If you like show tunes and history, this playlist of songs from Hamilton is for you!
Officially titled Hamilton: An American Musical, this rap-sung production has stormed the nation with its new telling of old events. The show primarily relies on hip hop, R&B, pop, and soul for its music, mingled with traditional show-tune-style songs that project the non-white actors playing the US founding fathers and historical figures into the story.
The musical retells the story of the American founding father, Alexander Hamilton. Miranda was inspired to create this celebratory work after reading the 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, which gives the nation a new view on the founding of the United States.
Table of Contents
- Alexander Hamilton
- Aaron Burr, Sir
- My Shot
- The Story of Tonight
- The Schuyler Sisters
- Farmer Refuted
- You’ll Be Back
- Right Hand Man
- A Winter’s Ball
- The Story of Tonight (Reprise)
- Wait for It
- Stay Alive
- Ten Duel Commandments
- Meet Me Inside
- That Would Be Enough
- Guns and Ships
- History Has Its Eyes on You
- Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
- What Comes Next?
- Dear Theodosia
- What’d I Miss
- Cabinet Battle #1
- Take a Break
- Say No to This
- The Room Where It Happens
- Schuyler Defeated
- Cabinet Battle #2
- Washington on Your Side [Clean]
- One Last Time
- I Know Him
- The Adams Administration
- We Know
- Blow Us All Away
- Stay Alive (Reprise)
- It’s Quiet Uptown
- The Election of 1800
- Your Obedient Servant
- Best of Wives and Best of Women
- The World Was Wide Enough
- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
‘Alexander Hamilton’ is the opening number for the show, expositing on the main character and summarizing the first decades of his life leading to this moment. The song introduces other leaders and supporting characters in the show, including Aaron Burr, John Laurens, Thomas Jefferson Marquis de Lafayette, Angelica Schuyler Church, Maria Reynolds, and others. The song introduces the motif of derogatory terms used against Hamilton throughout his life and sets up the rivalry between Burr and Hamilton from the onset of the musical production.
Related: Study up with these historical songs.
Aaron Burr, Sir
The song ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ sets up the time and location of the overall story of Hamilton. The song also fully introduces Aaron Burr, John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan, and Marquis de Lafayette. The song takes place in a bar where the group meets, and Hamilton and Burr’s ambitions are made known.
The third song in the first Act of Hamilton, ‘My Shot’ takes place in 1776, after Hamilton emigrates from the island of Nevis (in the Caribbean) as a 19-year-old. The song demonstrates Hamilton’s unique and powerful verbal skills as the cast discusses disillusionment with the British rulers and a desire for revolution. Each singer raps about their hopes and dreams – but then remember loyalists may be among them, thanks to Aaron Burr’s warnings. The rest say “no!” and encourage one another and those present to rise up against the British.
Related: Build up the courage with these songs about being fearless.
The Story of Tonight
A melodic song about revolution and hope, ‘The Story Tonight’ continues the call from early revolutionaries against British rule. In a more musical show tune song style with hip-hop nearly acapella bridge, the four revolutionaries sing about joining the fight for freedom. They drink to freedom in their local bar, toasting liberty and freedom that will never be taken from them.
Related: Freedom rings on this playlist of songs about freedom.
The Schuyler Sisters
‘The Schuyler Sisters’ now introduces three sisters, Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy, with their different views, personalities, and their eagerness for the new age in which they live. The song is described as a Destiny’s Child-like R&B girl group song and a “pre-pre-feminist power anthem” by WIUX. Burr tries to flirt with Angelica during the song, but she makes it clear that she’s not interested.
Related: Check out these songs about control.
The sixth song in Hamilton ACT I, ‘Farmer Refuted,’ recounts the story of Samuel Seabury, a strong British loyalist who sings against it at this moment, reading out from Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress. Hamilton fires back supporting the change of power, asking why a country across the sea should have power.
