Hamilton is a Broadway musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, about Alexander Hamilton, a United States founding father.
I make no secret of my ignorance regarding America’s history, from its formation to today’s delegate battles. I’d like to think that I know far more than I’ll ever need.
Hamilton was introduced to me a mere six weeks or so ago, but has since slowly grown on me. First impressions ranged from ‘trying too hard’ to ‘what even is there’? It’s a hip hop Broadway musical, and I have no lack of prejudice. Like most things in life, however, give something a sincere understanding and you find yourself being drawn simply by the strength of passion, love, and freshness.
Weeks after first introduction, I decided to give the album a try. I haven’t seen the musical itself, but I doubt it’ll change much. I’ve seen my fair share, and they all stood and fell on the recordings. The recordings, I’m happy to say, are exceptional. It is understood that the plot was heavily borrowed from real-life events, but the spin done in layman’s taste is greatly appreciated. Forty-six tracks of broad musical styles, incorporating various fusions of hip hop, orchestral, and old-school, are finely crafted, no less than the standards set by the classics of old.
Further research revealed a great deal of history accuracy, both in events and characters (perhaps with the notable exception of Aaron Burr). A middle-aged man in an elaborate dress could sing alone on top a wooden platform well enough to express the kind of burning ambitions, struggling legacy, and turning drama present in those forming times of the late 1700s – early 1800s. It is no secret that US presidential elections are largely for TV ratings and pretty boys (and girls) to sell their names for book rights for the rest of their lives. Put that in perspective, the kind of theatrics and forwardness Hamilton depicts offers refreshing reminders of the old fighting times.
The entire album, despite no visual cues and leads, strings together perfectly well. Repetition of familiar phrases and imagery arose in a kind of timely pulse that constantly reminds the listener as to just how interconnected is every event. “Aaron Burr, sir”, “helpless”, “blow us all away”, and of course, “write like (you’re) running out of time” are just examples of the thematic nails that were hammered onto the lyricism of the entire piece. They serve as anchors, whose usage sometimes even contrasting itself compared to earlier usage, and undoubtedly the most memorable collection of music composition in recent times.
In my quest to turn up more information, I’ve seen remarks a plenty hinting as the cast’s diversity as a proof, or perhaps a statement of some sorts, regarding the state of minority representation within theatres. I myself am of the opinion the creative director is free to do whatever the hell they want with their art, but I brought up this point precisely because of this. It is unknown to me just how intentional this cast distribution is meant to be, but I sincerely believe you’ve lost sight of just how art is meant to be appreciated if this is what to which you pay attention. Naturally the musical is meant to be just as visual as it is musical, but I bet plenty was looking at the wrong thing.
As it is my blog, time for a small personal note. Hamilton is obviously not the first musical that has captured my attention, but it holds the position of the first one I ever talked about in its merits. It’s fresh, young, and unproven. The generally positive reaction it has received from critics meant nothing if nothing is done to generate more innovation, more risk, more genre bending. I stomp my feet and tear my own mental muscles trying to make sense of what to learn from history, but also to see the piece in itself as something that simply exists.
Two sentences into rambling and I’ve already hit the return key. I’ve changed.