Will It Leave You “Satisfied”?
Hamilton is now on Disney Plus. It was filmed from a production done in 2016 and edited to make it more accessible to an audience sitting at home (i.e. including close-ups).
It, like the show, received massive critical acclaim, but it is not without its flaws. Nothing is without its flaws, of course, but today we’re going to take a look at Hamilton through a critical lens. What’s good about it? What could be improved? And the issues surrounding historical accuracy in the life of Alexander Hamilton and the other founding fathers.
The Broadway show won 11 Tony Awards. Falling just short of the record of 12 held by The Producers. Having seen both shows, I’m not 100% sure I agree with The Producers deserving this honour but whatever. Along with a Grammy Award and the goldarn Pulitzer Prize.
It’s also been met with widespread acclaim from critics. It’s so beloved by audiences that at one point the waiting list to get a ticket to see Hamilton was almost a year, and tickets could cost over $800.
With that said, obviously this show is fantastic overall. One of the major elements that make Hamilton (the Disney Plus version in particular) so special is the cast. Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renee Elise Goldsberry all won acting Tony awards for their portrayals. And from watching the show it is clear that they are incredibly strong performers. Especially Diggs in his dual role as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.
In fact, the majority of the cast is exceptional in their roles, with one exception (we’ll get to that later though). Which makes the entire experience more enjoyable.
The music is top-notch, with the way the show moves from one song to another making the already-long show (almost three hours) breeze by. The raps are well-written and entertaining. Plus they tell an interesting story (mostly historically accurate) about the founding of America. So it’s educational and has great music!
The song “My Shot” of course has gotten most of the love from the show. But there are many songs from the show that have gotten critical acclaim. To the point that there was a Hamilton Mixtape created of covers of the shows’ songs by popular artists.
One additional thing that I’ve found enjoyable about Hamilton is also the way in which it presents Aaron Burr (sir!) as a sympathetic figure. While he is in many ways the villain of the story (since he does kill Alexander Hamilton). The show tracks his progression as someone who – at the very least – has sympathetic undertones and you can understand why his relationship with Hamilton soured to the point that Burr challenged him to a duel. It reminds me, in some ways, of how Andrew Lloyd Webber created the character of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.
What’s Not So Good?
We’ll get to the historical accuracy/inaccuracy issues in the next section. Though, I mean, it’s a show…it’s not really required to be 100% historically accurate, they’re trying to entertain, but moving on. But after watching Hamilton on Disney Plus, there are two things that stand out, one in a minor way but one in a more major way.
The first one, tying back to the “good” category, is that a lot of the songs kind of either repeat or blend together. I mean, of course, the songs are all very good and the raps are good. But, other than a handful of songs (i.e. “You’ll Be Back,” “Helpless,” “It’s Quiet Uptown”) they all kind of blend together and/or repeat themselves.
Many musicals have several songs that stand out and are clearly delineated. But the sung/rapped-through nature of Hamilton means you don’t always know where one song ends and the other begins. But that’s something of a minor nitpick.
The second, and more prominent, issue? I mean…we have to address the elephant in the room here. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a brilliant lyricist, a great composer, and what seems to be an all-around good guy and inspirational story. But Lin-Manuel Miranda as an actor and singer? He’s…he’s not great, Bob. His rapping is OK, but the rest of it…not so much.
In fact, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance as Alexander Hamilton almost kind of drags the whole production down at times. The role is one that could be so powerful and meaningful. But he’s just kind of there like he’s the one sleeping with the creator of the show. Except, I mean, he is the creator so, erm, what ya gonna do? Kind of like how Sarah Brightman got the role of Christine in Phantom of the Opera because she was married to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Like, for instance: the song “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which Alexander Hamilton sings after his son is killed in a duel. When Lin-Manuel sings it, it’s…fine. It’s sad, it has some poignant moments, but not much else. But when you hear Kelly Clarkson perform it on the Hamilton mixtape? It’s a dagger through your heart. And that’s what I mean: with a better, more capable performer in the role of Hamilton, it would make a great show even better.
Hamilton & The Historical Accuracy Questions
Like with any major work based on history. There have been some criticisms of the historical nature of Hamilton’s portrayal of its subjects.
Of them, many of the inaccuracies in the show were minor and/or were done for dramatic intent (see the second link for specifics). For instance, it was highly unlikely that Alexander Hamilton ever truly punched the bursar at his university. But it could be argued that this particular line was more for dramatic effect, rhythm and flow. And to show that Hamilton was someone who would do whatever it took to stand up for what he believed in.
However, there are some credibility issues with the show (as noted in the first link especially). The main ones being that Hamilton was continuing in a trend of making the founding fathers look more heroic that they may have actually been. Especially in response to recent political events in America. And also that – despite the musical making it seem like Alexander Hamilton was staunchly anti-slavery and worked to try and get rid of it. Tthe historical Hamilton never really wrote much on the topic of abolishing slavery and never was known to be as against it as the show made him out to be.
That last point is the most controversial about the show. But really…while the show aimed at being educational to some degree, it is still entertainment. And while entertainment can also double as education. It is technically not Lin Manuel Miranda’s job to be 100% accurate…it’s to tell an interesting, engaging, fun story. Which Hamilton is.
