Hamilton is a cultural phenomenon. If not one of the greatest, most galvanizing phenomes, it has had an impacting ripple on theater at large, especially bringing actors of color into positions and roles they may have been (may being a strong word for absolutely) denied in the past.
Like some of you, I have not been able to see the actual show. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve seen clips but never the entire show. But like any other piece of Hamiltrash I’ve listened to the soundtrack enough to be a member of the chorus should the opportunity ever arise.
Not that it matters. I put on a stage production of Hamilton almost every other night. The soundtrack, in itself, is so well put together, that it tells the story for you. Most musicals have numbers that speak on a theme in the play, a moment. No. The Hamilton soundtrack takes you from start to beginning. It is a musical that is in its entirety completely a musical. There are few “scenes” of dialogue. But everything else is presented to you in song, through prose and cypher.
Like I said, a cultural phenomenon.
So it pains me to try and do this but I’m going to attempt it.
10 Best Songs
#10 – BURN
Probably THE angriest song on the soundtrack and that’s a tough feat to task. Cabinet Meeting #2 is pretty much Thomas Jefferson foaming at the mouth then being a petty asshole. Meet Me Inside is daddy issues GALORE and Adams Administration is more…freighting than angry. Eliza, played by the lovely Philippa Soo, is angry, pissed, RAGE FILLED. And it’s not the kill everything walking rage. It’s the disappointment type of rage your parents throw at you. She basically sends him to timeout from her heart and her bed by the end of the song and all you can see is an visibly upset Eliza and a pouty Alexander being sent to his office to sleep. Forever. The song has so much meaning because of amount of Eliza’s anger, she removes herself from the narrative. She is so angry she doesn’t want anyone else to know ANYTHING (a juxtaposition to her husband telling the world EVERYTHING). Phillipa’s vocals are just amazing. Halting, strong, and emotional.
Best Line: “And you are paranoid in every paragraph how they deceive you…YOU, YOU, YOU.”
#9 Cabinet Battle 1 & 2
A fucking rap battle. Two of them to be exact. A RAP BATTLE. They are duking it out via rap battle and they are NOT holding any punches. If you had any wishes that Thomas Jefferson (played by Daveed Diggs) and Alexander Hamilton (Lin Manuel Miranda) were going to be anything other than enemies, Cabinet Battle 1, destroys that. It includes Jefferson’s lines of “But Hamilton forgets. His plan would have the government assume state’s debts. Now, place your bets as to who that benefits: The very seat of government where Hamilton sits.”
He’s known Hamilton in the play for 20 minutes. Yeah, not going to be BFF. But we are talking Alexander Hamilton. Can’t shut the fuck up Alexander Hamilton. Can’t let an insult slide Alexander Hamilton. Hot tempered, “what the fuck did you just say???” Alexander Hamilton. He gets his in too. It’s always hard to tell who wins the battles. They are just that good.
Best Line (where Alexander just goes slam the fuck off):
“Thomas Jefferson, always hesitant with the President
Reticent—there isn’t a plan he doesn’t jettison
Madison, you’re mad as a hatter, son, take your medicine
Damn, you’re in worse shape than the national debt is in
Sittin’ there useless as two shits
Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you
Where my shoe fits.
Yeah. Not going to be BFFs. At all.
#8 Take A Break
A lot of things going on in this song and it captures a lot of things that happen in the Hamilton (and by extension the Schuyler Church) household. Alexander has been threatened with losing his job and the already non-stop workaholic is burning the midnight oil in the middle of the evening. Eliza is showing her everlasting patience, even if it slips a bit here, for her husband’s methods of madness, but still pushes him to spend time with his family. Angelica (played by the lovely Renee Ellis Goldsbury) serves as a source of inspiration and a distraction (romantically) from the stress Hamilton is experiencing. All of his family members see it (even little Phillip who composes a poem for his father) and think he needs to take a break. They spend the entirety of the song trying to convince him to one, be successful but two, as the song goes, “TAKE A GODDAMN BREAK.”
End the end, in Alexander “Can’t Take a Hint” Hamilton fashion, he doesn’t and it proves to be disastrous.
Edit: This also introduces Eliza and Phillip’s shared theme of counting in French.
Best Line: Basically Eliza and Angelica scream singing at him to take a fucking break. (Really, Angelica came ALL the way from London, damn.)
This song is so underrated. Hamilton is in a fix and according to him there is only one way to fix it. He overvalues his own intelligence, his own methods to solving problems and it leads him to the third biggest conflict of the play: the consequences of his actions. He pretty much is gearing up to ruin his own life here. But the way that Hurricane plays out, you kinda…agree with his methods? Alexander Hamilton up until this point has had a pretty difficult life and Hurricane encapsulates that, summing up his hardships and swinging up through to his victories, which he attributes to his skill with the quill (which is undeniable). The ominous “Wait for it! Wait for it! Wait for it! Wait!” at the end, however, lets us know that Hamilton has made the wrong choice.
