WTF?! Patrick Bateman led me to Alexander Hamilton.
I’ve spent the last several weeks under the musical spell of the Original London (and only so far) Cast recording of “American Psycho” by Duncan Sheik. I decided it was time to stop holding my nose and listen to the OBC of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton: An American Musical,” the Original Broadway Cast recording. I have to admit that there is a lot to admire.
Having listened to “Hamilton” four or five times over the last week, including following along with the lyric booklet, I found myself more disposed to be taken in by the sheer musical audacity of the piece. Musically it is much more varied than I had ever imagined and filled with catchy rhythms, snippets of which have stayed with me. Lyrically, I found that there is little imagery in my opinion and even less poetry. To my sensibilities it is over-stuffed with repetition and cheap and poor rhymes. (I want a Hamilton $10 bill for every “Burr sir.) What I kept thinking each time I listened was, “how do the performers even begin to remember those lines?” I found that there is nothing to help one remember where the music track is going. It’s accurate, I believe, to note that these are tracks and not songs as there isn’t a traditional song among the 46 tracks.
The history that the show’s lyrics convey is quite fascinating, for one or two hearings, even if some historians claim it to be historically questionable. At one point I was reminded of being in elementary school and the class being forced to hear one of those recordings of American history. Fascinating if one liked history. After several repeated listenings would one want to hear it again?
The vocal and choral arrangements are credited jointly to Alex Lacamoire and Mr. Miranda; like jewels, the arrangements are multi-faceted and brilliant. The three-part vocal blending and harmonies of Philippa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsboro and Jasmine Cephas Jones in “The Schuyler Sisters” can take one’s breath away. The orchestrations and music direction by Mr. Lacamoire is nothing less than stunning.
Frankly, it is these elements that make the recording of the score engaging, accessible and listenable. Well, listenable to a point for someone like me who has lived with the songs of the Great American Songbook in his head. I can most certainly understand, however, why listeners who live their life with a music shuffle would be caught up with the sound of “Hamilton.” It works well in small doses.
Still, while I greatly surprised myself by liking it, I can not imagine listening to it too many times over the years. Not say, like I’ve listened to “Gypsy” or “South Pacific” or “West Side Story,” and even “American Psyho.” Scores whose songs are hypnotic and are able to recapture a moment of time in some of our lives and illicit deep personal feelings. On the London recording of “American Psycho” I found that “You Are What Your Weat,” “Oh Sri Lanka,” “At The End Of An Island,”and especially “A Girl Before” to be songs that I found easy to like and to listen to repeatedly.
“I am needing so much more, every pleasure is a bore, I am something other than a common man, I’m not a common man.”
True of both Patrick Bateman and Alexander Hamilton. I recommend both recordings. If I were a TONY voter though Best Score would be “American Psycho.”
Currently playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, West 46 Street, New York City
Currently playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, West 45 Street, New York City