Oof. I knew I was going to hate this, but I hadn’t prepared myself for how MUCH I could hate it…
I’ve been talking shit about Hamilton for a while now. Several family members and friends love it, and think I’m just … well, I just… I just don’t GET it.
So, in the spirit of fairness and open-mindedness, and in response to a challenge laid out in an early episode of Chapo Trap House (they defied their listeners to make it through even one single song from this show), I decided to listen to the entire soundtrack.
First, my bona fides. Yes, I have bona fides. Buckets of bona fides.
I like musicals. They’re goofy and weird but I can’t complain about that. When I was young, I saw the Canadian touring company versions of Phantom and Les Mis, and I memorized the shit out of those soundtracks. You want to throw down with a little Valjean/Javert confrontation, I AM IN.
I saw Chicago and Rent and Miss Saigon. Norman Jewison’s version of Jesus Christ Superstar is easily one of my all-time favourite films. It’s funny, it’s a thoughtful reflection on the perils of fame… ok, clearly it will need its own review here one of these days.
The point is, I like musicals.
I also like hip-hop. A lot. I was that white kid in the suburbs listening to rap music, wondering why generic late-80s rock seemed so boring by comparison. I heard ‘Let Your Backbone Slide’ and ‘Bust a Move, and immediately had to find them on tape. I ended up buying a PolyTel compilation of sorts, actually called ‘Rap Traxx 2’, because it looked like it had the songs I had heard. This lead me to De La Soul, LL Cool J, the Digital Underground, Queen Latifah… and on and on and on. I knew the words to Ice T’s ‘New Jack Hustler’ long before I understood what most of the words meant. If there are more than two or three bees flying around together, I can’t help myself from mumbling :
“I bomb atomically / Socrates’ philosophies and hypotheses / Can’t define how I be droppin’ these….”
Blackstar. Nas. KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions. Killer Mike. Jurassic 5.
I love hip-hop. I’m a lyrics guy, and I like a good beat. I won’t annoy you with generic white boy rap musings (‘MF Doom!’), but I know my shit.
And good god do I ever hate Hamilton…
It’s a hip-hop musical, and it’s the corniest shit I’ve ever heard in my life. If you asked ME to rap about history, it would be only slightly more embarrassing than this.
As this useful infographic from Twitter explains:
So let’s go through this soundtrack, song by song, to learn the (absolutely incorrect) history of a power-loving asshole, who Lin-Manuel thinks is the bad-ass original gangster (uhh… Ice T already owns that title, thank you very much…)
1. Alexander Hamilton
We meet our ‘hero’, described as:
“The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father/
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder/
By being a lot smarter/
By being a self-starter”
Already I hate this guy. We’re supposed to be impressed that this guy pulled himself up by his bootstraps. I guess he ‘changed the world’ because he wanted it more than everyone else… Yeah, that’s how it works.
2. Aaron Burr, Sir
BOOO Aaron Burr! BOOO!
Burr: “Don’t let them know what you’re against of what you’re for”
Also, Yo Momma jokes, sexual boasting, and a list of ‘Burr’ rhymes that makes me think of this:
3. My Shot
I’m young (inexperienced) scrappy (volatile and violent) and hungry (ambitious but unfocused). Yeah, I want two more hours of this guy.
4. The Story of Tonight
These dudes… what a bunch of crazy dudes! I like the one who is just enough of a caricature to be funny, but not SO much of a caricature to be considered inappropriate/racist!
5. The Schuyler Sisters
Manhattan is the best city in the world!
Demonstrably false, but the man knows how to pander to the local crowd, and that’s what matters in a good show.
6. Farmer Refuted
“Your revolution is misguided!”
“My dog is smarter than you!”
Sick burn, Hamilton. I can see that you are indeed much smarter than those around you.
“Why should a tiny island across the sea regulate the price of tea?”
Good fucking question, Hamilton. It’s called Empire, and your country is about to take that shit to a whole ‘nother LEVEL.
7. You’ll Be Back
Ha ha ha! Politics is like an abusive lover! This relationship dynamic won’t POSSIBLY come back to haunt the US, right?
8. Right Hand Man
He wished for war as a kid?
