All Aboard the Hamiltrain!

Warning: Long Post ahead! Get ready to go on a locomotive journey

I blame you, friend-who-I-will-not-name for introducing me to Hamilton! *shakes a fist* You know who you are…

For those of you who used to be as oblivious as I was, I’m talking about Hamilton: An American Musical, the hip-hop musical about the life and times of one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton.

Other people: What?! That sounds so weird.

Me: THAT IS THE COOLEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD OF. (And at this point I hadn’t even heard it yet.)

Yes, the Hamilton musical took the world by storm in 2015, cleaning up at the Tony Awards and providing a brilliant opening and closing number. But was I there to witness it? Nope. Was I around at the time Hamilton fever was sweeping the world?? Nope. Had I even heard it discussed by my friends??? Nope. But I had vaguely heard about it on the internet (read: Tumblr) and seen artists’ representations of the songs (like some of the pieces from the #Ham4Pamphlet, collated by Arielle Jovellanos).

No, it wasn’t until I finally started uni that I was convinced to listen to it. Apparently, all it took was my friend to say, “It’s a hip hop musical” and I was hooked (see above dialogue).

Now, I’m not going to sit here and review/analyse it, but I will say that it is a huge help to me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been having some difficulties in making friends, which isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve had to move away from home to attend uni. Fortunately, I had friends who were attending another university in the area. We catch up every now and then, and it was during one of these catch-ups that one of my friends (let’s refer to her as Peggy from now on) suggested I listen to Hamilton.

Peggy had been quietly obsessing over it for some time, and had been trying to get other people to listen to it too, so she could fangirl with other people (side note: isn’t that the worst feeling? Almost as bad as the ‘the-thing-I-tried-showing-you-last-month-is-finally-popular-and-now-you-pay-attention-to-it’ syndrome). Alas, no one would heed her cries, and so when we met up that one time, she saw the chance and took it. And as much as I want to curse her for getting me obsessed with Hamilton, I probably want to thank her more.

Now, without giving too much away, (which seems pretty redundant, since this musical is based on history… but anyways), two of the stand-out songs are sung by Alexander Hamilton himself (played by the writer and composer of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda), and, funnily enough, Hamilton’s frenemy, Aaron Burr (played by Leslie Odom Jr.).

Hamilton’s explosive introduction manifests itself in ‘My Shot’, a song filled to the brim with tongue-twisting rap lyrics and fiery determination. Here, we learn more about the protagonist of the tale and his beliefs and ambitions. It’s all about not wasting your shot at something you want, and is also a chance for Hamilton to talk himself up a little bit. But the thing I really took away from this song is Hamilton’s sheer determination and drive to succeed.

I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately

Smashin’ every expectation

Every action’s an act of creation!

It’s in the words he’s spitting, it’s in the pace and tempo of the song which seems so urgent, and it’s in the way Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Hamilton. There’s a sense of pressing importance that he manages to convey. Every word Hamilton says is insistent, almost stressed to the point of explosion. And the craziest part is, his spark sets the whole ensemble aflame, and ‘My Shot’ turns into an anthem for the revolution.

I am not throwing away my shot

I am not throwing away my shot

Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot

Rise up!

When you’re living on your knees, you rise up

Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up

Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up

Ah, you’ve got to love the power of words. This, obviously, is my ‘pump-up’ song to get me inspired to work hard in uni, even though I had to leave all my family and friends back home and learn to live on my own. I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to study exactly what I wanted to, and I am so lucky to be able to get an education; so I am not throwing away my shot! Of course, ‘My Shot’ is still about Hamilton in the end, and he does have a moment of stillness, which is rather beautiful amongst the whiplash of words. He reflects on why he wears his heart on his sleeve and tells people what he believes in. The simple reason? Because you never know when your time is up. So, it’s time to take a shot!

Doing a complete 180° is Aaron Burr (sir), and his song, ‘Wait For It’. Just looking at the song title gives you a sense of a pause, a moment of reprieve. And it is, both in the musical’s line-up, and as a time to focus in on the deuteragonist of the musical. In this piece, we learn more about Burr, and what drives his actions as an individual. Listening to the lyrics, we find that Hamilton and Burr aren’t too dissimilar, but it is their primary difference that completely separates them. While Hamilton isn’t afraid to leap into a revolution, brandishing his sharp tongue and (preferably) pistol, Burr is more inclined to, well, wait for it. It’s an idea that I’m seeing in my social life, which as we know, is extremely limited. It’s also an inspirational song, one of those songs that you can apply to the great question of life and how it operates. I have no doubt that this song is one of those songs that will keep me going, even in my darkest days.

I am the one thing in life I can control

I am inimitable

I am an original

I’m not falling behind or running late

I’m not standing still

I am lying in wait

Sometimes in this life of ours, we just have to go with the flow and wait and see what it has in store for us. It’s something that I also appreciate. Life isn’t always fair, but I have faith that it will get better if we’re willing to do our best and see what happens. I mean, that’s all we can do in life, right? Do the best you can do in the face of whatever life throws at you.

Life doesn’t discriminate

Between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes

And we keep living anyway,

We rise and we fall and we break

And we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason

I’m still alive

When so many have died

Then I’m willing to wait for it

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes you’ve got to go out there and seize the day. Other times, you’ve got to be patient and see what life is going to dish out to you. But honestly, I’m going to try to live by both. The trick, I guess, is to know when to take a shot and when to wait for it.

 

P.S. *sarcasm ahead* Woah, wait; did I say this wasn’t an analysis???? Oops.

 

{Song of the Post: ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening number for Hamilton. Duh. But seriously, just listen to the whole thing.}

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