I’ve been dithering for a while now over posting here about Hamilton, the smash Broadway musical rap hit about the Founding Father on the US$10 bill. I’m not sure I can come up with anything to say that improves on Sumana Harihareswara’s post last November.
I’ve been kinda obsessed with this thing since I downloaded the cast album shortly after Christmas (it was, at the time, only $2 on Google Play, but I guess that was some kind of special rate, and it’s now $19, so I’m not bothering to link), and listened to it pretty much non-stop for two weeks. Its grip on my brain is finally starting to loosen a bit; I’ve listened to the new Bowie album a couple of times.
If you haven’t heard any of the music, it’s easy to dismiss the show based on a casual description. “A rap musical about Alexander Hamilton” sounds like the kind of stuff you routinely see (done badly) on YouTube. But Miranda’s musical craftsmanship is top-notch, and the performances are great. The show makes use of multiple musical styles — not just rap and R&B, but British Invasion rock, and at one point a minuet — and the rap numbers draw upon multiple rap styles, with different styles corresponding to different personalities in the story.
It was, for a while, possible to listen to the whole cast album for free on NPR’s website, and I think it still is on Spotify, but I’ll have to rely on someone more familiar with Spotify to tell you how that works in the comments. The album gives you pretty much the whole story; the actual show is sold out for the foreseeable future (unless you get lucky in the Ham4Ham lottery).
I also have to give a shout-out to Chris Quinones, who got into Hamilton way, wa-a-a-y back when Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the opening number at the White House, like in 2009. (They’re both Hunter College High School alums, and both Nuyorican, so she’s been following his career since his first show, In the Heights.) Despite all the raves I was hearing, I didn’t really pay attention till she played the cast album while we were visiting her brother for the holidays. I think she was shocked at how deep I fell in.