Well, it’s Monday again, which means we’ve got another week of music ready to digest. For the past several weeks, we’ve been taking our songs of the day from a wide selection of different genres. We’ve had weeks dedicated to classic rock, folk, alternative, electronic, K-pop, hip hop, instrumental, and more.
It’s safe to say that I’ve been reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, and our genre this week will be a little more niche. Our songs will be selected solely from musicals. After our last week of instrumental music, I thought someone out there might appreciate some more vocal-friendly selections.
To start things off, I thought we’d take a look at one of the best musicals to come out in recent years, and possibly ever.
“Hamilton” is the rap-infused musical following the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The musical was based off the biography, “Alexander Hamilton”, written by Ron Chernow. Miranda wrote the music, lyrics, and accompanying book, all which landed him a MacArthur Genius Grant.
“Hamilton” went on to sell out on Broadway (where Miranda also played Alexander Hamilton), and later received sixteen Tony nominations, winning eleven. It was also the recipient of the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theatre Album, and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
I’m not trying to convince anyone out there that they should go and watch “Hamilton” (but you should), I only want to highlight its accomplishments. Because they’re pretty darn impressive. If you’ve seen/listened to “Hamilton”, you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you either never will no matter what I say, or you’re right on the edge and just need a little push.
“My Shot” is the third song from Act One of “Hamilton. In it, a young Alexander Hamilton impresses a group of revolutionaries with his verbal skills and ambitious nature. The phrase, “I am not throwing away my shot”, becomes Alexander Hamilton’s mantra, popping up throughout the musical. If you already know how “Hamilton” ends, you’ll recognize the irony in these words.
It’s so hard to pick out a section of lyrics, because every single line makes me want to hear the next. Let’s just start from the beginning, and see how we do.
Hamilton’s character kicks off the song with a boast of his ambitions and the obstacles that face him.
“I’m a diamond in the rough, a shiny piece of coal
Tryin’ to reach my goal my power of speech, unimpeachable
Only nineteen but my mind is older
These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder
Every burden, every disadvantage
I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
I walk these streets famished”
In an analysis of “Hamilton”, Talib Kweli stated that “My Shot” shares a lot of the same sentiment as Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. “The sentiment of this song is exactly the same: You have one chance, one chance only, to make your mark in this society, and here’s your platform, your opportunity”.
After the other revolutionaries have their turn, Hamilton takes the mic again, and shifts the narrative of the song to a call to arms. A call for the colonies to rise up. Poignant lines like, “I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory”, and “I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow / For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow”.
There might be too much in “My Shot” to dissect for us to perform a more thorough analysis, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’d encourage anyone and everyone to go and listen to this song right now, even if you haven’t seen the musical. If you’re looking to pump yourself up before a big day, this is the song to listen to. Guaranteed Monday motivation for the week ahead.
Since we’ve started with “Hamilton”, I feel like whatever we pick tomorrow will just not live up to the standard set. But that’s a silly thought. There are plenty of excellent musicals out there. This week, we’ll show you a few more of them.