Counting Down Our Top 15 ‘Hamilton’ Songs

Image courtesy of Disney+

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Since the hit Broadway musical Hamilton became available on Disney+, it has once again skyrocketed in popularity with a fervor similar to that of its debut back in 2016. With a whopping forty-six songs, it’s incredibly difficult to pick the best ones – especially since most pieces have refrains from the other songs woven into them – but we’re going to try. Here are our top 15 Hamilton picks.

15. “One Last Time”

This beautiful sendoff for George Washington’s character brought a nice well-rounded feeling to his arc. This piece is filled with historical facts, even taking quotes directly from Washington’s Farewell Address (which Hamilton ghostwrote). By resigning after two terms, Washington set a precedent for the presidency that would be followed until FDR’s 4-term reign in the midst of the Great Depression and was re-instituted by the 22nd Amendment. Jackson’s rich vocals are on display in this number, giving a warm feeling to the character’s sendoff as “the nation learns to move on.”

14.”Guns and Ships”

The only reason that this is so low on the list is because of its brevity. Daveed Diggs is an absolute rap god with “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman” Lafayette spitting approximately 6.3 words per second at the song’s fastest point (take that Eminem). Arguably the most hype song on the play’s roster, “Guns and Ships,” begins the first act’s climax. Washington gets his right-hand man back as Hamilton gets re-recruited into America’s forces, this time procuring the military command he desired, ultimately turning the tide of the war.

13. “The Story of Tonight”

Another one that only loses points because of length. Arguably one of the best numbers in the show, “The Story of Tonight” captures the spirit of America and the revolution as well as Hamilton’s dedication to building a legacy at any cost. It also showcases the friendship between Hamilton, Lafayette, Laurens, and Mulligan  – something that’s important later on. While simplistic in nature compared to the other numbers, the heartfelt sentiments of this captivating song shine through. The blended vocals of the four men create a transfixing effect; the uncertainty and the unwavering dedication of the rebel soldiers in the face of the dire straits they’ll soon be facing is palpable. As they have one last hurrah, they reflect on what the future holds and how their night will be one for the books.

12. “The Room Where it Happens”

This song from Burr’s perspective details the undocumented compromise between Hamilton and Jefferson/Madison concerning the National Bank proposal. In one of many subtle altercations that pile up between Hamilton and Burr, “the immigrant emerges with unprecedented financial power” while Burr is once again on the sidelines – something he sees as a slight against himself considering he’s calm, polished, and non-controversial as opposed to Hamilton’s irreverent, brash nature. Leslie Odom Jr.’s talent shines through in this solo number with an amazing performance of both dance and song infused with the bitter emotions beginning to build up between him and his friend-turned nemesis.

11.”Helpless”

There’s literally no way that this song wouldn’t make it on the list. One of the most memorable numbers in the entire play, Phillipa Soo’s phenomenal vocals are on full display. Detailing the beginning of Eliza and Alexander’s relationship, this number takes the audience from their meeting at a winter’s ball in 1780 through their marriage (can we all agree Hercules was the perfect flower girl?), exploring how Eliza helplessly fell in love with Alexander. Unfortunately for Eliza, that buoyant feeling wouldn’t last with Alexander’s dalliances in unfaithfulness.

10. “Washington on Your Side”

One of my personal favorites and definitely one of the funnier numbers in the play, this song is dynamic with the interplay between the three “Southern motherf****** Democratic-Republicans” Burr, Madison, and Jefferson. The changes between the slower chorus and the rapped verses lend a building sense of urgency until the song’s climax, stressing the men’s displeasure with Alexander and their collaboration to take him down once and for all. The whole thing feels like a petulant child complaining about an older sibling getting away with something in front of their dad and subsequently scheming for revenge. This catchy song and even more hilarious performance is one that captures Hamilton’s certain je ne sais quoi perfectly.

