Spending some time with Hamilton

Ever since the musical Hamilton debuted into the mainstream media, I’ve heard people refer to how amazing the music was. I had heard a couple of tracks here or there, but never really sat down to give it a listen. This past weekend, while reading some tweets from Wil Wheaton, talking about it, I dove in. Over the past couple of days I’ve listened to the entire album once, and many of the tracks a couple of times.

Hamilton plays out in a way that feels more like an opera to me (I’m sure music people might disagree with the designation), with almost the entire story told in song. The soundtrack involves 46 tracks that tell the tale of Alexander Hamilton, from his arrival in the colonies, through the founding of America, and to his death by duel with Aaron Burr. The music is tremendously contemporary, with most of it being rap, hip-hop and pop. It’s not the style of music that I usually listen to, but it’s so well done I can’t help but love the artistry of it.

Lin-Manuel Miranda composed the play over the course of many years, and his desire for lyrical perfection shows in complex rhymes and phrases. Some of my favorite tracks are the rap battles that take place in George Washington’s cabinet. You quickly forget that you’re listening to music about political maneuvering and policies on debt assumption, and you fall into rooting for sides in these epic throwdowns. That’s one of the beauties about Hamilton, is that is shares an amazing story of the founding of our country, but places it in a language that is accessible and engaging. It makes you want to care about the people behind these political debates and find out more about their lives and loves.

In fact, the personal stories in Hamilton are some of the most compelling. Throughout the soundtrack you learn about the characters loves and losses, mistakes and triumphs. One track in particular (It’s Quiet Uptown) brings me to tears almost every time I listen to it. Understanding the humanity behind the historical writings is one of the most brilliant accomplishments of Hamilton.

I’m not sure how often I’ll have two and a half hours to listen to a full soundtrack playthrough, but I imagine myself visiting this album multiple times. It’s a beautifully written piece of art, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys great music with a beautiful story underneath.