David Barry (pappubahry) wrote,
David Barry


Very late, I listened to the Hamilton cast album. My take is that it is good, and below I list some of my favourite bits (numbers are track numbers).

Act 1

1. Alexander Hamilton
  • The opening track is probably the best, with everything being top-quality until the repetitions of "In New York you can be a new man", which I find a bit meh. Two particular standouts follow.
  • Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned / Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain. I really love the "drip dripping down the drain", and I wonder why it works so well for me. I think there's more to it than the alliteration (though that probably helps), and is mostly about the rhythm. If I substitute in some nonsense, the feel of it still works pretty well for me: Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned / Our man trochee trochee trochee trochee trochee main.
  • Hamilton's introduction is great, and it's an interesting contrast to hear The world is gonna know your name. What’s your name, man? / Alexander Hamilton in Miranda's White House performance in 2009, where delivering the whole song solo makes it a laugh line.

2. Aaron Burr, Sir
  • On my first listen-through, all the 'Burr, sir's and rhymes were my favourite bit of wordplay, and I like the way the rhyme is often split between two characters. LMM: "I have a notebook somewhere that has every rhyme for Burr and I was just ticking them off the list."

3. My Shot
  • This one's in the top handful of tracks.
  • Hey yo, I’m just like my country / I’m young, scrappy and hungry / And I’m not throwing away my shot!
  • He says in parentheses
  • A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists? / Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is!
  • The 'whoa whoa' chorus thingies are great. See also this Ham4Ham video, which has a 375:1 like:dislike ratio in spite of generally poor sound quality.

5. The Schuyler Sisters
  • There’s nothing rich folks love more / Than going downtown and slummin’ it with the poor.
  • Look around, look around at how / Lucky we are to be alive right now! Probably my favourite recurring sung theme.

6. Farmer Refuted
  • This one I appreciated a lot more after reading LMM's notes – while Hamilton and Seabury are talking over the top of each other, there are lots of words in common between the two of them, which must make for a better listening experience, even if it remains hard to follow.

7. You'll Be Back
  • I've read that this is a Beatles song but to me it's the Monkees' 'Daydream Believer'.

8. Right Hand Man
  • We are outgunned, Outmanned / Outnumbered, outplanned.
  • WASHINGTON: Now I’m the model of a modern major general
    The venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all
    Lining up, to put me up on a pedestal
    Writin’ letters to relatives
    Embellishin’ my elegance and eloquence
    But the elephant is in the room
    The truth is in ya face when ya hear the British cannons go
    ENSEMBLE:           Boom!

  • COMPANY: Boom!
    WASHINGTON:       Goes the cannon, watch the blood and the shit spray and
    COMPANY: Boom!
    WASHINGTON:       Goes the cannon, we’re abandonin’ Kips Bay.

9. Winter's Ball
  • Rich rhymes are good:
    BURR: Yo, if you can marry a sister, you’re rich, son
    HAMILTON: Is it a question of if, Burr, or which one?

10. Helpless
  • Laughin’ at my sister as she’s dazzling the room / Then you walked in and my heart went “Boom!” The rhyme (and drum beat) is telegraphed but/and I like it.

11. Satisfied

12. The Story of Tonight (Reprise)
  • BURR: You’re very kind, but I’m afraid it’s unlawful, sir
    HAMILTON:      What do you mean?
    BURR:          She’s married.
    HAMILTON:               I see.
    BURR:                    She’s married to a British officer.
    HAMILTON: Oh shit.

14. Stay Alive
  • Outrun (outrun), outlast (outlast) / Hit 'em quick, get out fast. I liked the equivalent line in Right Hand Man, and I like it here.

15. Ten Duel Commandments
  • I'm surprised that this song works at all – counting things feels more appropriate for a primary school educational video. But it does work, and this Ham4Ham is the sort of thing that could inspire me to learn theatre and try to subsist on half the minimum wage.
  • This is commonplace, ‘specially ‘tween recruits / Most disputes die, and no one shoots.

18. Guns and Ships
  • How do we emerge victorious from the quagmire? / Leave the battlefield waving Betsy Ross’ flag higher?
  • He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen / Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!
  • Lafayette's fast verses challenge preconceptions of how fast one can speak French-accented English.

20. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
  • We're finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run / Immigrants: We get the job done! This has become a big applause line, but I think I like the structure of it independent of my politics.
  • HAMILTON: The code word is ‘Rochambeau,’ dig me?
    ENSEMBLE:     Rochambeau!
    HAMILTON: You have your orders now, go, man, go!

  • When we finally drive the British away / Lafayette is there waiting in Chesapeake Bay!

23. Non-Stop
  • I practiced the law, I practic’ly perfected it
    I’ve seen injustice in the world and I’ve corrected it
    Now for a strong central democracy. If not, then I’ll be Socrates
    Throwing verbal rocks at these mediocrities.

  • HAMILTON: What are you waiting for? What do you stall for?
    BURR: What?
    HAMILTON:     We won the war, what was it all for?

  • Burr, we studied and we fought and we killed / For the notion of a nation we now get to build.

Act 2

25. Cabinet Battle #1
  • Yglesias writes of "the inherent limits of musical theater as a venue for policy analysis", but we take what we can get; this battle is great.

28. The Room Where It Happens.
  • BURR: Now how’re you gonna get your debt plan through?
    HAMILTON: I guess I’m gonna fin’ly have to listen to you.

  • BURR: Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room
    BURR AND ENSEMBLE: Diametric’ly opposed, foes
    BURR: They emerge with a compromise, having opened doors that were
    BURR AND ENSEMBLE: Previously closed
    ENSEMBLE:     Bros.

  • The repeated 'Thomas claims' for a section whose historical record relies on Jefferson's writing is an interesting jump into non-fiction history-telling. Others have written on the way the musical interacts with the way written history is constructed.
  • God help and forgive me / I wanna build something that’s gonna outlive me.

29. Schuyler Defeated
  • HAMILTON: Burr? Since when are you a Democratic-Republican?
    BURR: Since being one put me on the up and up again.

  • BURR: But upstate—
    HAMILTON:     Wait.
    BURR:         —people think you’re crooked
    Schuyler’s seat was up for grabs so I took it.

30. Cabinet Battle #2
  • I liked Hamilton's half of this battle more than Jefferson's.
  • You must be out of your Goddamn mind if you think
    The President is gonna bring the nation to the brink
    Of meddling in the middle of a military mess
    A game of chess, where France is Queen and Kingless
    We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket
    Would you like to take it out and ask it?
    “Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?”
    “Uh... do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”

31. Washington On Your Side
  • MADISON: Somebody has to stand up for the South!
    BURR: Somebody has to stand up to his mouth!
    JEFFERSON: If there’s a fire you’re trying to douse
    MADISON AND JEFFERSON: You can’t put it out from inside the house.
    JEFFERSON: I’m in the cabinet. I am complicit in
    Watching him grabbin’ at power and kissin' it
    If Washington isn’t gon’ listen
    To disciplined dissidents, this is the difference:
    This kid is out!

  • Southern motherfuckin’ Democratic-Republicans, what a line.

34. The Adams Administration
  • How does Hamilton the short-tempered
    Protean creator of the Coast Guard
    Founder of the New York Post
    Ardently abuse his cab’net post
    Destroy his reputation?
    Welcome, folks, to the Adams administration!

35. We Know
  • We have the check stubs. From separate accounts / Almost a thousand dollars, paid in different amounts.
  • Yes, I have reasons for shame / But I have not committed treason and sullied my good name.

37. The Reynolds Pamphlet
  • I know my sister like I know my own mind / You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind.

41. It's Quiet Uptown
  • :(

42. The Election of 1800
  • Can we get back to politics?
  • Thomas that’s the problem, see, they see Burr as a less extreme you / You need to change course, a key endorsement might redeem you.
  • I have never agreed with Jefferson once / We have fought on like seventy-five diff’rent fronts.

43. Your Obedient Servant
  • I needed the notes to understand this one – in the real-life letters that led up to the duel, they signed off with some kind of ironic "your obedient servant".
  • HAMILTON: Even if I said what you think I said
    You would need to cite a more specific grievance
    Here’s an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements.
    BURR: Sweet Jesus.

45. The World Was Wide Enough
  • Burr's narration of the duel is intense and good (as you'd expect).

46. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
  • :(
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