Best Line: Alexander at his best, being braggadocios about what he’s done and how it will solve his problems
“I wrote my way out of hell
I wrote my way to revolution
I was louder than the crack in the bell
I wrote Eliza love letters until she fell
I wrote about The Constitution and defended it well
And in the face of ignorance and resistance
I wrote financial systems into existence
And when my prayers to God were met with indifference
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance!”
#6 The World Turned Upside Down
Here is your rallying call. Here is where, after spending song after song talking about battles, do you actually feel like you’re in the middle of one. The story goes that Hamilton quits being Washington’s top camp de aide and Washington(Christopher Jackson), needing Hamilton to both survive but not wanting to lose him as his “Right Hand Man” gives Hamilton a pretty simple task and the battalion he wants. Alexander takes his command and RAMPS IT ALL THE WAY THE HELL UP and what we get is this thrilling, fast pace recount of not only Hamilton’s battle at Redoubt #10, but also Hercules Mulligan’s (Okieriete Onaodowan) major role in espionage and the major campaign (The Battle of Yorktown) involving Washington, Lafayette and (inhales) Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. The music itself will have you out of your seat but it’s the enthusiasm of the entire cast pouring everything they have into this number that makes it so riviting. It may be the most inspiration song on the soundtrack short of “My Shot”.
Best Line: “Hercules Mulligan, I need no introduction! When you knock me down I get the fuck back up again!”
#5 The Schuyler Sisters
Do you want to dance? Do you want to learn about Manhattan? Do you want to meet three of the boldest, intelligent, prominent women in the 1770s? Meet the Schuyler Sisters and their Destiny’s Child, En Vouge, Dream Girls introduction to the world. Honestly, anyone who can get through the The Schuyler Sisters without literally dancing or screaming “WERK!” doesn’t have a soul. It also manages to definitively set the characters for each of the woman. Angelica, as the oldest, is smart, politically minded, well-read and not afraid to tell you. Eliza is full of wonderment and curiosity as she takes in the city that is beginning to mean so much to her. You can tell her personality isn’t as large as life as her older sister. And Peggy (Jasmine Cephus Jones- my forever girl crush)…let’s you know that she is there. WHICH, means something. Peggy is always a footnote when it comes to Angelia and Eliza but Peggy always has a way of letting you know she matters. Considering how BADASS the actual Peggy Schuyler Van Rensselaer was (such as staring enemy combatant-and their guns- in the face as they came to search our their father Phillip Schuyler while her sister and mother and children were hiding upstairs. She was able to stare the rebels down, get them out of hte house and save her family without batting and eyelash. PEGGY IS BADASS!).
Best Line: “I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane. You want a revolution? I want a revelation! So listen to my declaration!”
#4 Wait For It
Aaron Burr, sir. Aaron Burr was a bad guy. Not EVIL but…self-serving as all hell. Yet, we learn why. In Wait For It, Leslie Odom beautifully runs down Aaron Burr’s history. We learn about his love interest, Theodosia, his parents, his grandparents, and why he is an orphan. We learn about what drives Aaron Burr. And that right there, learning the antagonist’s motives, no matter what format, movie, book, TV series, will instantly endear you to them, especially if they are good reasons. Basically Aaron Burr wants the same thing Alexander Hamilton wants; to build a legacy, for people to remember him, to do a good job.
The way they go about that is what separates the cautious Aaron Burr and the rash Alexander Hamilton.
Wait For It is Aaron Burr’s “I Am Here”, Wait For It is Aaron’s Burr’s “Alexander Hamilton”, Wait For It is the one of only three times that Aaron Burr lets us in and we LOVE him for it.
Best Line: “I am inititable, I am an original!”
#3 Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
WHEW. WHEW! If you’ve been through the soundtrack then you know that Act I was watching Alexander Hamilton climb the proverbial impossible to climb mountain, slamming his flag into the summit and yelling “I TOLD YOU I COULD FUCKING DO IT!” Act II, on the other hand, is someone (Alexander Hamilton) pushing Alexander Hamilton REALLY hard off that same mountain and laughing (Alexander Hamilton, again) as Alexander Hamilton hits every rock and stone on the way down. We all know what happens when you fall off a mountain and literally hit the ground. You die.
But Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story isn’t about Alexander Hamilton’s death which happened in the preceding song. It’s about ELIZABETH HAMILTON. I made this case to someone. The name of the play isn’t ALEXANDER HAMILTON. It’s HAMILTON. That includes Eliza, it includes Phillip and their adjacent family. It’s about the Hamilton family. And nowhere is this spoken the loudest as when the entire cast of the play ask who will tell Alexander’s story (who will technically be the heir to his purpose, who will become the central figure of their family) and they all answering with a soft resounding “Eliza.”