To the complaint:
“We are outgunned / Outmanned / Outnumbered / Outplanned / We gotta make an all out stand”
Hamilton offers… to write congress for more money. He tells Washington to “Master the element of surprise”. Wow, thanks Hamilton, hadn’t thought to try that one.
9. A Winter’s Ball
I may be a cool founding father, but I also LOVE TO FUUUUUCK.
“Eliza, I don’t have a dollar to my name/
An acre of land, a troop to command, a dollop of fame/
All I have’s my honor, a tolerance for pain/
A couple of college credits and my top-notch brain”
BWUA HA HA! If you met this guy at a bar he’d be wearing a giant Dr. Seuss hat (‘peacocking’) and lecturing you about how feminism is just an advanced form of slavery.
“I’m smarter than everybody. I have samurai swords on my wall and the marines wouldn’t accept me cuz I’m too fucking hardcore for them. Also, I’ve been kicked out of Target three times this year because THEY’RE the REAL racists.”
We’re all just trying to improve our social status. This guy is horny as hell. No one here will ever be satisfied, apparently. How is this heroic?
12. The Story of Tonight (Reprise)
“My man got laid AND he’s rich! Way to fuck your way to the top, Hamilton!”
“Also, Burr, you are clearly the worst and the audience is supposed to hate you. You are too cowardly to pursue a married woman, and you tell me to ‘smile more’. Goddam you suck.”
13. Wait For It
“I’m a dorkus malorkus and Hamilton is just silly. I will have zero character arc in this story.”
14. Stay Alive
“They hired a tool instead of me. I’D have snuck into camps at night and stabbed the enemy in their neck, because I’m the bad boy rebel. Milhouse over there can’t command shit.”
15. Ten Duel Commandments
Using Biggie to … romanticize an even more absurd masculine code?
My god, this appeals to those who worship systems… There are clear RULES to murder, sir! Did you see my recent flowchart for apartheid on Slate.com?
It’s like a Vox explainer came to life and tried its hand at rapping.
16. Meet Me Inside
Petulant brat has daddy issues but hates being called ‘Son’. There’s a Milo joke here, right?
17. That Would Be Enough
Restlessness can be a chronic syndrome. The inability to be satisfied with one’s current condition may indicate an anxiety disorder.
18. Guns and Ships
According to Genius lyrics:
“Hamilton may possibly hold the title of fastest-paced Broadway show, but the distinction of single fastest song is still pretty much a toss-up. “Guns and Ships,” the fastest song in Miranda’s show, barrels along at 6.3 words per second”
Well call me impressed! So many words! It’s like when they talk super fast on an Aaron Sorkin show, but don’t actually say anything that matters to anyone.
19. History Has Its Eyes On You
“War crimes and general dickishness were cool before, but now you’re an officer… people will care about your dickishness.”
“History has its eyes on you” is such a bizarre warning. Kinda like how Washington DC looks like it was designed to become ruins, Hamilton is being told to act in such a way that the history books will say nice things about him.
20. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
By the way, here’s why Vox says it’s ok that the facts aren’t right:
“This criticism of how Hamilton places its title character in context might be legitimate if Hamilton weren’t, well, what it is. In essence, Hamilton is a postmodern metatextual piece of fanfic, functioning in precisely the way that most fanfics do: It reclaims the canon for the fan.
In this case, Hamilton’s canon is history, and the fan, Miranda, is doing a lot more than simply adapting it. Like the best fanfic writers, he’s not just selectively retelling history — he’s transforming it.”
Yuuuup. It’s just fanfic! As the Chapo hosts noted, the film 300 is just Hamilton for the right-wing. Sexy ‘modern’ elements used to make boring history come alive, all while using the cover of ‘historical accuracy’ to gloss over the parts you don’t like (slavery, buggery, etc.)
21. What Comes Next?
Finally, a moment of brilliance. This is precisely the question that the contemporary left needs to answer. After the revolution, what comes next? What forms of power will replace those that we just dismantled, and how will they differ (in kind, and not just in degree) from past failures? As Zizek asks of the film V for Vendetta, or as Adam Curtis asks of both Occupy Wall Street and the protests in Tahrir Square… what comes next?
