'Hamilton' Is Good... For a Musical

by Hayley Bonnett 2 years ago in rap

Let me explain.

'Hamilton' Is Good... For a Musical

Ah, Hamilton. Conceivably the musical of a generation. This groundbreaking "hip-hopera" (hip-hop opera, come on!) shook the Broadway scene, the theatre enthusiasts, and, in turn, the nation. If you're [somehow] not familiar with the musical, let me get you up to speed. Hamilton is an opera, meaning that there are no spoken words throughout the piece. It chronicles the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. The nation is on the brink of the Revolution, which excites some-- and worries others. The story is full of drama, laughter, heartbreak, and-- spoiler alert-- death. The opera, written by theatre giant Lin-Manuel Miranda, alternates between traditional Broadway-style song, rap, and R&B. It's really an interesting concept: a boring, over-taught era of history is redone in an exciting, fast-paced musical featuring a style of music that is new to the theatre realm. I won't deny that Hamilton is a masterpiece... for a musical. Let me explain.

Hamilton is very, very well done, and anyone could say so. However, I don't think it is worth the hype that has now been going on for over 2 years. It's a groundbreaking concept for musicals-- rap has never been done in theatre like in Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda is an extremely talented writer, composer, and actor. In fact, he played Hamilton in the original Broadway cast and did a fabulous job. But think about Hamilton's rap compared to rap from a mogul of the genre, like Kendrick Lamar or Eminem. Hamilton feels cheesy and falls short. There is an entire song about the titular character, where one of the seemingly most iconic lines is "Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexander Hamilton." Self-explanatory, I think, but I suppose it's important to the plot. It feels a bit like that Jason DeRulo song where he says his name in the beginning. (Oh wait, that's every one of his songs.) Another cheesy line introduces Lafayette, the famous French general. "Everyone give it up for America's favorite fighting Frenchman!" they say. Quite an introduction, and it feels a bit showy. It is a musical, however, so it's fitting. But compared to actual rap like you would find on the radio, it's nothing of spectacle.

For comparison, let's look at some lyrics from Kendrick Lamar's newest album. From the song "DNA:" "I was born like this, since one like this/Immaculate conception/I transform like this, perform like this." "Immaculate conception," what a phrase. From the song "pride:" "Promises are broken and more resentment come alive/Race barriers make inferior of you and I/See, in a perfect world, I'll choose faith over riches," says Kendrick. That second line, wow. Bringing modern social issues into rap is the mark of a true lyricist. Now, I admit, I did a bit of cherry-picking with these lyrics, Lin-Manuel Miranda did write some really clever rhymes, but think about it. Hamilton's history-turned-rap is a bit of a cheesy concept. History was fun for teachers and a few nerdy kids until Hamilton came about. Rap has been the "cool" thing for a few decades now, making the musical seem like a history teacher's attempt to appeal to the young'uns.

If you kept up with pop culture news when Hamilton opened in 2015, you would know that tickets for the musical were sold out months in advance for every show for the musical's run on Broadway. It was easier to learn astrophysics than it was to get tickets to the show. Those lucky few who saw the show described it as "life changing," I'm not kidding! Now, I highly doubt that a musical could be life changing, but I have a theory.

"Rose-colored glasses" is a term that means viewing things with an especially optimistic perception. I believe that these theatre-goers had on rose-colored theatre glasses in view of Hamilton. They went in with a huge sense of optimism, and were wowed by the spectacle and grandeur of the show. It is a spectacle, I've been told, and I don't deny that fact. But if you look at the musical objectively, it's simply "good." It's not "life changing." It's not worth $500+ and hours of waiting in a queue. If you really love it, or really love musicals, it's worth your time and money to see it, but not worth exorbitant amounts of time and money, especially since it is not in its original tour anymore.

tl;dr Hamilton is good, there's no denying it, but it's only a musical.

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Hayley Bonnett

19. UCF. Aggressively mediocre at a handful of things. 

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