Image credit: Rollingstone.com
Everybody was talking about Hamilton. It kept popping up in my newsfeed, and everyone was bugging out. I was like, what on earth is happening? A musical about the founding fathers? Not sure that's in my swing zone.
I have a quasi-strict "no chain mail" rule for watching movies, but tights and powder wigs runs a close second. So like most popular culture trends, I simply ignored it until I randomly encountered it on my own.
I'm not exactly sure what happened. But I was headed on a three-hour solo drive to meet my parents and pick up my children, so I downloaded the Hamilton soundtrack to my tablet and thought, "Maybe I'll check this out on the drive."
It. was. captivating.
I knew literally nothing about the show, so I was taken aback by the pop/rap/hip hop sound of the musical. I kept thinking, "I've never heard white people sing like this!" I mean, these are white people, right?
"The reason 'Hamilton' works is because there is no distance between that story that happened 200-some-odd years ago and now, because it looks like America now," says writer and creator Lin-Manual Miranda. "It helps create a connection that wouldn't have been there if it was twenty white guys on stage."
I couldn't stop listening on that road trip. I had to find out what happened. Even though it's history (and maybe I should know?), I was drawn into the story of ambition, betrayal, and passion. And the music is simply exquisite.
Still, with all this wonderful-ness, there are some real drawbacks. Here's 5 reasons you should never even approach the soundtrack to Hamilton.
#1. You will feel like a terrible parent.
I let my kids listen to a few songs. Huge mistake. They are obsessed. My five year old daughter came to breakfast saying, "I just can't stop thinking about the name Alexander Hamilton." And my three-year old son requests it every single time we get in the car. He also giggles anytime they mention Peggy.
But this is not a toddler-friendly soundtrack, folks. I did find this "clean" version on Amazon Prime, but clearly my definition of clean is different than others'. It's no Kids Bop.
I'm working to ween them off of it and have even introduced other musicals to no avail. So I spend a lot of driving time suddenly lowering the volume and asking my kids, "Did you see that? Oh, you missed it." They probably think I have a disorder.
#2. You will wear out your Googling fingers.
Once the final note had been sung, I needed to know everything there was to know about this historical story and the musical version. My Google search history is like a show program: Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Angelica Schuyler, Hamilton musical.
One incredible interview - and the first place I started - is this one on CBS News Sunday Morning. And then, of course, one must watch Carpool Karaoke.
#3. You may feel worse (and also a little better?) about the upcoming election.
Digging into history is an eye-opening experience. Alexander Hamilton had deeply significant influence on the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Federalist Papers, which are still used to interpret it. So it's interesting to get to know him better.
And I wouldn't say the musical glorifies nor vilifies the founding fathers. Rather, it paints a more complex picture that shows a mix of civic responsibility and personal ambition, democratic process and backroom deal making, honor and scandal. Sound familiar?
I guess we can be glad dueling is not as popular as it once was?
#4. You will question whether you have a creative bone in your body.
Hamilton feels flawless. The story is so compelling and tightly written and the music gives you goosebumps. Not to mention, the way Miranda weaves narrative and musical themes throughout is stunning.
As someone who likes to write, I was like, "Welp. That was amazing. I will never write again." But actually, the more I've read about Miranda, the more I recognize the hard work he's invested in his craft to get to where he is, which is actually encouraging.
I love when he says, "Making words rhyme for a living is one of the great joys of my life. That's a superpower I've been very conscious of developing. I started at the same level as everybody else, and then I just listened to more music and talked to myself until it was an actual superpower I could pull out on special occasions."
#5. You will find yourself lovingly gazing at $10 bills.
But he and I have spent a lot of time together this summer. And I've thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're considering listening for the first time, I hope you enjoy it, too. But if things unravel, I did warn you.
Are you a Broadway person? Have you listened to Hamilton? What's one of your favorite Broadway shows? (Bonus points if you say Newsies!)