I doubt this is what the show means… I think Hamilton is just impatient and wants history to hurry up and happen.
22. Dear Theodosia
Founding FATHERS, get it? They’re just super-proud cool dads putting a trilby on their son at the coffee shop. “Hey little man, you’re going to be a fucking rockstar just like your old man”
End of Act 1. Let’s recap all our major themes at once:
- Burr sucks and has no balls
- Hamilton is restless and that’s somehow admirable
- The new country is a work in progress. Only Hamilton can save it, even though he is clearly an asshole.
- Hamilton is the man he is because of hard work and innate genius. Be born with both or history will never have its eyes on you, kids.
24. What’d I Miss
“DERP I’m Jefferson and I was in FrAaaAAance this whole time. DERP!”
25. Cabinet Battle #1
Ah fuck me he’s going to compare politics to rap battles, isn’t he?
Life is not debate club. Politics is not debate club. Fuck debate club.
Also, we set up that Thomas Jefferson totally sucks. He doesn’t like to read long things:
“This financial plan is an outrageous demand/
And it’s too many damn pages for any man to understand”
Get it? Like the REPUBLICANS!
Hamilton: ‘YOU OWN SLAVES, and you HANG OUT WITH THE FRENCH!’
Audience: ‘BOOOO! Jefferson sucks!’
26. Take a Break
“Be a good father. Go see your wife. Have some of that sex you love so much.”
“CAN’T. Too busy working on this country!”
Damn… he’s such a great leader…
27. Say No To This
Uhh… Hamilton has sex with her, her husband blackmails Hamilton, and this song blames her for the whole mess? She’s a whore, she’s scheming, she’s…
Fucking hell, guess we all just forgot our politics when listening to this, huh?
28. The Room Where It Happens
Politics is a swamp and only great men like Hamilton can survive the swamp of Washington. The virtuous man heroically dealing with treacherous villains.
29. Schuyler Defeated
Comparing two crimes: one switched parties and got elected, the other CREATED WALL STREET. Yeah, Burr wins this round.
30. Cabinet Battle #2
Fuck me, this is a joke, right?
I could write pages just on this. He stands for nothing, he betrays anyone and everyone in a heartbeat. Jefferson is absolutely in the right here, and Hamilton sets a clear precedent for American policy: intervention if it suits us, otherwise go die in a fire.
31. Washington On Your Side
Second song where Jefferson gets catty and insults Hamilton’s clothing. Lovely.
Also, they keep reminding us they hate him for being an immigrant.
32. One Last Time
Hero worship 101. Jesus Christ Superstar did this with better choreography and some self-awareness.
33. I Know Him
The British are STUPID, part 3. For the live performances, does this guy wear goofy fake teeth and a flamboyant wig? I bet he does.
34. The Adams Administration
Hamilton is a petulant little shit and learns about consequences.
… or DOES HE?
35. We Know
NO NO you guys, I didn’t steal some money… I had sex with a married woman and paid off her shitbag cuckold of a husband. See, here’s the paperwork to prove it! We’re cool now, right?
“I wrote financial systems into existence/
And when my prayers to God were met with indifference/
I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance”
Fuck you, God, I’ll find my OWN way to enshrine elitism and a lecherous love of money into this country’s laws… I don’t need you!
37. The Reynolds Pamphlet
‘This cuck says I’m a criminal, but actually I’m just a horny bro’
Are we supposed to feel SORRY for him not being able to become president after this? Kinda seems like it…
Audience: ‘Aawwww… give him a chance! So he made ONE mistake!’
“You have married an Icarus/
He has flown too close to the sun”
“Be careful with that one, love/
He will do what it takes to survive”
HE. FUCKED. A MARRIED WOMAN. IN YOUR BED.
Oh, his greatness and ambition took him down a path of-
GODDAMIT. This show is breaking my brain.
39. Blow Us All Away
“The scholars say I got the same virtuosity and brains as my pops/
The ladies say my brain’s not where the resemblance stops”
You’re a cocky little shit who apparently sleeps with the same women that your father does.
I take it all back. This is the template for all American greatness. The Kennedy clan, the Roosevelts, the Bushes, the Trumps… all dynasties in American politics start here. Sexual conquest, nepotism, and fail-sons.
