After a much-anticipated wait, the next installment of Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has arrived. The Hamilton Mixtape has been in the works for years now, according to the mastermind behind the original work. When the track list to the album was released at the beginning of November, the expectations began to build at the sight of the star power present on the album: Chance the Rapper, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Usher, Sia, Wiz Khalifa, John Legend and countless other forces in the field. With great names came great expectations, and the album does a solid job of living up to the hype.
The Mixtape is a 23-part ode to the American story. At times a love story, at times a reality check, the album takes many different approaches to telling Miranda’s story from fresh perspectives. While Hamilton itself is a contemporary look on a historical story, the music on the Mixtape takes the modernization a step further. Often times, the songs expand upon the original story to highlight issues of modern America. One such song is the album’s eleventh track, “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done).” The song, vocalized by K’NAAN, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC and Residente, opens with an audio clip highlighting the modern issue of immigration in America. The song then ties in original lyrics from Hamilton’s “Yorktown” before jumping into a four-minute rant highlighting the hardships that immigrants incur. The song has a timelessness to it as immigrants present and past can relate to the theme.
The songs on the album carry a quality that allow them to land amongst the likes of top 40-style music — no thanks to their artists. Sia’s take on “Satisfied” could easily be fresh off of any of her albums. The collaboration with Queen Latifah and Miguel takes the original body of the song and adds her pop twist to the tune. The song becomes a smooth and catchy love ballad highlighting strong vocals, easily becoming one of the album’s gems. Strong vocals is a theme throughout the album and can be heard on John Legend’s “History Has Its Eyes On You” and Kelly Clarkson’s “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Both songs, like “Satisfied,” stick to the original skeleton of the song, and take the music a step further to bring out new underlying qualities in the songs: Legend transforms his into a bluesy, piano-heavy work, while Clarkson takes her piece from a simple, quiet song of mourning to a strong, modern work of pop.
Many of the album’s songs bring a rawness to the table that perhaps was not present in the show’s consistently strong original works. Regina Spektor and Ben Fold’s take on “Dear Theodosia” breaks the song down to something simple. Spektor’s feather-light voice pairs with the soft piano to transform the song into a simple ode to love. This rawness continues with the another version of the song. “Dear Theodosia – Reprise” hears Chance the Rapper’s voice undressed to its bare self. This allows a raspiness to bleed through the lyrics, revealing true emotion behind the words. Although drowned out at points by loud background music, Chance’s genuine vocals are the highlight of the song.
Miranda’s original inspiration of hip hop is present throughout the album as well. Rap god Wiz Khalifa takes what was a more pop-oriented song and transforms it into a work of hip hop art in his piece, “Washingtons By Your Side.” Khalifa mixes the original lyrics with his own to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the song. The hip hop genre can also be found in the new addition to the album “Wrote My Way Out.” The song takes a line from the original show’s “Hurricane”, and creates a whole piece around it. The song emphasizes the significance of writing, applying the matter not only to Alexander Hamilton himself, but to the song’s artists as well.
While the album is filled with deservedly praised updates on the original music, a few songs fall short of their goal. One such song is the album’s tenth track. Alicia Key’s rendition of “That Would Be Enough” attempts to take the original music and create a new soft, bluesy ballad. Unfortunately, the expectations fall short and the song presents itself as a flat cover with unexpectedly weak vocals.
Overall, the album presents “Hamilton” in a fresh light that will appeal to lovers of modern pop, hip hop, or blues-inspired work. For those who cannot get enough of the show, another Mixtape is in the works. Until then, keep fighting to get tickets to the main event.
Stream The Hamilton Mixtape below.