9. “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”

This song encompasses the major theme of legacy, something that Hamilton was obsessed with creating throughout his life. Heartbreakingly beautiful, this song details the events that happen after Hamilton’s death. The bouncing narration of how Alexander’s memory is kept alive is communicated through haunting melodies and imparts the message that no one has control over what happens after they die; Hamilton’s ambitious career left a lasting impact on the country, yet history, for the most part, forgets him in comparison to the rest of the founding fathers. This beautiful closing number sums up how Eliza keeps Alexander’s legacy alive while also giving a satisfying feeling of closure to the play, simultaneously sprinkling in a commentary on the themes of the finality of death and the endurance of memory.

8. “Satisfied”

Anthony Ramos’ raspy “Alright, Alright, That’s what I’m talking about” in the Disney+ film is sidesplitting, but the real delight of this song is Renée Elise Goldsberry’s powerful vocals. While giving her speech as maid of honor in Eliza’s wedding, we get a glimpse into Angelica’s intense regret at not snapping up Alexander for herself as she retells their meeting from her own perspective and her inability to keep herself from falling for him despite everything. Angelica and Alexander’s relationship is one of the most disputed points of the dramatization of Hamilton’s life, as it hasn’t been concretely proven that they held amorous feelings for one another. Despite the possible historical inaccuracies, we love this song and the storyline, both for the drama and the stunning performance.

7. “What’d I Miss”

Serving as the introduction for the antagonistic Thomas Jefferson, this song starring Daveed Diggs brings undeniably captivating energy to the stage. The bluesy-jazz feel that the second half brings to the table notably differentiates it from any other number stylistically. Diggs’ energetic stage presence, combined with his powerful voice, makes this number one of the play’s most enjoyable pieces. Something that’s impossible to miss about this song is the abundance of transitions; starting with Burr’s common informational (read hateful) spiel about Hamilton and the current events, the song drastically changes by its end. After the intro, the company enters a soulful bridge followed by Jefferson changing between slow, sultry verses and a high-energy chorus. James Madison is also introduced in this delightful number, firmly establishing the Democratic-Republican alliance.

6. “Alexander Hamilton”

What a strong opening number! This song packs a punch right out of the gate, previewing the excellent show that’s to follow. Detailing the tragic events of Hamilton’s childhood that led up to his migration to America, we come to understand how and why “the ten-dollar founding father without a father” is so scrappy and ambitious, something that motivates his actions throughout his life. The narrated verses bounce around between characters giving the audience a brief – if indirect – introduction to influential individuals in Hamilton’s life, especially with the “Me, I … for him” sequence that foreshadows future events. The song’s informative, yet entertaining, lyrics combined with the company’s excellently blended vocals is a great way to start off the production.

5. “Nonstop”

“A-After the war, I went back to New York.” This song mainly told from Burr’s POV, details post-revolution events. Hamilton continues to climb in status while Burr manages to always lag behind. After both becoming successful lawyers, Hamilton goes on to defend the Constitution via The Federalist Papers (which Burr refuses to participate in composing). Eventually, Washington offers Hamilton the powerful position of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. This is probably the most complicated song in terms of layering with refrains from “History Has Its Eyes on You,” “Wait For It,” “That Would Be Enough,” “Helpless,” “My Shot,” “Alexander Hamilton,” and “Satisfied” all interwoven over its own tune, but its complicatedness gives it an extra layer of beauty.

4. “You’ll Be Back”(+ “What Comes Next?”/ “I Know Him”)

Ok, so I’m kind of cheating combining these together, but I do what I want. Hamilton is filled with humorous moments, but Jonathan Groff’s performance as King George was hands down the funniest aspect of the entire play. The humorous lyrics combined with Groff’s mannerisms such as the posh walk, regal accent, and even excessive spit (omg the spit) combine to create a phenomenal performance for the mad king. Each subsequent variation of “You’ll Be Back” brought a new reason to laugh – especially Groff staying on through “The Reynolds Pamphlet.” These performances were an integral part of bringing humor into the play and as such, hold a special place in everyone’s heart.