Eliza begins to tell what she did after her husband dies. What she has done, that even if it was in his name, she did with her power, with her strength, with her good heart. She still loves her husband dearly (this is accurate. It is said when she was very elderly that she often spoke of wanting to hurry up and die so she could be with Alexander. This is 40+ odd years after he has died). Eliza, in the end, turns out to the driving force of this play. That although Alexander was its central character, the FIRE of it, was Eliza Hamilton. She is the only reason we have this play, because of her tireless work in making sure her husband got what he wanted in the end; a legacy.
Best Line: “I put myself back in the narrative.”
Non-Stop literally doesn’t stop. It never stops. The entire song rolls and rolls and rolls as it recounts what happens after the war: Alexander practices law (while Burr just “works” next door). Washington is being asked to be the first President of the new United States of America, Angelica has “recently” gotten married (she’s been married the whole time actually), Lafayette is back in France, and I’m gathering Herc is flourishing somewhere with his tailoring(???). Eliza has given birth to Phillip and Aaron Burr, a new father himself, is trying desperately to figure out how Alexander DOES SO MUCH SHIT.
John Laurens(Anthony Ramos), however, has died.
We are getting the answers to Aaron Burr’s question. At the end of Dear Theodosia there is a scene that is not included in the soundtrack. It’s Eliza reading a letter from Henry Laurens on the death of his son John Laurens while in South Carolina. It’s somber, it’s heartbreaking and as Alexander Hamilton’s best friend (and rumored lover) the news tears him apart. Completely. It changed him. Changed the way he made friends (which is he didn’t), morphed who he was as a man. He finishes the scene with “I have so much to do.”
Thus we get the NON-STOP workaholic Alexander Hamilton, driven to succeed for his family, wanting a distraction from the heartbreak of losing his best friend, and to cement his legacy.
Best Line: “I AM ALEXANDER HAMILTON, HAMILTON. JUST YOU WAIT! I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT.”
(Tie) #1 – Satisfied
Angelica Schuyler is something special. Not in the same way that Eliza is, as this driving force in the play, but Angelica is the grounding force. Everyone turns to Angelica. Everyone relies on Angelica. When Eliza wanted to Hamilton, Angelica took care of it. When Burr needed to be put in his flirty place, Angelica handled it. When Hamilton needed someone to encourage him towards getting Congress to approve his plans, he turned to Angelica. When he needed someone in his corner after the Reynold’s pamphlet, he turned to Angelica. Thomas, in history often turned to Angelica and I can’t imagine too many other founding father’s who weren’t drawn into Angelica’s realm of intelligence, council and beauty.
But what about Angelica?
Angelica is sacrificial in a way that she would give the shirt off her back (or corset) for the ones that she loves. She exemplifies this time and time again. The most prolific of those times. Satisfied.
Angelica “met” Alexander first. Angelica flirted with Alexander first. Angelica melded minds and matched wits with Alexander first. Yet in Angelica’s world, she was always second. In this situation, her beloved sister and her ‘helpless” eyes were the siren beacon that Angelica, once again, could not come first.
She could not.
Satisfied is guttural, it is fast paced, it punches you in the gut. We learned EVERYTHING we need to know about Angelia in one song. Her position in the world, how she sees herself, what she needs to do to survive.
We know that Angelica would rather give up on someone who is so very much right for her, so that her sister can experience happiness. And you can hear it, you can hear that heartbreak and that disappointment in her toast to her sister. The final resounding “FROM YOUR SISTER! ANGELICA IS ALWAYS BY YOUR SIDE! TO YOUR UNION! AND THE HOPE THAT YOU PROVIDE! MAY YOU ALWAYS….BE SATISIFED.”
She knows so much about her sister and she knows so much about Alexander, these two people that she loves so dearly. And she knows that despite their happiness, despite Alexander’s proximity, she will never be satisfied.
Best Line: Angelica reading Hamilton COMPLETELY in the span of 3 minutes.
“The conversation lasted two minutes, maybe three minutes
Ev’rything we said in total agreement, it’s
A dream and it’s a bit of a dance
A bit of a posture, it’s a bit of a stance. He’s a
Bit of a flirt, but I’m ‘a give it a chance.”
(Tie)#1 Guns and Ships
Have you heard Guns and Ships? Do I have to go through the reasons why this is the best song on the soundtrack? Do I?
Because I’m not. I’m out of breath rapping it word for word anyways.
Best Line: The entire damn thing.
Note: It does show a progression in Lafayette, not only as an General, but as a English speaking immigrant. In My Shot, he has trouble with English, showcased with him not getting the pronunciation of “anarchy” right. In Guns and Ships, he raps English with a speed and agility that no one else has ever seen. Ever. Daveed Diggs holds the RECORD for the fastest spoken song in Broadway HISTORY.
Alright. Now the bad part.
10 Worst Songs
BYE! LOVE YOU!