From soundtrack to mixtape
Creative genius Lin-Manuel Miranda released “The Hamilton Mixtape,” on Friday, Dec. 2.
The album corresponds with Miranda’s 2015 Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” about the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
The album is made up of an unprecedented combination of artists from all musical backgrounds.
Miranda released the track list on Nov. 3 via Twitter. Hip-hop band The Roots provided the intro and much of the musical background to the album.
The first full song on the album, “My Shot,” features Nate Ruess, Joell Ortiz and Busta Rhymes. The remix of the original song contains three new verses, but uses the familiar hook to tie the historical context into the modern era.
My favorite song, “Wrote My Way Out,” is unique to the album. With contributions from Nas, Dave East, Miranda and Aloe Blacc, the song combines powerful vocals in the hook with verses being wrapped by artists who “wrote their way out” of their own personal struggles.
Usher contributes his vocals to the song “Wait For It,” which is sung by Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.) in the musical. The song introduces the idea that the album isn’t so much about Hamilton as it is about what everyone can learn from the narrative.
The album contains three interludes, two of which, “Take A Break” and “Stay Alive,” contain little lyrical content.
“An Open Letter,” covered by Watsky, is a humorous diss track insulting John Adams. The short song was cut from the musical, but lives on through the mixtape.
“Satisfied,” a passionate love song covered by Sia featuring Queen Latifah and Miguel, relates directly to the musical. Despite the lyrics depicting a love triangle between two sisters and Hamilton, the beautiful musical background makes the song a fan favorite.
A song that appears twice on the album, “Dear Theodosia,” is covered by two different sets of artists. Regina Spektor and Ben Folds cover the first version, with Chance The Rapper and Francis and the Lights adding an extra verse to their cover. The peaceful melody adds flourish to the sweetness of the lyrics.
Miranda raps his own two songs on the album, “Valley Forge” and “Cabinet Battle 3.” In the songs, Miranda raps as various historical characters. He added the demo tracks to the album since they weren’t able to make the final cut for the musical.
The most beautiful song on the album is Kelly Clarkson’s “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which is the first song to remove all references of history and the musical. The song describes the pain Hamilton and his wife went through over the loss of their son, Philip.
Clarkson, who was pregnant with her own son at the time of recording, claims this song was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in the studio.”
Alicia Keys adds her vocals to “That Would Be Enough,” an uplifting and motivational love song. The lyrics are short and simple, but Keys powerfully demonstrates a beautiful vocal range set to another peaceful melody.
Lyrically, the best song on the album is “Immigrants.” The song features four artists with immigrant backgrounds: K’naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC and Residente.
Miranda describes the song as a musical counterweight to the xenophobia and vilification of immigrants brought by the recent election. The song’s most impactful lyric describes immigrants as “America’s ghost writers.”
The ever-talented Jimmy Fallon covers the song “You’ll Be Back”, which is sung from the perspective of King George III toward the American colonists. Its satirical lyrics combined with the humorous interpretation and Fallon’s vocals provide a break from the deeper content in the album.
Ashanti and Ja Rule combine to sing “Helpless.” It’s an easygoing love song that brings back memories of when the two artists featured on many songs together.
Jill Scott covers “Say Yes To This” in a soulful love song that follows the previous song perfectly.
Another perfect duo of songs follows suit with Dessa’s cover of “Congratulations” and Andra Day’s cover of “Burn.”
“Congratulations” is sung from the point of view of Angelica Schuyler, Hamilton’s sister-in-law, and expounds on her reaction to Hamilton’s affair.
“Burn” is his wife’s reaction to the scandal. A set of powerful vocals carries the album through a lyrically dull period.
Wiz Khalifa and John Legend each contribute a song, giving the album “Washingtons By Your Side” and “History Has Its Eyes On You,” respectively.
The artists heavily modified both songs, but both new versions provide a unique adaptation only artists like Khalifa and Legend can provide.
The last song is “Who Tells Your Story” by The Roots, Ingrid Michaelson and Common. The song’s reflective tone wraps up the album perfectly.
The Hamilton Mixtape makes for an amazing listening experience, especially when partnered with its theatrical counterpart. It can be listened to on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon.