You all knew this was coming. You had to know this was coming!
Thank you to one of my best friends for turning me on to this AMAZING, truly life-changing musical. If you haven’t heard it yet, go listen to it right now — you don’t need to see it on stage to get the full story and appreciate Lin Manuel Miranda’s genius, I promise. I know almost every lyric and turn it on almost every morning on my way to work. I have a problem, but I think there are worse problems to have. I can tell you almost anything you want to know about American history from 1776 until 1800 and can also wow and amaze friends and family by making almost any comment a Hamilton reference. I know. This is something you have always wanted to do. “Awesome. Wow.”
I’ve picked my favorite “Hamilton” songs for this #musicmonday, presented to you in order of appearance during the performance. It was incredibly hard to pick only ten, so please don’t hate me if your favorite song isn’t on this list — I appreciate every song for what it adds to this wonderful retelling of American history. Let’s go!
1. “My Shot”
Standout Lyric: Hey yo, I’m just like my country /I’m young, scrappy and hungry /And I’m not throwing away my shot!
While “Alexander Hamilton” is also a great jam to kick off the 2.5 hour long musical, I feel like “My Shot” gives listeners a true understanding of who Hamilton is and what to expect from him throughout the show. Miranda, who is a genius, wove many instrumental elements from this song into other songs throughout the work to create main themes and interlock storylines. The idea of Hamilton using his “shot” and not throwing it away is key to understanding Hamilton as a person and a musical.
Additionally, any young millennial like myself can relate to the above quote if they’ve got some fire in them.
2. “Right Hand Man”
Standout Lyric: Are these the men with which I am to defend America? / We ride at midnight, Manhattan in the distance / I cannot be everywhere at once, people /I’m in dire need of assistance…
Nothing introduces George Washington quite like a song dedicated to how powerful he was as a general in the first American war. The OG president is quite the bad*ss in this play. He’s the only one that shoots Hamilton’s hair-brain schemes down or understands that power isn’t always about physically being in control. This song sets up a tremendous bromance between Washington and Hamilton that is influential in how America developed as a nation. As an added bonus, the cast is responsible for some pretty great cannon sound effects. Sha-Boom!
Standout Lyric: Look into your eyes, and the sky’s the limit / I’m helpless!/ Down for the count, and I’m drownin’ in ’em…
I know my sister like I know my own mind // You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind // If I tell her that I love him she’d be silently resigned // He’d be mine // She would say, “I’m fine” // She’d be lying
I know this is cheating, but you can’t mention one of these songs without the other (sorry!). Spoiler alert? Hamilton marries a wonderful woman named Eliza (singing “Helpless”), but her sister, Angelica, is actually secretly in love with him (singing “Satisfied”). “Helpless” is an amazing song for the composition — it’s honestly just incredibly beautiful. And “Satisfied” is equally as wonderful for the message Angelica sends to listeners about love in the 1700s and true sisterhood — giving up your love so your sister can find it. Also, when I can rap along with Renée Goldsberry, I feel pretty confident in my abilities to be a Broadway star.
4. “Wait for It”
Standout Lyric: Love doesn’t discriminate // Between the sinners // And the saints // It takes and it takes and it takes // And we keep loving anyway
I felt bad for Aaron Burr the moment George Washington sent him out of his tent in “Right Hand Man.” He’s just a man who wants to make a name for himself, but he makes all the wrong choices, or more accurately, doesn’t make them at all. In “Wait for It,” Miranda encourages listeners to understand why Burr stands on the sidelines so often. He’s a man whose been dealt a very similar hand to Hamilton, yet his life turns out drastically different because he is afraid to make choices that may be wrong. It really makes listeners think about the power in action and inaction.
5. “Guns and Ships”
Standout Lyric: Yo. Turns out we have a secret weapon! // An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in! // He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen //Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!
This song is pure gold because it’s Daveed Diggs rapping at 1,000 miles per hour about how amazing he and France are. Heads up: America’s favorite fighting Frenchman is the one and only Marquis de Lafayette.
Standout Lyric: Burr, we studied and we fought and we killed // For the notion of a nation we now get to build
Wow. This piece is honestly so amazing and inspiring. Mostly the end when all of the signature moments from the fist half of the musical come together to form an amazing chorus, but every single moment is joyous to sing along to. Miranda raps the end of a war and the start of a new nation into one song that builds as the country grows and falls as it struggles. Listeners get to learn about Burr and Hamilton’s frenemy relationship, and truly see what a hardworking individual Hamilton is.
P.S. Hamilton wrote the other 51 Federalist papers.
7. “What’d I Miss”
Standout Lyric: Treasury Secretary. Washington’s the President // Ev’ry American experiment sets a precedent // Not so fast. Someone came along to resist him // Pissed him off until we had a two-party system // You haven’t met him yet, you haven’t had the chance // ‘Cause he’s been kickin’ ass as the ambassador to France // But someone’s gotta keep the American promise
Guys. I LOVE Thomas Jefferson. I did a project on him in third grade, and he was just the best president. (I know he owned slaves, and that’s super not cool, but come on, give eight year old me some credit.) This song introduces the third President of the United States and Alexander Hamilton’s sworn enemy, and it’s so catchy. Jefferson definitely made a bang when he came back from France.
8. “The Reynolds Pamphlet”
Standout Lyric: [Burr/Jefferson/Madison:] Alexander Hamilton had a torrid affair // And he wrote it down right there // [Madison:] Highlights!
Another spoiler alert? Hamilton SUCKS and cheated on the most amazing woman ever. And she was taking none of that shit and burned everything he ever wrote for her. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Basically, Hamilton loved to write. He wrote like he was “running out of time.” He wrote even when he most definitely should not have written. Exhibit A, the Reynolds Pamphlet, where he documented every letter exchanged between him and his mistress Maria Reynolds over the one-year long affair. Hamilton was afraid people were going to out him, so he revealed it himself — in a 95 page pamphlet. As disappointed as I was in Hamilton’s behavior, this is still one of my favorite songs from the musical.
Standout Lyric: I’m erasing myself from the narrative // Let future historians wonder how Eliza // Reacted when you broke her heart // You have torn it all apart // I am watching it // Burn
So, yeah. Back to what I was saying about Eliza burning everything Hamilton ever wrote her. “Burn” is one of the more heartbreaking songs from the musical, and “Hamilton” is set during one of the deadliest wars in history, so that’s saying something. From their first moment seeing each other on the dance floor, to the biggest heartbreak of her life, listeners are with Eliza through it all. And it comes back to bite us in the finale, just you wait.
10. “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”
Standout Lyric: But when you’re gone, who remembers your name? // Who keeps your flame?
This is a work of genius, just like Hamilton’s work on the treasury system. This song weaves in elements from the entire musical, referencing the introduction, to “My Shot,” to leaving your mark on history, to Eliza writing herself out of the narrative and back into it in the finale to leaving Hamilton’s lasting mark on the world. If you didn’t know, Hamilton was murdered in a duel in New Jersey with Aaron Burr after he endorsed Jefferson as the third president rather than Burr. It’s all incredibly complicated which is why you should listen to the musical (or read the biography). But basically, Miranda is a genius. We are all lucky to walk the same Earth as him. And I’m going to go cry into my pillow about the election of 1800.
BONUS: “What Comes Next?”
Standout Lyric: You’re on your own // Awesome. Wow // Do you have a clue what happens now?
But wait! One of the best people in history, well in this musical, is King George. He’s absolutely hilarious in the show and actually brings a lot of comedic relief in my opinion.
So there you have it. Some of my favorite songs from “Hamilton,” and I didn’t even talk about any of the cabinet meetings. Truly and honestly “Hamilton” is one of the best musicals I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. I wish I could see it live, but alas, Spotify will have to do for now. The deliberate decision making, intricate detail orientation, and masterful composition of this entire piece will astound me every time I hit the play button. I am incredibly grateful for the existence of this musical in my life.