Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursentary: Five Reasons You Gotta Listen to Hamilton

I assume you’ve heard about Hamilton and you need to listen to it. But if you haven’t or if you want to hear it again, this post is for you.

Hamilton is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on the life of Alexander Hamilton as told by the historian Ron Chernow. It portrays Hamilton’s life from the Revolutionary War through the Jefferson administration (at which point the Hamster dies). It is so awesome.

Not convinced? Take five reasons, on me.

1. It’s a tragedy about the U.S.A.’s creation

We blow things up every year come Independence Day because the Revolution was our victory. In the next-best known musical on the Revolution, 1776, the signing of the Declaration is the climax because it promises our great and glorious victory.

But the Founding Fathers had their share of failures (*coughArticlesofConfederationcough*). Hamilton’s dissatisfied attitude pushes him to rise through the ranks and make the government better; his dissatisfaction also leads to unfortunate choices and enemies—one of which eventually kills him. Though telling the story is a catharsis, Hamilton shows us part of our victory in a light that includes mourning. Even our greatest triumphs came with blood and tears and pain that real people felt, and to forget is to face defeat.

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2. American mythology comes to life on our terms

We’re an immigrant-based country—there isn’t a Zeus or Ata-en-sic or Brahma who sits in everybody’s back pocket. We do, however, share the spirit of the Revolution in common. That is our mythology. The historical George Washington was a fallible man… but to us, he was related to Mary Poppins because he was practically perfect in every way. He’s our figurehead.

That being said, Hamilton’s Founding Fathers exist as characters representative of ideas and ideals over “historically accurate” renditions. Hamilton employs America now to show America then, but still talk about America now. With diverse people, rap and hip hop and traditionalerish sound, and a singular historical interpretation, we have a new lens with which to view oppression, past and present. We make the mythology ours, and it is beautiful and terrible.

(for more on that, read this person’s Tumblr post)

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3. The girl characters rock

America’s early years can be characterized as explosions of testosterone thinly veiled behind legal treatises and a desire for freedom. Excepting Martha Washington, Betsy Ross, Molly Pitcher, Deborah Sampson, maybe Dolly Madison, and ALWAYS Abigail Adams, women hardly ever get mentioned—but Hamilton helps.

Not only does the musical feature the three Schuyler sisters and Maria Reynolds, but they get significant story time. There is something that it was like to be a woman during America’s early years. Even if the female experience didn’t have explicit political repercussions, women lived and influenced others that rippled down the historical chain. That’s why “Burn” is among my favorite songs—Eliza shares her experience and her choices and her life. Her voice is significant to the narrative, as are those of the other women. The stories they tell? They’re worth listening to.

(different Tumblr post for more on that)

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4. King George III

SO HE’S A TYRANT KING MAINTAINING TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENATION AND IS BAD BUT STILL HE’S HOT. I listen to “You’ll Be Back” all the time, to the point that my youngest sister has fallen in love with it, too, and she’s in the second grade. (She’s the only one I’ve convinced to listen to Hamilton and I can only give her five songs because language.)

George is the voice of the world—no one really expected the United States to take off. No one expected the little group of rebels to make something great. Though George is the voice of England and tyranny, he’s also the voice of the established countries waiting for America to fail. He adds perspective, pressure, tension, but in a British pop kind of way.

Also, hot.

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5. First you’ll laugh, then you’ll cry, third you’ll scream, and last you’ll die

The reality of human life ties your emotions, loyalties, and concerns into knots. There’s war and dueling and drinking, but also prolific writing and bookishness and French. Their cabinet meetings are rap battles. There’s parenthood. There’s friendship and enemyship. Oppression. Freedom. Victory, defeat; injustice, justice.

Alexander Hamilton’s life and death brings smiles and pain, empowerment, a story… memory. We grieve, we wait. You really need to listen to it all, but if you can’t this instant, I summed it up in my favorite Hamilton pins.

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I'm in love with Hamilton. Join me by clicking here.

Have you listened to Hamilton yet? What do you think? Also, Merry Christmas.


14 comments :

  1. Oooh, this looks really cool. I've only seen/listened to a couple musicals, and none about the American Revolution. Thanks for the recomendation; I'll have to check this out!

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    1. IT IS SO COOL. 1776 is the only other one I know of, and I have only heard one song, and I'm like... eh. It's okay. I hope you listen to it!

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  2. This sounds pretty interesting. I'm not huge on musicals, but feel like that would probably be a more interesting medium to teach history than some boring documentary or something.

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    1. It's not 100% historically accurate (as with all historically-based things, things are switched and changed to make the story make a little more sense in three hours) but it's definitely a great way to learn and open the door to more learning!

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  3. I did listen to Hamilton when you shared that post under my You Choose Posts of the Week addition! AND YES, IT'S AMAZING. I haven't listened to all of the songs yet (there are a lot of them) but I love all the ones I have. <3


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. YES VERY AMAZING. And yeah, it's like a 2.5 hour soundtrack and a sorta long musical but you just gotta listen to the whole thing and die of happiness and joy. *nods*

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  4. Your Hamilton pins though. :') I'm with you 1000% on that first point. Bloody history often gets overlooked, to put it nicely, especially in textbook that try to be patriotic but just end up glossing over the gory details. Mostly I'm talking about Columbus discovering America...it's a shame that people celebrate Columbus Day without knowing what their really celebrating—the settlement and the tragedy that followed. Anyway, sorry for the ramble, you wrote a great post. I think I'll go listen to Hamilton now. :)

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    1. Yeah, Christopher Columbus was a butt. So often we like to focus on what was good and great rather than what was painful and hard... but we have that in Hamilton, I think. But yes! Go listen! :D

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  5. Everyone has been screaming about this and pinning it and ... I don't know ... I just kind of don't see the appeal? (Hot and emo George III seems cool, maybe.) It is probably a rad musical but it seems kiiiinda overhyped to me?

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    1. *shrugs* I feel like people are excited because musical theater and pop are talking to each other again, it is a reclaiming of the story for POC, and people get excited about America. I don't think it is overhyped, but I am a musical theater aficionado and an American and perhaps those things do not speak to you.

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  6. I'm not obsessed with Hamilton. At all.

    I just happen to know all the lyrics now.

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  7. I've never actually heard of Hamilton. *hangs head in shame* But it sounds really, really good and I will definitely have to check it out as soon as I can (which may be a while). But yeah, it sounds amazing.

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    1. Well, now you have. AND NOW YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO IT, MWAHAHAHAHA. Or, you know, you can if you want. :)

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