Who Tells Your Story?

Written by  on December 23, 2016 

It’s taken until today to finally listen to the “Hamilton” soundtrack in full. Knowing myself, I tend to latch on to certain musicals and consume them completely, and with the rabid fans out there – I might even say overexposure – I wanted to be careful with this one, to give it the proper attention and not a casual listen, and largely uninterrupted.

I listened on Spotify and followed the lyrics along on the official website – the site was fantastically easy to use, and almost every line is hyperlink-annotated for context. I’ll look at more of those on a 2nd listen – great stuff.

Also, I deliberately watched the HBO miniseries “John Adams” ahead of time for context – it was very helpful to get a sense of the players, the rivalries, and the urgency of their situation. I’ve found it particularly useful when getting into Electoral College discussions, having more context around federalism vs. republicanism.

Back to the show – here are a smattering of random observations.

  1. The rhymes are incredible, particularly given the subject matter.
  2. The parallels with “Rent”: In this one, I see a strong parallel of the Roger & Mark vs. Benny dynamic – what are you going to stand for? – and it doesn’t help that Manuel’s and Odom’s voices sound so much like Rapp and Diggs’.
    1. In fun other trivia, Odom was in the near-original Rent cast, although in a different role – no day but today! – and both shows have a principal surnamed Diggs, although unrelated.
  3. The NYC references feel anachronistic, but maybe I’m wrong on the city’s level of prominence in the 18th century? Calling it “the greatest city in the world” feels misplaced for the time. That said, for a composer who grew up there and as the show that took over the city, I’m cool with it. Also, some of the women’s lines recalled “Empire State of Mind” for me, probably not unintentionally.
  4. I finally feel like I understand the Hamilton/Burr feud, beyond just the history class “there was a duel and stuff”.
  5. Lin’s voice grates on me, but I think largely because he’s a bit overexposed right now. I’m very interested to hear somebody else sing the role for contrast.
  6. Gutsy move to have so many MacBeth references in a theater.
  7. As “revolutionary” (pun intended) as the musical style is for a mainstream Broadway show, it’s still a Broadway musical, even down to little details like end-of-song “buttons”. Manuel is a student of the form.
  8. I love that King George’s songs sound like they could have been arranged by George Martin. Seems appropriate, British Invasion?
  9. The arrangement cements my realization earlier this year that I needed to add synth bass to my toolbox, in addition to electric. It’s a great mixture of the two.
  10. Yes, I cried several times.

I only nitpick because I care. Now onto the Mixtape

Below: My wife Robin, at the Hamilton Hotel in DC, not throwing away her shot.


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