A Summary and Review
It’s really an outstanding overall. But the little things – i.e. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance, how many of the songs blend in together – hold it back from me giving it the full 10/10. I wonder, though, if a stronger and more trained actor would assume the role of Alexander Hamilton. If my opinion wouldn’t improve, even though it’s already very high.
If you haven’t seen it already, you should.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 8/10
Thanks for reading our review of Hamilton, currently streaming on Disney Plus. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read more of our TV content HERE.
Read IMDB information about Hamilton HERE.
9 Drummers That Became Lead Singers
It’s widely regarded that drummers are the most important members of a band. That’s what a drummer will tell you anyway. Sometimes though, they move from the drum stool to the front of the stage. Here are nine drummers that became lead singers.
9. Dave Grohl
The often labelled ‘nicest man in rock’ is the first on our list. Starting life as a drummer in hardcore bands he then joined Nirvana and changed music history. His drumming with them was solid, and perfectly complemented the chaos of Kurt Cobain’s manic guitars. You’d think the legacy he left with Nirvana would be enough. But after Kurt’s tragic suicide, he set up Foo Fighters and departed the drum stool for lead vocals and guitars. And what a fine job he does as the Foo’s are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Imagine being that talented and nice. We’re not jealous. Ok, maybe a little.
8. Don Henley
Not content with being a founding member of one of America’s greatest bands, The Eagles, Don decided to go solo in 1980 after the band split. Ok, this one is a bit tenuous as Don shared vocal duties with fellow Eagle Glenn Frey, but bear with me. In 1980 he went out front into the bright lights of a solo artist and released a slew of cracking songs. Boys of Summer being his most well-known, and what a gem that was. It was a wise choice to leave those sticks behind.
7. Phil Collins
Perhaps one of the most famous names on our list, Phillip David Charles Collins started life behind the kit with prog-rockers Genesis. Although he did lead vocal duties whilst drumming after the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1976, it’s his solo career that really took off. Genesis had some big hits throughout the 80s with Collins’s drumming and singing. But the bigger hits came with his solo career from 1981 onwards. There’s no denying he has some great chops behind the kit, but his voice is as familiar as your favourite shoes. And so are his hits. ‘In the Air Tonight’ was his debut solo single. It doesn’t get much better than that.
6. Roger Taylor
The legendary Queen drummer is known for his ability to hit those falsetto notes on many a Queen hit throughout their career. But he also had a string of solo albums don’t you know? Since 1981 he has released five solo albums. His last being from 2013, so maybe there are more to come? He sang and played most of the instruments on the albums as well. That’s impressive. They are also pretty good albums too. Although he still performs behind the kit with Queen and Adam Lambert, he’s shown he can be centre stage as a lead singer.
5. Todd La Torre
If you’re not a fan of progressive metal, then this one may have passed you by. Todd La Torre is the current singer for the progressive metal band Queensryche. But it wasn’t always that way as he started off in his career behind the kit. Having started playing at fourteen, he spent the next twenty-four years playing in a variety of local original and cover bands. It was only in 2010 when he joined Florida-based metal band, Crimson Glory, as their lead singer. He then replaced Geoff Tate as the frontman of Queensryche in 2012, continuing to this day. Although he’s been at the front of the stage for twelve years, he says that he still feels like a drummer who likes to sing. You can take the drummer away from the kit, but he’ll always be a drummer.
4. Karen Carpenter
Although Karen sadly passed away at aged thirty-two, she managed to achieve a lot of success in such a short space of time. There had been various musical iterations with her brother Richard, but success came when they settled on The Carpenters. Karen was a very accomplished drummer and played live during the early years of the band. It was the success of her vocal abilities that ultimately took away from the kit and to the front of the stage. Not to mention the fact her small stature made it hard for fans to see her behind the kit on stage. If you want to be reminded of her drumming prowess, just have a look on YouTube. An incredible talent taken too soon.
3. Taylor Hawkins
Most famous for being the man behind the kit for the Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins has recently gone to the front. I wonder where he got that idea from? He’s released solo efforts with his own band Coattail Riders, and more recently, The Birds of Satan. There’s no denying Hawkins’ love of Queen and Roger Taylor, and his solo albums reflect that. He has a rather good voice and is certainly a showman. That is obvious from his energy behind the kind. I guess the natural progression is to take that to the front. I’m sure Mr Grohl gave him plenty of advice about going solo.
2. Ringo Starr
Ok, so John Lennon once said that Ringo wasn’t even the best drummer in The Beatles, but that’s a bit unfair. Ringo was great at what he did, holding the beat and keeping that groove. Serving the song is one of the most important things a drummer can do. And Ringo did that perfectly. He’s also gone on to release an astounding sixteen solo albums. Yes, his vocal range is limited, but a discography that big is impressive. He also secured two back-to-back number one hits in the US. Go Ringo!
1. Levon Helm
Levon Helm was the drummer in the critically acclaimed American roots rock band The Band. They backed Bob Dylan in the 60s but went on to have success under their own name. An innovative and creative drummer, Levon also had a deeply soulful and country-tinged voice. He used that voice to good use with six solo albums through the ’70s, ’80s and 2000s. He won not one, but two Grammy awards for his albums and was also a film actor. Sadly, he died in 2012, but what a musical legacy he leaves behind.
That’s our list of nine drummers who became lead singers, did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.
Read about seven underrated rock albums that defined the 2000’s HERE.
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