You’ll Be Back
Dismayed by the American War of Independence, King George III sings his expectations that the colonies would come crawling back to the British empire once their rebellion was put down. The song comes seventh in Act I and continues the flow of thought from the colonists calling for revolution and freedom from the overbearing monarchy. The song is more of a Vibe-style or Britpop song resembling that of the Beatles’ breakup song ‘With a Little Help from my Friends.’ The title lyric was inspired by conversation between Hugh Laurie and Miranda. Laurie noted the song Miranda wanted to write someday (breakup letter from King George) would give the vibe of “you’ll be back” lyrically, and Miranda ran with it.
Related: Head over to our playlist of songs about breaking up.
Right Hand Man
‘Right Hand Man’ is Hamilton’s presentation to General George Washington. Hamilton aims to be placed in command of the Continental Army, trying to get the attention of Washington, the recently elected commander-in-chief. Hamilton leads the charge in capturing British cannons and does, in fact, capture Washington’s attention. And Hamilton knows he’s the right choice for Washington’s right-hand man.
A Winter’s Ball
Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton are at Philip Schuyler’s winter ball. Burr wonders how Hamilton, an illegitimate child, could have gained recognition in a time of turbulence in America. Burr shows off his arrogance and unpleasant views of women and his negative views of Hamilton. The song was initially named ‘Ladies’ Transition’ due to the short length of the song and intent of use as a literal transition in the play, leading to the next song.
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‘Helpless’ is the love song focusing on the romance of Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton. Eliza was introduced to Hamilton by her sister, Angelica, during a ball held in Morristown while the army was stationed there in 1780 for the winter. When the pair meet, they instantly know there’s something there and start correspondence. As the song progresses, Hamilton expresses his concerns about his upbringing and not being “good enough” for Eliza. He was an orphan, poor, and didn’t have an elevated station. But Eliza doesn’t care. The song ends as the wedding march plays.
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As the wedding toast for Hamilton and Eliza, ‘Satisfied’ expresses the heart and feelings of Angelica Schuyler, Eliza’s sister, as the pair come together in marriage. When Miranda read an actual letter from Angelica to Hamilton, he was inspired to create the lyrics for the song: “You are happy my dear friend to find consolation in ‘words and thoughts.’ I cannot be so easily satisfied.” The song shows Angelica’s real feelings for Hamilton as she lets him go and tries to celebrate her sister’s marriage to the man she wanted but felt she couldn’t have. While the sentiment focuses on her “station” as the daughter required to “marry well,” there is some license in the song, as Angelica’s father had other children in real life, including two sons, who would have worn this mantel instead.
Related: Here are the best songs about letting go of someone you love.
The Story of Tonight (Reprise)
Just after the wedding of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler, ‘The Story of Tonight (Reprise)’ rises, as the group singing the first rendition reunited, drunk after the party. The song jokes about the potential consequences of Hamilton’s marriage and refers to him as the “tomcat” because of his old ways as a ladies’ man. During the song, Aaron Burr appears, and the group discusses his promotion, with Hamilton envying it. As the song progresses, the others leave, and Hamilton and Burr are left on their own to discuss.
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Wait for It
Burr reflects on what he’s discussed with Hamilton and decides that he must hold on and wait for his moment in the sun in ‘Wait for It.’ Burr feels he has more to lose – more to risk than the irrepressible and risky Hamilton, and his jealousy begins to mount. According to Miranda, the song’s refrain “came to him” on the subway headed to a friend’s party. He sang the song into his iPhone to keep it, hit up the party for a little while, then completed writing this emotionally intense song on the ride home.
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Impending war staked rise, and Hamilton’s distress intensifies as Washington doubts the victory for the Continental Army. In ‘Stay Alive,’ they outline their plan to win, but Washington refuses to give Hamilton the command he desires and instead elevates Charles Lee, who ultimately retreats and causes Washington to set Lafayette as the lead. Hamilton wants to duel with Lee, but Washington forbids it, and John Laurens steps in to prevent Hamilton from disobeying orders.
