If you haven’t heard of the broadway musical “Hamilton,” I’m sorry — I’m about to ruin your life in the best way.
I don’t even remember where or when I first heard about this musical, but I was curious from the very beginning. Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and composed the play, which is based on a 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was inspired to write a musical based on Hamilton’s life while on vacation from his play “In the Heights,” and stars as Hamilton himself. The exceptional aspects of this musical, however, are that it is interpreted through a hip hop lens and that most of the actors are people of color. This video is a great introduction to the backstory and premise of the play.
One day I decided to listen to the soundtrack while I worked, and within the first few songs I was hooked. I’ve been watching videos from #Ham4Ham (this is the best one), following Miranda on Twitter and devouring any and all news about the play. I’m not the only one who finds this musical enjoyable. The soundtrack has been in the Top 5 on the rap charts and is racking up millions of streaming sessions. Tickets are notoriously hard to get and expensive, and the show has already made tens of millions of dollars in sales.
Just because you probably haven’t seen the play doesn’t mean that you can’t listen to and enjoy the soundtrack. If you have basic knowledge of Hamilton’s life, you’ll understand the play via its music. Miranda told Charlie Rose that the music from Broadway musicals were a significant part of his childhood in New York. His parents didn’t have money to go to the plays, and instead they bought cast albums. It was important to him that people could listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack and still understand the story, all while forming their own interpretations of Hamilton and his place in United States history. Genius is also a great resource for listening, as Miranda has made his own comments.
I don’t want to spoil anything for you as you uncover the brilliance that is “Hamilton,” but listening to Miranda discuss his artistic process or reading interviews where he talks about Hamilton as a person are magical experiences. The emotion just pours out of the music and the actors’ singing. The lyrics are fantastic and smart even out of context of the soundtrack, and it will put all of your favorite rappers’ songs to shame. I’ve wept while listening to a few select songs, and I’m emotional now just writing this / listening to my favorite one. I can only imagine what it’s like to see the performers live. This is what all musical theater should strive to be like, and I think it has set the benchmark for creativity and engagement. Miranda is a genius.
You can listen to the entire album on Spotify. The best tracks are “Alexander Hamilton,” “My Shot” (not going to lie, this is my anthem), “The Schuyler Sisters,” “You’ll Be Back,” “Satisfied,” “Wait For It,” “The Room Where It Happens” and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Even if you’ve never seen a musical or don’t like them, give “Hamilton” a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
What do you think about the soundtrack? What are your favorite songs? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
2. This article about hair as a gender marker and what it does as a gender marker was really fascinating. (The New Republic had a lot of good stuff this week and I don’t traditionally link more than once to the same publication, but these stories about the Broad Museum and Peggy Guggenheim were also favorites.)