Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 04, 2016

The Hamilton Mixtape

Coming out in December is The Hamilton Mixtape, an album of remixes and new interpretations of the songs from Hamilton. Two tracks have been released: My Shot (feat. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz & Nate Ruess) (Rise Up Remix), and It's Quiet Uptown, sung by Kelly Clarkson.

Listen and compare.

And the original

The remix is less specific to Hamilton, and so perhaps more universal, and of course these are rappers of great technical skill (I have a fondness for Busta Rhymes dating back to the time I saw Whoo Ha! Got You All In Check on MTv) , but there's far less musical complexity (and musicality) than with Alex Lacamoire's orchestrations for the show. All through My Shot, Lacamoire builds drama through changing tempos and adding layers of harmony -- each iteration of the refrain "I am not throwing away my shot" has a different harmonic structure, and even within a single refrain, new voices amp up the intensity. And the remix doesn't even attempt anything like the intricacy of the My Shot's ending.

And the original

Again, in the cover, all specific references to Hamilton have been removed or altered, so it's more universal. But I miss the simplicity and purity of the original, and I don't prefer Clarkson's voice for this song. The bones of the song are strong enough, though, that even in the cover my breath still caught at "Forgiveness...".

Still, based on these snippets, when I'm going to relisten to songs from Hamilton, I'm going to reach for the cast recordings rather than this new album.

If you're fan of Hamilton -- or perhaps especially if you aren't -- read Melanie Bettinelli's analysis of Hamilton as an American tragedy:
In which I sketch out a few thoughts on Hamilton: An American Musical, the Broadway hit that reinvents the American revolution as a musical tragedy that some have said is Shakespearian in its vision and scope. The play is radically innovative, mingling rap and hip hop music with traditional Broadway show tunes and sounds from other popular genres. Its success has reached far beyond the usual scope for Broadway shows, drawing the attendance of no less than the president of the United States who in turn invited the cast for a command performance at the White House. This play has captured the hearts of audiences who hate musical theater and who despise rap. Why is this the Hamilton moment? I argue that it’s precisely because Hamilton’s tragedy is America’s tragedy.
...Perhaps one reason why Hamilton has been so wildly popular across all demographics and political affiliations is this cathartic effect of tragedy. Do we sense this regenerative energy as it confronts the deepest wound of the American psyche, the communal guilt of slavery? That doesn’t quite seem to work since there’s not a clear connection between Hamilton’s downfall and the problem of slavery. But there’s something here… in Hamilton’s confrontation with the problem of legacy, with what kinds of garden will spring up after you’ve planted the seeds. What seeds did the Revolution plant? Perhaps Hamilton the musical implies that we are still fighting to realize the vision of Revolution, that the war is incomplete and perhaps it is part of Hamilton’s tragedy that his fall kept him from becoming president, from achieving a political position where he could have implemented his abolitionist vision. Instead, his life was cut short too early, just like that of Laurens who never got to lead the first black battalion, and with his downfall America lost a visionary president who might have found a way to fulfill that revolutionary promise, that lost dream.
And this is where the metanarrative comes in. Because it’s Eliza who ultimately lives and tells Hamilton’s story and it’s Lin Manuel Miranda who tells the story. Just as Eliza puts herself into the narrative, so does Lin Manuel Miranda. He makes this a story about New York immigrants. He writes blacks and Latinos and Asians into the narrative. He makes it their story. The story of America then as told by America now. And it’s immigrants who get the job done, who break out of the endless cycle of violence, who cut through the black and white binary and envision a different narrative, one where the founding fathers are free to be flawed human beings at the same time that they are visionaries whose ideals are worth preserving. Perhaps their legacy can be redeemed, their sins forgiven, and their vision reclaimed from the dustbin of history?

No comments: