thursday, the outlet wrote that fans will get to hear the song “Need Freedom,” featuring Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) during the premiere. Jerkins told the outlet that the song was originally written for Freda Gatz (Bre-Z). “It stated as ‘Free Freda’ as she’s locked up in jail. But once I sat down with Jussie, we started talking about everything going on in the country,” he said, referring to the shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, as well as the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando and ambush against Dallas police. “It was like we couldn’t breathe. What are we doing as a people, a nation; what messages are we sending to the next generation. Then this song came.”
“Empire” Season 3 premieres Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.