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The new Broadway show "Hamilton" is in previews now at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City on July 22, 2015. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Review: ‘The Hamilton Mixtape’ satisfies fans and newcomers

As Aaron Burr would probably agree, good things come to those who wait. And the wait is over. The “The Hamilton Mixtape” was released on Friday. The album features many songs from the original soundtrack reinvented by popular artists including John Legend, Wiz Khalifa, Kelly Clarkson and Usher. Also included are outtakes and alternatives from the musical and new songs whose only connection to “Hamilton” is the inspiration. Even people who haven’t yet discovered the musical can enjoy the variation of sounds from this new album, though some songs need a bit of background to be fully appreciated.

“Hamilton” is a Tony award-winning musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. In a little over a year, the musical has taken the world by storm with its fast-paced, unconventional hip-hop and rap music on Broadway. The original album has been out for almost the same amount of time. Fans have eaten it up and are still wishing for more because for many, the expensive tickets to see the show live are out of their price range. “The Hamilton Mixtape” is part of the answer to their prayers.

Of course, “Hamilton” writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda makes an appearance on the mixtape with “Cabinet Battle 3.” That and  “Congratulations,” performed by Dessa, were tracks that didn’t make it into the final cut of the musical. Also featured on the album is a demo of alternative lyrics to a song that did make it, “Valley Forge.” Fans can judge for themselves if the songs should have been kept, but either way, it’s nice to get to hear more pieces of the story through Miranda’s fast-paced lyrics and witty rhymes.

Not all the songs are new to listener’s ears. A large portion of the album is popular artists’ covers of the original musical’s songs, including Usher singing Aaron Burr’s “Wait For It” and Sia, Queen Latifah and Miguel collaborating for Angelica Schuyler’s “Satisfied.”

For diehard “Hamilton” fans, some of the remakes may not resonate well. Sometimes it feels like the artist is trying too hard to give the song a new sound — though I admit that, being the fan I am, I’m biased in saying the originals are better. The feeling I got with a few, especially “Burn” by Andra Day and “History Has Its Eyes On You” by John Legend was comparable to being unable to sing along with a singer’s alterations of a classic Christmas song. In that sense, it didn’t give as good of an impression as it could have. My favorite songs on the original album were my favorite for a reason; it was less than satisfying to have it altered almost beyond recognition. That said, it is a mixtape. The point isn’t to simply repeat the songs, it’s to allow artists to give the songs a new feel.

Even though a few songs fell flat, many additions to the Hamilton playlist were right on track. “Wrote My Way Out” is only inspired by the  musical, but I loved it from first listen. Many new additions, such as “No John Trumbull” and “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done),” embellish the “Hamilton” experience and give fans new songs to master. For those unable or unwilling to get the catchy “Hamilton” songs out of their heads, these are a nice, fresh change while still running along the same lines as the musical.

There are also songs on the mixtape that fall somewhere between a cover and an original. “Say Yes To This” has the exact same background music as the musical’s “Say No To This,” but obviously has the exact opposite message, giving the song a creative sound and an interesting new take while still keeping it recognizable. On the other end of the spectrum, “My Shot” shares only the title, basic rhythm and chorus of the original. The Roots changed the storytelling verses of the musical’s song into a unique rap that no longer restricts the song’s theme to “Hamilton,” and opens up new possibilities for jamming out.

Whatever your preference for enjoying more “Hamilton” music, this mixtape can satisfy any taste, even if you haven’t seen the musical yet.

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