Ten Duel Commandments
As the title implies, ‘Ten Duel Commandments’ spells out the duel rules—ten of them—involved in duels of the era. Before the duel commences with their seconds, Hamilton and Burr convene in an attempt to make peace. Burr declares duels immature and foolish, but Hamilton insists the duel goes forward, culminating the song in a countdown and the nonfatal shooting of Lee by Laurens. The motif of “not throwing away his shot” comes up in the song again, referencing back to the song earlier in the musical.
Meet Me Inside
The song ‘Meet Me Inside’ is the aftermath of the duel between the seconds appointed by Hamilton and Burr. Charles Lee is shot in the side during the duel, surviving but wounding him. And Washington isn’t too happy about it. Hamilton is sent home by Washington for rash behavior.
That Would Be Enough
A sweetly melodic traditional musical show tune, ‘That Would Be Enough’ is another love song between Hamilton and Eliza, his beloved wife. When Hamilton returns home, he discovers his wife’s pregnancy. And the baby is a boy—his son. All Eliza asks of him is love, not money and legacy. The sincere plea for Hamilton to stay for them and know they are enough is heart-rending.
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Guns and Ships
The driving song ‘Guns and Ships’ bounds back into the hip-hip realm, with some musical theater twists throughout. Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette returns, tracing the route to cut off the British forces. During the song, he convinces Washington to offer Hamilton the command he asked for all along. Reluctantly, the commander in chief agrees and calls Hamilton back to service.
History Has Its Eyes on You
Opening like a classic musical show tune, ‘History Has Its Eyes on You’ then shifts into an R&B style song. The song follows Hamilton’s promotion to command by Washington. The president tells Hamilton about his first command and the massacre he led his troops into. The deep regrets of the deaths and failure of that action come out in the song.
Related: We all regret something now and then. Check out these songs about making mistakes.
Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
Hamilton and de Lafayette discuss their plans for the impending conclusion of the Revolutionary War through this hip-hop song. The song is a highly narrative descriptive piece, giving the audience a clear view of what happens as the battle of Yorktown takes place. Revelations come from Hercules Mulligan’s spying on British troops, announced Eliza’s pregnancy and Hamilton’s concerns regarding the birth, and John Laurens’ southward journey to South Carolina in an attempt to form a Black battalion of soldiers.
What Comes Next?
The “now what” song from Hamilton, ‘What Comes Next’ is sung by George III as he asks the colonists who’ve broken free from Britain’s grasp. The implication is that America will crash and burn and face the dire consequences of freedom from British rule.
Sung by Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, ‘Dear Theodosia’ is the heart of welcome as the fathers delight in meeting their first-born children (Theodosia and Philip, respectively) for the first time. The two orphaned men become fathers, rejoicing in the unique expectation of watching the children growing up someday and doing great things. The intent of making the world a better place for them is strongly themed in the show-tune-style song tinkling away on the piano.
Related: See more great songs about having a baby.
‘Non-Stop’ is a multi-layered song mixing up hip-hop, spoken word, and traditional song as the narrative addresses multiple events. First, the first murder trial in the new nation as Burr and Hamilton defend Levi Weeks. Then, Hamilton’s appointment as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and the drafting of the Constitution. Hamilton tries to convince Burr to author and defend the Federalist Papers. Then, Angelica says she’s leaving for London, where she’ll live with her wealthy husband, and she asks Hamilton to write to her. Eliza pleads for Hamilton to stay with her, but Eliza and Angelica agree he will never be satisfied where he’s at. Finally, the song culminates in the repeated theme, “I am not throwing away my shot!”
What’d I Miss
In the hip-hop/musical/jazz number leading off Act II, Thomas Jefferson, who’s been away to France for a long time, asks, ‘What’d I Miss?’ Madison gives Jefferson the run-down, and the men lean into trashing Hamilton’s reputation however they can, including the ever-undermining Burr.
