‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ Features Something for Everybody
Lin-Manual Miranda and a star-studded cast strikes gold with ‘The Hamilton Mixtape,’ a compilation of covers, reinterpretations, and newbies.
Hamilton was kind of a big deal…just a little bit. With the musical continuing to allure America, Lin-Manual Miranda and an all-star cast fittingly assemble a mixtape based upon it. The Hamilton Mixtape is by no means a carbon copy of the soundtrack, but features some fantastic covers, reinterpretations, and demos. The mixtape will never supersede the parent album, but is a welcome supplement.
“Wrote My Way Out”
“No John Trumbull (Intro)” kicks off the mixtape, featuring The Roots. The energetic “My Shot (Rise Up Remix)” follows, featuring an all-star cast: The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz, and Nate Ruess. Ultimately, “My Shot” proves to be a sensational, uplifting start to the tape.“Wrote My Way Out” features Aloe Blacc, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Nas. Blacc sounds incredibly soulful, growing more so as the record progresses. Hard, anchoring hip-hop beat supports the rappers on the verses. Overall, the record features excellent production work – perfect fuel for the fire. Indeed, Nas, East, and, Miranda excel on their respective verses. Blacc is the perfect vocal complement, without question.
Usher tackles “Wait for It,” originally performed by Leslie Odom, Jr. Also, much like the original, Usher initially sings in an undertone, in his lower register. His tone is beautiful, but arguably, this particular portion of the song suits Odom, Jr. better. Usher ascends into his upper register, sparingly on the chorus. Naturally, he excels there. On the bridge, he is able to sing comfortably in his mid-/upper register, sounding more powerful. Rapper and slam poet Watsky provides a treat on interlude “An Open Letter,” with the help of Shockwave. The best moment comes at the end: “Sit down John, you fat motherf*cker!” Fittingly, a mocking version of “Hail to the Chief” closes the interlude.
Sia is assisted by Miguel and Queen Latifah on an electrifying cover of “Satisfied.” “Satisfied” opens with Sia singing powerfully. The timbre of Sia’s voice is simply beautiful, perfectly suited to cover the hip-hop infused musical track. Miguel joins on the interlude, serving as a perfect complement to Sia. Queen Latifah handles her rap like a champ. Her flow sounds as strong as ever. “Satisfied” remains theatrical and truly satisfying.
“Dear Theodosia” sounds ripe in the hands of Regina Spektor and Ben Folds. There is nothing otherworldly about this duet, but it is beautifully performed; consistent overall. “Valley Forge (Demo),” performed by Miranda, has a raw quality, as a demo should. Even though it is a demo, it has ample charm. Perfect for a mixtape.
“It’s Quiet Uptown”
Kelly Clarkson nails “It’s Quiet Uptown,” one of the better covers on the mixtape. While we initially criticized the rendition (given some differences compared to the definitive original), given a second look, this is another welcome addition to Clarkson’s catalogue. The treatment as an urban-pop ballad is a superb fit for Clarkson. Initiating with lush pads, “It’s Quiet Uptown” sounds like the 80s-inspired sound of her 2015 album, Piece by Piece.
Alicia Keys has a tough act to follow with “That Would Be Enough,” but passes the test ultimately. Keys’ emotion is appreciated. The performance is at times pitchy, but more often than not satisfying. “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” is energetic, much like the early one-two punch “My Shot” and “Wrote My Way Out.” The song itself is arguably a shade less enthralling, but still potent.
Jimmy Fallon & The Roots tackle “You’ll Be Back,” an enthusiastic and enjoyable performance all in all. “Helpless” is kind of a big deal considering it reunites Ashanti and Ja Rule. The results are exceptional to say the least, suiting both artists to a tee. Ultimately, this feels like 00s déjà vu. “Helpless” is followed by the swagger-laden “Take A Break (Interlude).”
“Say Yes to This” is one of the pleasant surprises. Jill Scott is perfectly suited for this risqué, sexy joint, among the more adventurous features. Her best moment: “I’m so wide open, and so is my dress.” Dessa follows up with the brief but effective “Congratulations.” Equally effective, the distinct Andra Day sounds incredibly soulful on a burning cover of “Burn.”
The brief “Stay Alive (Interlude)” is a nice touch, as is follow-up, “Cabinet Battle 3 (Demo).” Wiz Khalifa – certainly an unlikely choice – handles the money-driven “Washingtons By Your Side” like a champ. It’s a liberal reinterpretation, but give Wiz credit. The sung pre-chorus is fire:
“I did everything that I want / I still don’t really care what anybody else thinks / now I can have anything, I ain’t gon’ stunt / and I don’t feel bad ‘cause I did it my way…”
“History Has Its Eyes on You”
As always, John Legend blesses us with his gospel-tinged performance on “History Has Its Eyes on You.” Legend successfully contrasts the original, putting his own spin on it. “Who Tells Your Story” keeps the momentum rolling, featuring an unlikely collaboration between Common and indie-pop darling Ingrid Michaelson. Like the John Legend track preceding it, the results are top-rate. A reprise of “Dear Theodosia,” featuring Chance the Rapper and Francis and the Lights concludes the mixtape on a high note.
All in all, The Hamilton Mixtape is a terrific Christmas gift…ahead of Christmas. While nothing supplants the original Broadway recording, this set of covers, reinterpretations, and newbies is enjoyable through and through. There are ample moments to tickle a wide variety of listeners fancies.
Gems: “My Shot (Rise Up Remix),” “Wrote My Way Out,” “An Open Letter (Interlude),” “Satisfied,” “It’s Quiet Uptown,” “Say Yes to This” & “History Has Its Eyes on You”