40. Stay Alive (Reprise)
Fail-son dies stupidly.
“The bullet entered just above his hip and lodged in his right arm”
I thought they were pointing pistols at each other… was he duelling with a small child? The ballistics don’t make any sense here.
41. It’s Quiet Uptown
From Genius lyrics:
“The Hamiltons grieve Philip’s death and slowly begin to put their lives back together in this moving treatise on grief, forgiveness, and by extension, humanity’s terrible and infinite capacity for love.”
If you don’t yet understand the crippling mental affliction that is Western Liberalism in the 21st Century, this kind of prose is a good place to start.
“Fans of the show believe it to be one of the deadliest songs ever written and strenuously advise against listening to it in public”
I didn’t make that up. Someone – a FAN of Hamilton – wrote that.
I agree with half of this warning.
42. The Election of 1800
Why did I tell myself I’d listen to all of this? There are 46 tracks on this soundtrack. It just won’t end.
There’s an election. Jefferson wins. Apparently it had nothing to do with ideology or values or the voters, it’s all about Hamilton because the show is called Hamilton so every single fucking thing that happened during his time on earth was about him.
43. Your Obedient Servant
Hamilton and Burr: a tweet war that got out of hand.
These two idiots agreed to shoot each other… through politely-signed letters. I mean, how fucking adorable is that? It’s the equivalent of today’s practice: getting upset on Twitter but always including the word ‘Sir’ to show your good manners.
“Sir! I said, SIR! How DARE you, Sir! Have you no decency, SIR? Will you not debate my ideas, SIR!”
The politics of middle-class civility are as laughable and repugnant today as they’ve always been.
44. Best of Wives and Best of Women
“You’re my light and my life and my everything, babe. BTW, totes gonna murder a dude tomorrow.”
45. The World Was Wide Enough
They shoot each other. Hamilton dies. Burr is all “ah man, I IMMEDIATELY regret doing this…”
There was room enough in history for the both of them. But they ONLY figured that out after an idiotic duel. Daaaaamn. Why can’t we all just learn to get along?
46. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.
In order: Burr, Hamilton, that kid in high school who cared more about the drama club’s new production of Music Man than he did about attending history class or developing an identity.
I made it. I survived the entire stupid thing.
I learned nothing about Alexander Hamilton, I heard nothing that can be called ‘good’ hip-hop, and I think I might hate musicals now. The next time I hear Les Miserables, I’m immediately going to hear it as a shitty rap album. (Did you know that the French Revolution was the ORIGINAL Occupy Movement?)
(to the tune of Slick Rick’s Children’s Story):
Y’all tucked in? Heeeere we go…
Once upon a time, not long ago/
When women died in childbirth and lived in woe/
When laws were stern and justice stood/
So people built up barricades with reclaimed wood/
There was a little boy who was misled/
He tried to feed his family with stolen bread/
“Me and Javert we gonna feud and clash/
Gonna rob this old man, take his candles and dash”/
See? History is COOL!
Hamilton. It’s a plague, ruining the minds of centrist Liberals, and convincing people they love hip-hop when in reality they just love Ice Ice Baby and Hey Yeah. (Hey Yeah is a great song, by the way, but it ain’t Bombs Over Baghdad…)
As a musical: (3 / 10)
It’s Rent without any good love songs.
As rap music: (2 / 10)
It’s the Rapper’s Delight of Broadway: hired guns without a decent flow or anything worth saying.
As an ‘important’ text exploring political disputes and the need for cooperation and love: (0 / 10)
It’s every myth of American exceptionalism mixed with the toxic shit-brew of contemporary Liberalism, edified and legitimized by the worst people in society. When assholes are willing to pay 1000 bucks a ticket and the foundations created by the robber baron assholes of another century are sending school kids to ‘learn about history’, you know you’re dealing with something both dangerous and devoid of real meaning. It’s a feel-good fantasy about a Founding Father who didn’t deserve to be redeemed in any way, told through the pandering and watered-down styles of hip-hop most approachable for an audience otherwise terrified of anything remotely ‘urban’.
Reminder: I’m lots of fun at parties!