Cabinet Battle #1
A hip-hop song addressing the state’s debts, this song changes the narrative perspective as the “battle” ensues. First, Jefferson starts the rap battle with quotes from the Declaration of Independence. Hamilton follows up with a rebuttal accusing Jefferson of being out of touch with America and accusations against Jefferson for slave ownership and personal morals. Washington stops the battle, talks with Hamilton, and repeats previous “order from your commander” motifs from previous conversations between Hamilton and Washington.
Take a Break
Life can be overwhelming no matter who you are and what you’re fighting for, and sometimes we need a break. In this compelling and beautiful song, Eliza reminds Hamilton he should take one to celebrate his son’s ninth birthday. Fast forward, and Angelica arrives from London to see the family. The two try to convince Hamilton to take a break and rest and spend time with family instead of solely focusing on his plan for Congress. But he refuses, certain he has to get his plan passed.
Say No to This
In this R&B song, while Hamilton’s wife is away, he returns to some of his old ways as a ladies’ man when Maria Reynolds enters his life, asking for help. Her husband left her, and now she’s down on her luck. The relationship continues all summer while Eliza is away, but then her husband writes to Hamilton to coerce him for money in exchange for his silence about Hamilton’s behavior. The affair is the first scandal of that nature in US history.
Related: Sneak over to these songs about forbidden love.
The Room Where It Happens
The jazzy, hip-hop, show tune piece, ‘The Room Where It Happens’ is one of the two songs from Hamilton that Lin-Manuel Miranda feels are his best ever written, and both are sung by Aaron Burr. A distinct feature of this expository song about the secret dealings of politicians behind doors is the use of the banjo in this style of song. The musical director, Alex Lacamoire, says the use of banjo was a moment of pure inspiration and invokes the feel of the world in which the story takes place.
Political intrigue has always been a part of America’s history, from the founding fathers onward. In ‘Schuyler Defeated,’ we hear this come out strongly as Burr and Hamilton argue over Burr’s dramatic party switch to overthrow Hamilton’s father-in-law Philip Schuyler – for personal gain. The move drives a deeper wedge between Hamilton and Burr.
Cabinet Battle #2
Another political rap battle occurs between Jefferson and Hamilton in ‘Cabinet Battle #2.’ The question arises: “Now, do we provide aid and troops to our French allies? Or do we stay out of it?” Accusations against Hamilton come to light, as well. Is Hamilton capable on his own, or does he have to have Washington’s backing to make a movement? The song follows the same sort of pattern as the first rap battle, with a verse by Jefferson, one by Hamilton, and one by Washington.
Washington on Your Side [Clean]
Calling on the old fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Clothes, at the end of the lyrics, the song ‘Washington on Your Side’ questions Hamilton’s ability and the power he holds. Jefferson, Madison, and Burr realize he’s taken power from them and they’re convinced Hamilton’s only got the power because Washington backed him. They accuse him of being a fraud and a liar.
Related: Hear more of the best songs about liars.
One Last Time
After Jefferson resigns, Washington calls Hamilton in for a conversation. Washington won’t be running for president, but Jefferson will. Washington asks Hamilton to write his last address to the American people. The song gives the Farewell Address and quotes Micah 4:4, 1 Kings 4:25, and 2 Kings 18:31 from the Bible, straight from real-life letters from Washington, who liked to quote the lines in his correspondence.
I Know Him
Another song from King George III, ‘I Know Him’ is the king’s reflection of America’s new presidential election and the president-elect, John Adams. The king’s in shock that he knows this man is now elected. The song dabbles with a phrase of the King’s repeated theme, drawing together more motifs throughout the musical.
The Adams Administration
Did you know that Hamilton created the Coast Guard and founded the New York Post? In the short transitionary song, ‘The Adam’s Administration,’ you discover some things about the titular character of Hamilton. He’s accused of being “out of control.” Burr, Jefferson, and Madison sing a bit of their relief and “joy” over Hamilton being humiliated and out of office.
