The Phases of “Hamilton”
“Hamilton.” If you haven’t heard of it yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock or are not friends with Ness. In short, it’s a hip-hop musical biography of one of our most interesting founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Side characters include George Washington, Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, and, of course, Aaron Burr (Sir).
The thing is, it’s sort of a phenomenon. It happens to you the way being assimilated by the Borg does. Unexpectedly, and there’s no point fighting back. Just give in.
You can listen to it once. Just once. Because you might be distracted and doing other stuff and not paying attention to the lyrics (masterful) and the story (fascinating). You won’t realize how dirty some of the revolutionaries were until you listen more than once. You don’t know how awesome Alexander Hamilton was on the first listen. You might be amused by the concept of rap songs about George Washington. You might not even hear the love/hate songs King George III sings to the colonies.
If you’re on Twitter or friends with people who like the show, you’ll start seeing lyrics—and gifs. You’ll be a little disturbed by their obsession. What’s the big deal? Learning about this in school was pretty dull; how can it even make a story so interesting all your smart friends are into it? Eventually, you’ll take one of two paths:
- I’m too cool for this. You’ll never listen. Your life will actually be much less cool, but you’ll never know it.
- Well, I guess I should listen to it again, see what all the fuss is about. Now you’re screwed.
Two listens is all it takes, guys. If you want out, do not listen twice.
Two listens is like: Wait, that’s King George singing a love song to the colonies and using lyrics like “I’ll send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.” Hold on, I’m pretty sure Alexander Hamilton is my non-stop, scrappy, badass, never-give-up-hero. Also he was apparently a hardcore ladies man such that Martha Washington named a tomcat after him. What? Uh, is Angelica Schuyler the actual best, because I think she might be? Also woah, Aaron Burr got the shaft a lot from Hamilton before he finally snapped. The Jefferson/Hamilton rap battles are just perfect.
That’s when you realize that the creators of “Hamilton” took dry history and made it about real people who were interesting, passionate, and driven. Then, they set their story to really good music. All resistance has left your body. You’ll be listening on repeat, I promise you.
The next phases include: Quoting the songs constantly to the annoyance of your spouse, looking for jewelry on Etsy with great quotes, and memorizing everything. (Ness would like to add the following: What about the Genius lyrics? The Hamilcast? The Hamilton dubsmash? The Hamilwing? The Hamiltines? I have no idea what these things mean and I am afraid for my future.)
After that comes a weird interest in American history that apparently drives people to read 800 page books on the subject. Mainly, I want to know what happened to Lafayette and the other sons of the revolution.
I’m not sure what the final stage of Hamilton obsession is. Powdered wigs? Weird love of the harpsichord? Who can tell? All I know is that, “like my country I’m young, scrappy and hungry and I’m not throwin’ away my shot.”