Friday, 28 October 2016

10 steps to an obsession

You may have heard about this tiny hip-hop musical, beating world record in the number of Tony Awards. You may have also heard about Alexander Hamilton, the guy on the 10 dollar bill, one of the America's Founding Fathers. Or maybe not. After 8 months of a friend's nagging me to listen to it, I finally gave up and said I’d try, even though neither musicals nor rap are really my thing. And it took only 10 songs to make me (slightly) obsess about it.

But for some spoilers trailers of the story, some possible tags include: smart orphan(s), bromancing, intense studying, dueling and (sometimes) dying, enlightenment feminists, men being unreliable with the ladies, guns and ships, perfecting law, comma sexting, intense burns, bad decisions, even more bad decisions, good politics, beatboxing mothers, omnipresent male rivalry, sisters before misters.

Number one!
Wait For It – imagine it’s the middle of summer and your city is hosting World Youth Days, with everyone on the verge of panicking because of the risk of a terrorist attack is said to be higher than usual. And you run the streets in the evening, singing loud and proud death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints... One day I will get myself into some serious trouble. This was the first (and only) song I liked after listening to Act 1 of Hamilton for the first time. Simple but fresh in its rhythm&melody and emotional in its lyrics, it was really easy to like and remember it. Also when you realize that Burr (great Leslie Odom Jr.) was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards, (a well-known 18th c. fire and brimstone preacher), oh, the joy of English majors!

Number two!
I am not throwing away My Shot! Although parts of it are incredibly hard to sing along to, this song is a true anthem and motto of every ambitious nerd rising from less-than-ideal conditions to fulfill his dreams and succeed. It also has some of the best interactions between characters, funniest lyrics and the greatest self-motivator:
I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately
Smashin’ every expectation
Every action’s an act of creation!
I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow
For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow

Number three!
With all its beauty and intelligent lyrics, this song (or a person you'll identify the story with) will never leave you Satisfied. I cannot imagine an (overly) ambitious, sensitive woman not seeing herself at Angelica’s place enjoying intellectual connection and fascination:
So this is what it feels like to match wits
With someone at your level! What the hell is the catch? It’s
The feeling of freedom, of seein’ the light.
As heartbreaking as this song is, it is also highly addictive in its complicated melody.

Number four!
Non-Stop is the closing point of the first act of the musical. And it indeed forces you to play it again and again. This song is pure fun, both musically and lyrically and a great source of sassy lines for further use – can you brag like Hamilton does in here (I practised the law, I practically perfected it...)? It is also very (physically) moving, regularly changing the rhythm and quickly becoming my favorite cooking&dancing song.

I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine
So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane
You want a revolution? I want a revelation!
Well, this quote speaks for itself. The Schuyler Sisters have really great songs (and personalities) and their introduction, amidst the cheesiest pickup lines, is awesome! Wow! making sure we see them as such. Also, a really great song to sing with friends.

Number six!
What’d I Miss
Ok, so this musical is highly critical of Jefferson, and I actually really like him for a number of reasons (while still being aware also of his faults). Daveed Diggs, playing the future president, puts all to shame with his gift for music. But to the point: Jefferson songs all „draw on old-school African American genres like ragtime, boogie-woogie and other Southern jazz flavors that pay homage to his Virginian loyalties”* and It. Is. So. Great.

Cabinet Battle #1 & #2
So this is pure rap. This is also a brilliant lesson in politics at the time and of Jefferson-Hamilton conflict, a river of allusions and beautiful phrases (once again, all linguists get sooo happy), and a manual on how not act in a debate (so many ad persona arguments, shame on you, gentlemen, shame on me for enjoying that so much). And yet, the #burns in these songs are so hot!

Number eight!
Yorktown. One of, if not the most important, if not the single most important  battle in the history of America. Big emotions, a lot of pride, sadness, spacy music and great words. It took me some time to really appreciate it, but it is indeed the high point of the musical, and while I love the playful talk between Hamilton and Lafayette and Mulligan-bomb at the beginning of it, it is Washington’s hard Not. Yet. that roots the song and the story in history. After all, even if we try to forget it, we know well that great victories in battles often have little effect on the eventual end of violence.

Number nine!
All of Johnathan Groff’s songs. Yes, I'm cheating. You may know him from Glee but I enjoyed him in the reindeer song in Frozen. He is also said to be one of the funniest actors in the musical, even though his parts total ~7 minutes. Well, little or much time, I find his cheerful expression of I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love hilarious and WILL nail it one day.

Number ten!
Although the second half of the story is predominantly sad or bitter, in my list I somehow mostly picked the happy/intellectual songs. But as the last song that cemented my obsession I should probably point out It’s Quiet Uptown. It may seem less impressive, but yet this change of dynamics, musical minimalism, redemption and forgiveness (so unfashionable and rare in today’s world, in all circumstances) in Eliza and Alexander's relationship always moves me. / But also Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story and Eliza’s final big reveal..! /

So this is a summarized story of my obsession. To be honest, I grew to like every single song on the album (maybe with the exception of Say No To This as I am too angry with Hamilton to enjoy the song) and though I remember well the first excitement of singing Wait For It and Satisfied while running, choosing the latter songs was incredibly hard. When I think of all the amazing lines like these: (
Here’s an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements
/ Sweet Jesus
/ Hey, I have not been shy
I am just a guy in the public eye
Tryin’ to do my best for our republic )… well, simply put - if you feel open-minded and a little bit interested in history, go and give Hamilton a try!


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