Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Hamilton – My Shot

Critically acclaimed Broadway music, to two decimal places…


Lauren Gilbert: If this were a review of Hamilton, it would get a [10] without question. Hamilton is the musical I never knew I needed; catchy as fuck, influenced by modern music (look, musical theatre, Rogers and Hammerstein have been dead for nearly half a century; we can move on now), and geeky as hell. Who but Lin-Manuel Miranda could get away with introducing Thomas Jefferson with “you haven’t met him yet, you haven’t had the chance/he’s been kicking ass as the ambassador to France”? “My Shot” showcases the same lyrical exuberance — the monarchy/anarchy/panicky rhyme is a particular favorite.  My only hesitation is how well the song works without the context of the musical; “we need to handle our financial situation/are we a nation of states? What’s the state of our nation” isn’t exactly as universal a sentiment as “I dreamed a dream of life gone by” or even “Do You Hear The People Sing?”.  It is both a strength and weakness that no one song in Hamilton can be separated from the whole. “My Shot” isn’t really a single, but it is a damn good song.

Micha Cavaseno: Hamilton is basically one of the most ideologically sound and provocative musicals in years that totally works in a way politically that I appreciate. BUT. What happens when you have modern hip-hop production sandblasted into Broadway style fanfare is your music sounds like it got produced by Ryan Lewis and thereby, I can’t fuck with you.

Alfred Soto: “I’m a diamond in the rough,” okay fine, but “I will lay down my life if it sets us free/Eventually you’ll see my ascendancy”? A fan of Ron Chernow’s bio and an owner of the brainy adulterer’s selected essays, I have trouble fitting the most erratic and volatile of the Framers to a contemporary self-help ethos framed by Eminem. But what do I know — I haven’t seen Hamilton, where this “Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again” structure probably worked. I love theater but have trouble wresting songs from their proper contexts.

Jonathan Bogart: Schoolhouse Rock for the Eminem generation. Trust showtune-gospel fundamentals: by the time the last chorus came around I was getting chills, but it was a Pavlovian response to structure and dynamics, not any sympathy with the preciously overworked lyrics. Much less patriotic fervor; from my current eyeline the dispute between colonists and crown revolves into the narcissism of small differences, and the fundamental power structures of the half-millennium remained unchanged — if anything, they only grew more cast-iron. Dressing eighteenth-century land- and life-thievers spouting pretty ideas in the skin and sounds of twentieth-century African-America (and not tailored any too snappily, at that) is as much an apologia for the thieves as a reclamation of the ideas. But I never did like Schoolhouse Rock; I pledged another flag.

Thomas Inskeep: My problems with “My Shot” are as follows: 1. Yes, this is hip-hop meets Broadway, but it’s hip-hop circa, I dunno, ’91; it sounds pretty dated. 2. Yes, this is hip-hop meets Broadway, but it’s still a Broadway musical, and is thus contained by a certain inherent cheesiness that isn’t very becoming to hip-hop. 3. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s flow reminds me of no one so much as Macklemore. So sure, this is trying to push the boundaries of the stage, and Hamilton will likely sweep the Tonys next summer (as the theatre community applauds themselves on their “progressiveness”), and I’ll give it an “A” for effort. But I’ll never listen to “My Shot” again.

Katherine St Asaph: Musical theater, at least the American subset (conveniently subtracting Lloyd Webber, Disney and the rest) is among the country’s most peculiarly, doggedly American artforms; New York City and specifically Broadway is the spiritual foundry, but in theater its inhabitants are far less often cosmopolitan elites than would-bes chasing marquees and dreams, and for every tale of 42nd Street there’s one for Oklahoma or Gary, Indiana or Natchez, Mississippi. What I love, particularly, is the canon’s rich vein of historical and specifically presidential geekery, from 1776 to Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. The irony, though, is that Broadway is pricing itself out of the range of all of the above, that the aforementioned strivers, if they aren’t flat-out celebrities, are no kind of scrappy anybody but twentysomethings whose families could afford pouring thousands into musical theater auditions, lessons and gear since probably childhood, let alone affording living in New York; and theater’s engagement with pop culture is such that even something like Rent is pretty relevant as the medium goes. So while Alexander Hamilton, historically, was far from any kind of a populist, in Hamilton he’s both a started-from-the-bottom hip-hop figure and a classic Broadway striver, walking off his tired feet, hoping he gets it. The other reason Hamilton works is the sheer virtuosity of the writing, its rap references as thick as references to patter songs — not to mention historical texts, not to mention LMFAO even. It’s like Lin-Manuel Miranda knew that to get Hamilton accepted by the Broadway world, like (say) the Tupac musical wasn’t, the writing had to work fifty times as hard, be fifty times as showy, to prove itself. If I have a gripe it’s that parts of this, particularly the “just like my country…” line, overstate the point. That gripe’s well-subsumed by how gut-astonished I am someone wrote this.

Brad Shoup: I understand that Hamilton the musical is a shot of adrenaline, an audacious work that centers Americans of color and their claim to full citizenship. But until I catch it, I have the mental image of an adult on a PBS show telling kids that rap is, like, poetry with a catchy beat.

Reader average: [9.37] (35 votes)

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2 Responses to “Hamilton – My Shot”

  1. Broadway music getting 5.00 and a controversy of 2 is peak Jukebox and I’m not quite sure why saying that feels right, but it does.

  2. Honestly, “My Shot” works much less well than most other full songs on the soundtrack as a single– it’s halfway between the songs that work well as pop songs (“Helpless” and “Wait For It” are the standouts there) and the ones that are just broadway centerpieces that can stand on their own (“Yorktown”, “The Room Where It Happens”, “What’d I Miss”, even “Satisfied”). In context, it’s part of a three song set, bookended by “Aaron Burr, Sir” and “The Story of Tonight”. So basically, as part of the overall arc of Hamilton, a [8] or so. Without that narrative framework, [5] or [6] seems about right.