If I had a dollar for every time I’ve listened to the Hamilton soundtrack, I would almost be able to afford tickets to this year’s hottest show on Broadway.1 I first listened to it on a plane ride in January. Since then, I have listened to some part, if not the entirety, of the soundtrack at least once a week.
At this point I know very nearly every word to every song.2 The novelty has worn off – I always know which song comes next and where each song fits into the arc of the storyline. I know which historical figure is singing at any given point. But I keep listening.
Let’s be clear: Hamilton is not breaking news. The show opened in August of last year, and the soundtrack came out in late September. The book this musical is based on came out back in 2004.3
Although I haven’t seen the show (yet!), it’s not like I don’t know how it ends. Alexander Hamilton’s untimely death in a duel with Aaron Burr still enjoys a particular level of infamy in United States history. After all, how often does the sitting Vice President shoot someone?4
I know the songs. I know how the story ends. The contents of the soundtrack are no longer new for me. Why, then, do I keep listening, over and over again?
As I listened to these same 46 songs many times over in the last few months, I actually enjoyed them more each time. Once I became familiar with the melodies, the hooks, and the excerpts of real historical events included as lyrics, I was able to sink more deeply into the soundtrack as a whole. I began to recognize similar themes that reappear throughout the show, repeated structures of songs, and allusions to events that return later in the plot. Through repeated listening my experience deepens.
Repetition is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite. By returning again and again to the same material, same topic, or same conversation, we are able to sink more deeply into what the topic at hand is truly about.
What are the messages I hear on repeat in Hamilton? The personalities of our country’s founders were hugely impactful on how our government is structured. If it weren’t for immigrants such as Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, the United States of America would not exist. Hamilton was desperate to get involved in the political challenges of his day and positively impact his country.
Think you’ve heard these messages so times that they aren’t new any more? Even if you feel like you’ve heard them repeated too many times, you’ll be back. And trust me, the more you hear these messages, the better they get.
Cover image courtesy FlickrCC user maerzbow, found here.
- If any generous reader(s) would like to make up the difference, feel free to email me. ↩
- I thought I knew every word. Thanks to a recent car ride with a friend who’s an even bigger history/Hamilton nerd than me, I stand corrected. ↩
- It’s also worth pointing out that the man portrayed in these pieces is even older news; he lived from 1757 to 1804. ↩
- Oh wait… ↩