A track-by-track review of the Hamilton Mixtape
For Hamilton fans, Friday's release of the Hamilton Mixtape was like having parents who really don't know how to hide gifts. It's not your fault your mom left everything in wide open Bed, Bath & Beyond bags with the closet door ajar. You have to check out your new Miracle Foam Bathtime Barbie, even though it makes Christmas Day less exciting.
Leading up to the release, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was like that, but more strategically, I'm sure. He released a handful of songs from the anticipated album, which reimagines the music of Hamilton through stars of hip-hop, R&B, pop and even comedy. Miranda is great at giving fans what they want, while doing some pretty savvy carrot dangling in the process.
I was the very nerdy kid on Christmas. I listened to two of the tracks as he dropped them early, then decided to stop. I would wait until Dec. 2 and partake of the entire experience like a giant holiday feast of roast quail and trimmings. Bring me my chalice of fruit wine, I am very busy and plump!
Herewith, a brief song-by-song review of the tracks based on a first listen, with an edge given to original song versus new version.
1. No John Trumbull - The Roots: HEART POUNDING WITH ANTICIPATION. Quick Google of John Trumbull for a historical refresher. Now, I will win at bar trivia next week. Thinking of getting this painting for the dining room. Founding fathers in a line looking all humble.
2. My Shot (Rise Up Remix) - The Roots, feat. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz and Nate Ruess: BREAK YO' NECK. This has raging confidence! Revolution! The rapping is commanding and quick. Busta makes me want to go out and really do something important today, like get a car wash. Nate Ruess is apparently here, too? Oh. Hey, Nate.
3. Wrote My Way Out - Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manueal Miranda, Aloe Blacc: Nas is very important to this mixtape. Also, this song is a great insight into LMM's own life and writing his way out. He is such an adorable theater nerd, writing references like, "Jonathan Larson's RENT check." Full of sentimentality now for what American theater has lost and gained, I begin to quietly weep.
4. Wait For It - Usher: No offense to Usher. He does a solid job. Nothing is ever going to be better than Leslie Odom Jr.'s version. My tears dry on their own.
5. An Open Letter - Watsky, feat. Shockwave: Fat-shaming John Adams is the favorite pastime of Hamilton, like collecting baseball cards or doing ironic crochet. I have nothing but a good time listening to this.
6. Satisfied - Sia, feat. Miguel and Queen Latifah: Some reviews have hated on this track. But Satisfied is so fail-proof for me as a piece of music, Alvin and the Chipmunks could do it and I would jam out. It doesn't hold a candle to Renée Elise Goldsberry's take, but I dig it very much. Sia is throaty, Miguel is sexy. And, holy smokes, I forgot how much we need Queen Latifah to rap again! The pain of Angelica's sacrifice becomes joy as I twirl, arms wide!
7. Dear Theodosia- Regina Spektor and Ben Folds: This is very on-brand for Regina Spektor and Ben Folds. I feel fine.
8. Valley Forge (demo) - Lin-Manuel Miranda: A splendid part of the Hamilton Mixtape is getting to hear demos that didn't make the show or got reimagined into new songs. This is one and it's haunting and spooky. Hamilton and Washington are trying to figure out how to defeat the British and it is much less hard-driving than it ended up in the show. It has a lot more "we're going to die"-ness, which feels right. What a pleasure.
9. It's Quiet Uptown - Kelly Clarkson: Excuse me while I fold into an unrecognizable ball of despondency. For me, this version has more emotional punch than the show version, which I find sleepy. BRB, entering daily therapy to deal with my crushing melancholy.
10. That Would Be Enough - Alicia Keys: It's not really fair that this track comes on after Clarkson's. It can't compete. Still love you, Alicia.
11. Immigrants - K'naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC and Residente: A new song based on the line "Immigrants, we get the job done," this, excuse me, gets the job done. The rappers on this track have roots in Somalia, Pakistan, Mexico and Puerto Rico. They also have flow. I needed this after three songs about death, dying and being emotionally abandoned by the ones you love.
12. You'll Be Back - Jimmy Fallon: Nopppppe. Next.
EDGE: ORIGINAL SO HARD
13. Helpless - Ashanti, feat. Ja Rule: Leave it to Lin-Manuel Miranda to not only transport me to America's Revolutionary Period, but also to Prom Night 2001. It has really been too long since we've heard from Ja Rule and Ashanti, and it's like unicorns and rainbows and vodka and Orange Crush all over again. But, um... maybe Miranda did Ja's signature growl better then Ja himself?
14. Take a Break - !llmind: We will take this tasty 48 second break! Ok!
15. Say Yes to This - Jill Scott: NEED TO TAKE A MOMENT TO PRAY BECAUSE I HAVE FOUND THE TRUTH.
16. Congratulations - Dessa: Wow, this song really needs to be in the show. It opens with "You have invented a new kind of stupid," which I say in my head to people 10 times a day. This is what Alexander Hamilton really needed to hear after that mess with his cheating and this documented public confession that NO ONE EVEN ASKED HIM TO MAKE, and it's just a shame he died in 1804 and it's too late for Dessa to tell him him what's what.
17. Burn - Andra Day: Holding my knees to my chest in the corner of a darkened room. Day's warble and the chillaxing beat dance like ballerinas on my fragile soul.
18. Stay Alive - J. Period and Stro Elliot: 33 seconds, bathroom break
19. Cabinet Battle 3 (demo) - Lin-Manuel Miranda: Just when you think you'll never get more Cabinet Battles in your life, here comes a third Cabinet Battle. Life is a mystery and we don't deserve anything.
20. Washingtons By Your Side - Wiz Khalifa: Mentally riding in a limo and hanging out the top wearing sunglasses at night, doing that up and down thing with my hand.
21. History Has Its Eyes on You - John Legend: Of course John Legend should sing this! Of course! He is our modern day George Washington, with actual teeth. I'm getting anxiety trying to pick which version has an edge. Having actual heartburn. This one is stripped down and uplifting. The original is assured and strong.
EDGE: CAN'T DO IT.
22. Who Tells Your Story - The Roots feat. Common and Ingrid Michaelson: This is a recurring theme in the show, but as a song, it's really a vehicle to wrap up storylines. So, as a standalone, this works better. Also Michaelson's voice is super twinkly and cool. "Will they tell your story in the end?" she sings, and I realize I don't know and then I begin to walk stoically into the middle distance, into nothing.
EDGE: WHERE AM I?
23. Dear Theodosia (Reprise) - Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights: Everyone I know who saw the track listing was all, "We definitely don't need TWO Dear Theodosias"and I agreed. But... now I don't know what we need. This is pretty great. Touching, raw. Echoing like my soul on a winter's morn.
EDGE: IT DOESN'T MATTER. LIN HAS ALL MY MONEY ANYWAY.