Enemies are certainly nothing new to American politics. Hamilton had three of his own – Burr, Jefferson, and Madison. They find the blackmail payment stubs from James Reynolds (husband of Maria Reynolds, with whom Hamilton had an affair). The trio meets with Hamilton to accuse him of misconduct, but he denies it. Can Hamilton trust them?
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Things come to a head with the scandal of Hamilton’s romance with Maria Reynolds. Can he risk his marriage and the reputation of his son, Philip? How can he decide? Is his legacy more important than his family? Telling the truth has served him well in the past, and he trusts that it will help him again.
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The beautifully painful song ‘Burn’ skips across the harp strings as Eliza sings of the hurt from Hamilton’s betrayal of her. The title eludes to the imagery of the family burning down after Hamilton’s affair and Eliza’s literal burning of the letters he wrote to her in the early days of their romance. The deeply wounded Eliza ends by singing that she hopes Hamilton burns. The song is based on Miranda’s assumption that Eliza did in real life burn letters from her husband, the assumption drawn from the biography that inspired the musical.
Related: Heat up your playlist with these songs about burning.
Blow Us All Away
Duels run in the family, apparently, as young Philip Hamilton, a recent graduate of King’s College, challenges George Eacker to a duel for disparaging his father in a public address. Philip asks for advice from his dueling father. The duel results in Philip being shot.
Stay Alive (Reprise)
An urgent plea for Philip’s healing after the duel with George Eacker, ‘Stay Alive (Reprise)’ is sung by Philip, Alexander, and Eliza as young Philip faces his own passing. The young man expresses regret and love for his mother while his mother sings of the sweet memories of his childhood playing piano and learning to count in French. The family says their goodbyes.
It’s Quiet Uptown
Another beautiful and painful song, ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’ recounts the deep sorrow and grief of Alexander Hamilton and Eliza as they mourn the loss of their son. The softer, evocative song looks back on their lives over the years, from the moment the couple met to this grieving point. According to the musical director, the song is probably the show’s best use of strings.
Related: Listen to our playlist of the best songs about losing someone.
The Election of 1800
The narrative hip-hop-edged show tune song follows Miranda’s retelling of the 1800 United States presidential election. The loss of Hamilton’s son is still raw on the heart as the election is addressed by Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson. The song plays on some of the previous motifs of the show, like ‘Aaron Burr, Sir’ and ‘It’s Quiet Uptown.’ Hamilton is brought in to break the tie of the presidential election that Burr wanted to win, and Hamilton opts to vote for Jefferson instead. Hamilton’s reason for his vote: “Jefferson has beliefs, Burr has none.”
Your Obedient Servant
Prior to the duel between Hamilton and Burr, the two men wrote to each other, and the song takes its name from the closing of the letters “Your obedient servant” (styled in letters as “Your Obdt. St.,” a common phrase of the era). The song ends with the challenge of a duel between the two long-time political rivals.
Best of Wives and Best of Women
Foreshadowing of the future, yet drawing from previous motifs, ‘Best of Wives and Best of Women’ is a short song, a tiny plea from Eliza to Alexander to come back to bed when he’s staying up late writing. The song alludes to what’s to come and what’s behind.
The World Was Wide Enough
Returning to the motif of the rules of duels earlier sung in the musical, ‘The World Was Wide Enough’ brings the final duel of Hamilton as he faces Burr. The evocative song narrates the event through first-person, internal thought, first from Hamilton and then Burr, as they each realize, in different ways, what is happening.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
The final song of the brilliant musical, retelling the founding of the nation “as America now,” the song ‘Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story’ wraps up the events of the life of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton, and Angelica, and others from their lives. Eliza’s story continues, and she tells Alexander’s story and founds an orphanage in his honor.