3. “Aaron Burr, Sir”

This song is chock full of introductions to many influential characters. First off, Hamilton meets Aaron Burr, the man fated to end his life after years of a complicated relationship. The stark differences are immediately noticeable with Aaron’s polished, non-confrontational demeanor juxtaposed against Alexander’s brash, excitable, and opinionated nature. Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan are also introduced with stylistically dynamic verses of rap cementing their basic personalities in the audience’s minds early on. A multitude of memorable and iconic lines come out of this number, such as “Talk less, smile more,” and the oft-repeated “Aaron Burr, Sir.”

2. “The Schuyler Sisters”

This lively song is simply a masterpiece. In the early introductory number, the presence of “Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy – the Schuyler sisters” is established (in style may I add). This dynamic, female-vocal dominated song blends the voices of Soo, Goldsberry, and Jones to create sharp, crisp harmonies that are music to our ears. The upbeat tempo combined with Angelica’s rap layered over the chorus makes for a performance that simply gets imprinted in one’s brain early on. Subtle humorous moments also shine through in the performance with Peggy’s name coming as a seeming afterthought as well as Angelica’s no-nonsense attitude in response to all the boys trying to woo her (what can we say, she’s looking for a mind at work).

Honorable Mentions:

“The World Was Wide Enough”

Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on shuffle is kind of like playing Russian roulette, especially with this song and “Ten Duel Commandments.” Detailing Hamilton’s fatal duel with Aaron Burr, this song explores the thought processes of both Burr and Hamilton in Alexander’s last few moments of life as they come full circle. Constantly crossing paths, their story comes to a bitter end as Hamilton’s shot in the air spells his doom just like it did for his son Philip and Burr finally triumphs over Hamilton like he’s failed to do on so many past occasions.

“It’s Quiet Uptown”

Depicting the grief that Eliza and Alexander experience after Philip’s untimely demise, this song has been known to move a few people to tears (the company singing “forgiveness” always happens to coincide with someone cutting onions in the room… quite a coincidence right?). As well as Philip dying, this number comes after Hamilton’s political career has effectively been destroyed as a result of the Reynolds Pamphlet scandal. We see him enter a quieter phase of his life in which he’s able to go back to his roots, remembering the importance of family and mending his relationship with Eliza.

“Wait for It”

Another hit from Leslie Odom Jr., “Wait for It” delves into Aaron Burr’s background and gives the audience insight into why he is the way he is, providing a greater context to the extreme differences between him and Hamilton. We also get a little bit of information on the minor storyline that is Burr’s love life. Another notable facet of the song is the major theme of the lack of control over death (“death doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It just takes, and it takes, and it takes”), something that will continue to be seen throughout the rest of the production.

 

1. “My Shot”

Finally, in the top slot, we have “My Shot.” Along with having one of the cleanest transitions between numbers and some extremely clever wordplay, this passionate song perfectly encompasses Alexander’s mindset that’s prevalent from the beginning to the very end; ambition is what motivates Alexander’s actions. As a product of his frankly terrible childhood, Alex learns that he has to claw his way to the top by any means necessary. He can’t afford to miss any opportunity, a sentiment that’s avidly communicated through this song and emphasized throughout the play. Along with communicating Hamilton’s desperate ambitions, the song also establishes what the secondary characters stand to gain from the revolution as they “rise up” and rail against the status quo. All in all, “My Shot” is the anthem on which Hamilton‘s entire premise rests and its importance can be accurately reflected by the whopping one year it took Lin-Manuel Miranda to perfect.

This list was incredibly hard to compile. While some fan favorites may not have made it on our list, every single track in this magnificently composed feat of artistry deserves a title of greatness. Do you agree with our rankings? Let us know your favorite songs or how you would’ve placed things differently in the comments!

Kenedi

Written by

Kenedi Lynch is a college student pursuing her BS in Biology. She hopes to attend medical school at Stanford or Johns Hopkins to obtain her MD-PhD and become an orthopedic surgeon. When she isn't hard at work, Kenedi enjoys reading, watching her favorite shows on Netflix, and listening to music. Some of her favorite fandoms are Supernatural, Harry Potter, Bones, and Percy Jackson.

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