Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Hamilton Mixtape

Sometimes a song will come out of a Broadway show and become a hit or a standard on its own--think of most of the songs in "The Sound of Music" or some of the songs from "Les Mis." But as far as I know, The Hamilton Mixtape, which came out yesterday, is the first "mixtape" of a Broadway show. As in, different artists have reinterpreted, recorded, in some cases have written songs inspired by the show and its music.

When Lin-Manuel Miranda originally thought "ah-ha! I'll write a musical out of this book!" when he read Ron Chernow's biography on Alexander Hamilton, he wasn't thinking of writing a straight-up musical but writing and recording a concept album. Well, fast foward a few years and a megahit musical and Grammys, Pulitzers, Tonys, and various other awards and that "concept album" idea has spawned The Hamilton Mixtape, which was great company on my way to and from work yesterday.

There are demos that never made it into the show: Cabinet Battle #3 (which is about the Slavery Question), Valley Forge (some of that is in "Stay Alive"), and An Open Letter (which is a rap about Hamilton's screed on President John Adams). Lin-Manuel Miranda says it's one of the best things he's ever written and they cut it from the show. He did it once with some cast members in the video below.


Then there's "Congratulations," which was an Angelica Schuyler song from the off-Broadway version that got cut before they moved the show to Broadway. Some of it is still in "The Reynolds Pamphlet."

You gotta love any song that begins, "Congratulations, you've invented a new kind of stupid."

Of the songs in the show that are covered on Mixtape, there's Alicia Keys on "That Would Be Enough," John Legend on "History Has Its Eyes On You," "Helpless" with Ashanti and Ja Rule (yup, 1999 is back again), two versions of "Dear Theodosia," and "Burn" by Andra Day, and "Wait For It" by Usher. It's really easy to think of Mixtape as not versions of the show tunes but as its own separate entity when the cover versions are so different than the show versions. 

Take, for example, Kelly Clarkson's version of "It's Quiet Uptown" versus the show version




Sia also covers "Satisfied" with Miguel and Queen Latifah and it's fun and amazing. Jimmy Fallon covers "You'll Be Back," which is...unexpected.

As for the "inspired by the show" songs, "Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)" is undoubtedly the most powerful, but "Wrote My Way Out" has a special meaning for me, the little writer. "My Shot" is part show version and part original verses.

The first track is "No John Trumbull" by The Roots, which I think was in the off-Broadway version of the show. 

You ever see a painting by John Trumbull?
Founding fathers in a line, looking all humble
Patiently waiting to sign a declaration and start a nation
No sign of disagreement, not one grumble
The reality is messier and richer, kids
The reality is not a pretty picture, kids
Every cabinet meeting is a full on rumble
What you're about to witness is no John Trumbull







2 comments:

  1. I still haven't listened to the Hamilton soundtrack. I do often grab scores up and play them out years before I see the show. I think the popularity of it may be holding me back some though. Haha.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, you should listen it! It made me think about our country's history and founding so differently--plus the music's just dope. Really meaty stuff.

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