By Kate G., ’19
A hip-hop musical illustrating the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton seems like a flop, but the newest smash hit on broadway has audiences on the edge of their seats. Thankfully, not everyone has to pay hundreds of dollars to experience the hottest ticket on Broadway. You can listen to the soundtrack wherever you go. The album, Hamilton: An American Musical, released on October 16, 2015, features 46 unique songs, and is a must-have.
In a fusion of R&B, rap, hip-hop, and classic musical theatre, Hamilton captivates listeners with every note, topping the charts for number one cast album, and number one hip-hop/rap album in the world. Lin Manuel-Miranda who wrote, directed, and stars in Hamilton, is credited with the unique sound. He not only creates memorable songs with great melodies, but his lyrics tell the story of “the 10 dollar founding father without a father.”
Miranda’s writing seamlessly incorporates rap into theatre, seeing hip-hop not only a genre of music but a utility to tell a story and a way of life. The show also stands out with a cast of many ethnicities representing the current America telling it’s past, and how The American Revolution and Alexander Hamilton, were so ahead of their time. Miranda has taken history and done it the justice it deserves: He’s made it a living, breathing story.
With 46 songs on the soundtrack, Hamilton has something for everyone. The story of Alexander Hamilton unravels in the album, led by Hamilton (Lin Manuel-Miranda). Hamilton’s theme song “My Shot” is a stand out number within the show, characterizing him as a driven, some-what stubborn, immigrant who won’t give up on his plan to leave a legacy behind. He is a lovable protagonist, with his flaws he is relatable. Miranda’s greatest quality on the soundtrack is his passion and emotion for the words he’s singing and how that drives Alexander.
While Alexander Hamilton’s character does carry most of the show, the supporting characters have the best songs and overall propel the story forward.
The antagonist of the story, is Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr), a man patient to climb his way to the top. Though he is the “villain” Burr makes listeners root for him with his songs. His theme song “Wait For It” shows his contrast with the not so patient hot headed Hamilton, because Burr is willing to wait for his shot instead of fight for it. Burr’s other big song “The Room Where it Happens”, shows his rising jealousy of Hamilton. This song is a definite stand out in the show with jazz influence and Odom’s voice is smooth and well-suited for the role.
The men aren’t the only ones making names for themselves in Hamilton. The Schuyler sisters, Angelica (Renee Elise Goldsberry), Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and Peggy (Jasmine Cephas-Jones) are the strong female engenues women can feel proud to back up. Their first song “The Schuyler Sisters”, is a play off of Destiny’s Child and has stacked harmonies perfectly executed by these three girls, each of them with a strong unique voice, blend into one unified beautiful tone. Eliza the sweet, shy sister, becomes very important when she meets Alexander, soon to become his wife. She sings “Helpless”, when she first sees Hamilton, a song with a doo-wop bubblegum pop feel to it, about how she falls head over heels for him, relatable for any girl.
The final character who stands out more than anyone else in the show, is also one of the only caucasian cast members: King George III (Jonathan Groff). Most of us in the U.S grew up thinking of the revolution as inevitable. We know we beat the redcoats because, look, here we are in the country. And there are lots of democracies around the world to reinforce the idea that it’s a workable government. But George reminds the audience that at the time, this idea was…revolutionary. People thought the patriots were going to fail, and we have to remember the enormous pressure the founding fathers were under to put the story in context. Thankfully, it’s funny context, and Jonathan Groff is hilarious and lovable in his song “You’ll Be Back.”
Note that this is one of the most “traditional musical theatre” numbers in the show, sung by the only caucasian main character. He represents the Old Ways; Hamilton & Co represent the New, making George such a cool character and contrast to Alexander.
For those who don’t consider themselves musical theatre fans, musicals are meant to stir your emotions. Those people can’t stand to sit through West Side Story or listen to an opera. However, one can listen to Hamilton out of context and believe it’s a cut from a straight hip-hop album. Unlike traditional rap, Hamilton is for the most part a slower rapping pace. The soundtrack honors raps sentiments while still being understandable to all.
This said, Hamilton also appeals to the common musical theatre nerd. There are many classical musical theatre style songs like the kick line number “You’ll Be Back”, hilariously sung by King George as a break up song with the Thirteen Colonies. Hamilton also reminds theatre goers that musical theatre isn’t always tear jerking slow ballads, it’s telling a story through song, even if that song is a upbeat rap.
The Hamilton: An American Musical, album is now on iTunes and in stores for $18.99. With intoxicating rhythms, catchy songs, relatable characters, and a unique story never before told, Hamilton is revolutionizing the musical theatre world and the hip-hop charts, making it the must-buy album of the year.