Regina Spektor: Hamilton Mixtape
We all know someone who won’t shut up about Hamilton. Since Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop ode to America’s founding fathers first premiered, it has attracted a seemingly endless tide of publicity, critical acclaim, and commercial success. After over a year on Broadway, it continues to play to sold-out crowds and shows no signs of going away anytime soon. With all this in mind, the release of a 23-track mixtape inspired by the musical might make us stop and wonder: Did we really need more Hamilton in our lives?
Of course we did. The Hamilton Mixtape () is a massive, eclectic tribute that offers covers, demos, and inspired-bys. It speaks to the incredible cultural impact of Hamilton that the Mixtape project attracted so many high-profile collaborators. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine another musical that could bring together a roster of artists that includes Ashanti, Sia, Usher, Jimmy Fallon, Queen Latifah, Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, and Alicia Keys.
What is most interesting about the Mixtape is that is shows us just how easily the songs of Hamilton can stand on their own, outside the context of the musical’s narrative. Notwithstanding Jimmy Fallon’s slightly cringeworthy voiceover at the beginning of “You’ll Be Back,” handing the tracks over to artists to offer their interpretations allows the numbers to take on lives of their own. The obvious example is Sia’s soaring, knockout cover of “Satisfied,” which dropped in the weeks leading up to mixtape’s release and features Queen Latifah and Miguel. Sia’s contribution alone is enough to justify the album’s existence, but there are plenty of other worthwhile moments on display. The potential payoff is best realized in the mixtape’s two versions of “Dear Theodosia.” Regina Spektor’s bright, quivering piano pop cover sounds like something straight off one of her own piano pop albums, while Chance the Rapper’s reprise delivers a cracking falsetto that turns the short, expository number into an emotional gutpunch.
The project offers more than just covers of Hamilton’s well-known tracks. The sharp, sardonic “Congratulations” was scrapped when the show moved to Broadway, but a version by rapper Dessa is included here. Other tracks appear only on the mixtape, most notably the opening number “No John Trumbull,” which serves as both a prologue and a powerful reminder of the fundamental truth of Hamilton — that America’s founding moments are, at their core, far more complicated, messy, and human than any painting or monument could do justice.
Hamilton, of course, is not going anywhere. By now, its status as a cultural icon is a given — the cast album has sold over two million copies, tickets to the musical continue to sell out in minutes, and its recent run-in with the future Vice President has certainly not hurt its profile. The Hamilton Mixtape allows us to experience Miranda’s expert songwriting through fresh eyes, and in doing so, serves to remind fans that there is more to Hamilton than clever wordplay and stellar performances. Its tracks are certain to boost the musical’s profile and keep people talking about it in the weeks and months to come. Not that it needed the help.
The Hamilton Mixtape is available now from Amazon and through streaming services.