Recommend if you like: Award show medleys, tribute concerts, star-studded film soundtracks
Expectation: Hamilton is a massively successful musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton while drawing equal inspiration from Broadway and hip hop. ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’, named after the original title of the show, is a cover album mainly composed of songs from the show, and featuring a lot of huge names. Being a massive fan of Hamilton myself, I can still barely believe it really happened.
- My Shot – A pretty cool take on the song, with a more rock-oriented beat and an especially impressive verse from Busta Rhymes.
- Wrote My Way Out – Lin-Manuel must feel like he’s living the dream rapping on a track with Nas, but he more than holds his own lyrically. Somewhat forgettable, but pretty good.
- Wait For It – Trying to live up to Leslie Odom Jr is an incredibly daunting task, and while Usher doesn’t avoid the inevitable comparisons altogether, he certainly sidesteps them. The bombastic, mind-blowing peaks of the original are smoothed out and flattened into a more palatable R&B format, which is right in Usher’s wheelhouse. While his vocals don’t have the “wow” factor of Odom’s, they don’t need it for this version of the song.
- An Open Letter – This is what Watsky needs to be doing with his career. His crisp enunciation makes the message of the song clear, but at the same time its obvious that he isn’t taking this too seriously. If he can strike this tone in his music I would absolutely be on board.
- Satisfied – A pretty straightforward cover of the song, but the instrumental changes to fit the typical style of each performer, which is pretty cool. Miguel and Queen Latifah kill their parts, and Sia is at least adequate, though her parts could do with fewer pauses.
- Dear Theodosia – A decent performance of an incredible song.
- Valley Forge – Fans of the show will love this track; Lin performs all parts of a song that didn’t make the final show, with a plethora of lines that were later used in other numbers, all over a simple, eerie instrumental.
- It’s Quiet Uptown – Exactly what you expect of Kelly Clarkson, though her vocals on the bridge are especially impressive.
- That Would Be Enough – One of the few tracks that may genuinely surpass the original. Alicia Keys’s performance is beautiful and moving, and the airy, spacious recording uses moments of silence to their fullest.
- Immigrants (We Get the Job Done) – An original song based around a sample of one of Hamilton’s most iconic lines. The production is a mixed bag of hits and misses, but overall its a really cool idea and I’m glad its here.
- You’ll Be Back – Weirdly enough, Jimmy Fallon wasn’t a bad choice. Sure, his performance doesn’t have the hilarious nuances of Jonathan Groff’s, but just picture how goofy Fallon probably looked in a recording studio.
- Helpless – A hilarious way of bringing things full circle, Lin-Manuel’s tribute to Ashanti/Ja Rule songs is finally performed by Ashanti and Ja Rule. Ja Rule sounds like Lin’s polar opposite, which only makes it even funnier.
- Say Yes to This – A fun reversal on the original song with an outstanding performance from Jill Scott.
- Congratulations – A decent performance that is somewhat undermined by an instrumental that never really decides what it wants to do.
- Burn – Andra Day certainly gets full points for effort; its clear that she is singing with every ounce of her being. Unfortunately, the song is just barely outside her range, but she really does go for it.
- Cabinet Battle 3 – Lin’s ability to depict history in a way that feels relevant today is an incredible gift, and its on full display here.
- Washington By Your Side – Well this one was a surprise, Wiz Khalifa delivers a clever rework of the original song, and he does it with a slick flow over interesting beats.
- History Has Its Eyes On You – In what had to be a result of genuine inspiration, John Legend delivers a gospel version of the song that works so naturally you could believe it was written that way.
- Who Tells Your Story – Common is a natural choice for a project like this, so he sounds right at home addressing these themes.
- Dear Theodosia (Reprise) – Such a sweet song. Its completely out of Chance’s range, but he sure does try, and Francis sounds surprisingly similar to Lin-Manuel himself.
Overall: While this is definitely a companion-piece more than a standalone project, its still a very nice treat for Hamilton fans. And who knows, perhaps it will inspire anyone whose held back all this time to finally listen to the show (which really is amazing). If you liked Hamilton, you’ll at least like a few songs here, and if you liked any songs here, you will really like Hamilton.