Riding The “Hamilton” Train: What I Love About Musicals
I’m sitting in my room in London. It is 12 minutes to Midnight (N.B. It seems to be a recurring theme of this blog that when I write a post, it is late at night...) and I have just listened to the cast recording of Hamilton.
For the last few days, I have toyed with the idea of writing a blog on the effect that music has on my mood. It's something I'd noticed during my last few weeks in Manchester and since coming back down South. But Hamilton has prompted me to pick up my proverbial pen and set down my thoughts.
For those of you who don't know, Hamilton is a new musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda that has swept Broadway and will soon be sweeping the States on a National Tour this year.
And the music is based on pop music styles; it is often billed as a Hip Hop Musical.
Now, I'm a self-confessed Musical Theatre baby; I like epic sweeping scores and lyrical melodic lines. I like a tune with range; a ‘good sing’ if you will.
And when I'm not listening to a bit of Sondheim, I like songs with guitars that are a bit shouty and/or have an anti-establishment agenda. Pop music, not so much.
But this show... Oh my goodness, this show...
What I love about songs from musicals (well...*cough*... well written musicals) is the combination of story, lyrics, music and orchestration. That combination, when it's right, can move me like no other genre of music. Orchestral music can be too abstract for me; the human voice can convey a meaning, a truth and a humanity that an instrument can't. And popular music genres - Pop, Rock, Hip Hip, R 'n' B - are often not musically or lyrically nuanced enough to produce a deep, complex emotional response, which I like to feel sometimes (unless I'm in a shouty guitar mood).
Yet in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has managed to extract every iota of nuance, form and complexity from musical genres that often, to me, sound bland and uninteresting, combined them with some of most poetic lyrics I've heard (I mean “you built me palaces out of paragraphs” - I defy you to find a Nicki Minaj lyric with that kind of imagery) and made me feel deeply.
That’s what makes not just good Musical Theatre, but good music. Full Stop.
Maybe it’s a case of necessity being the mother of invention; you can’t write a musical using four chords and lyrics about hot women and money. But regardless, I think several pop artists, writers and composers need to see this musical.
And take thorough notes.