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Hamilton Lessons

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Hamilton Lessons

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1

No one is an accidental success.

You’ve got to want it, you’ve got to pursue it like you’re running out of time.

Did you watch “Hamilton” on Disney+?

“Hamilton” is the biggest musical event of the past five years, far eclipsing Ariana Grande or Kanye or anybody on the hit parade. Because it wasn’t built by the hit parade, it wasn’t forced down anybody’s throat, its spread was the essence of the internet, pull, not push, people wanted it.

And now they’ve got it.

Very few people have actually seen “Hamilton” on stage, compared with the number of people in America. But those who have testified. And those who haven’t…listened to the Original Broadway Cast album.

We know about the success of the musical, what is not emphasized is the success of the soundtrack.

Maybe you needed children in the house. Word of mouth is more important than ever, but in the pre-internet era the spread was limited to the confines of your high school, today there are no boundaries, kids have more friends than ever, they consume more information than ever, adults rail against screen time but it has already transformed the younger generations in ways adults not only could not foresee but still don’t understand. There’s a network. Which is always on. And when something is deemed important, all youngsters know it.

You might be overwhelmed by apps, by comments, by Reddit, by YouTube and its influencers, but these young digital natives live on their devices and not only know the ropes of how to use them, but what is being said.

Which brings us to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Without the internet, there is no spontaneous combustion. And if you look, it was the youngsters out in the streets. MTV killed homophobia and racism amongst its viewers. Not completely, but there’s no gay marriage without MTV. And the younger you are, the less racist you are. It’s the old people who are most racist, and they’re fading away and their beliefs will not radiate.

In “Hamilton” you have a story of white people portrayed by people of color. There might have been some head-scratching at first, but that’s long gone. Then again, it’s interesting that people of color can tell the white man’s story, but white people can’t tell the stories of people of color. I get it, it’s kind of like racist jokes, you can tell them if you’re a member of the tribe, you can use the “n” word if you’re an African-American, but you don’t want anybody else employing these expressions. Then again, we must move towards harmony as opposed to exclusiveness, but that’s a debate for another day.

So, if you have someone in the house who is still in school, you know “Hamilton” by heart, you’ve heard it over and over and over again. And unlike today’s hit parade, the music was not here and then gone, it sustains. In today’s world it’s harder to break through, but it’s just as hard to stay on top. First and foremost, much of what makes it just isn’t that good, secondly, there are always people vying for pole position. But slow and steady wins the race. Even slower than terrestrial radio. And in America today, oftentimes the news media does not reflect the hearts and minds of citizens. We used to live in a top-down culture, now it’s bottom-up.

So, Apple should have paid beaucoup bucks for “Hamilton.” Then again, at first the filming of the stage play was to be released theatrically. But Disney pivoted in the Covid-19 era and put it up on their television pay service. And now everybody can see it. Over and over and over again.

My point about Apple is “Hamilton” would have driven subscriptions. And it will do so for Disney. Even more, it will continue subscriptions. If you’re young, you’re not one and done, you need to be able to see “Hamilton” on demand, whenever. And old people too.

So there was tons of hype in advance of yesterday’s launch, but I’ve yet to read the article about adoption, how many people watched, but those will come. And the numbers will be stratospheric, but unlike the Super Bowl, there will be repeatability.

So, if you have not watched “Hamilton,” if you are not planning to watch “Hamilton” this weekend, you are in the minority. And you want to watch it because it’s so damn good, but also because you want to be part of the discussion, that’s what makes you feel human, when you can converse with others about something. That’s what we’re all looking for in this lockdown era.

Just one note… If you’re new to the musical, watch it with the subtitles on. You’ll glean so much more.

And unlike with Quibi, “Hamilton” is a very big bite, two hours and forty minutes, but you’ll make it through, because you’ll enjoy it and want to know how it turns out, marveling that you did not learn all this in school.

2.

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore
And a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot
In the Caribbean by providence impoverished
In squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

Why is it the nobodies from nowhere break into the entertainment scene?

Because they want it. And there are no pre-requirements.

You need to put in a decade of schooling to become an MD. There are hurdles to almost every profession in America today. And the disadvantaged have problems even getting to the starting line, now more than ever the disadvantaged are just that, they to go substandard schools and are not made aware of scholarship opportunities, meanwhile their parents are denigrated as are their schools themselves. That’s America, if you’re not successful it’s your fault. But those people looking down on you were beneficiaries of elite educations, or they inherited their wealth, or they made money in business and they don’t want you taking any of it.

But in entertainment…all doors are open. Which is why it’s so hard to make it, everybody wants to play. And despite all the talk of controlling labels, the story of the last decade is democracy, individuals concocting hits all by themselves in their own little burgs.

Just as important is the influence of said work. It’s confounding how whites are racist while they listen to hip-hop and adopt the lifestyle. But that’s just how powerful entertainment and its stars are.

3

Desire and hard work. It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic stratum you’re from, you’re not going to become an elite influencer if you’re not willing to sacrifice everything to make it. And I mean EVERYTHING!

If you want a normal life, get a job, hopefully it will pay the bills.

But if you want to have influence, stop saving for a house, don’t get married, don’t have children, don’t buy an expensive car, just WORK!

But you’ve got to establish a goal.

Alexander Hamilton wanted influence, power, he wanted to leave a dent in the universe. Don’t equate this with getting rich. Sure, money can gain you a modicum of power, but nowhere near as much power as that of entertainers, those in the arts. Life is empty without the arts, despite all the put-down of art history majors. It’s the ethereal creations of the artists that we’re drawn to, that we want to spend time with, that we want to talk about, just like “Hamilton” itself. So keep your eye on the prize, but know what the prize is.

4

Don’t undersell yourself. Hamilton wants to fight, he wants to be on the frontlines, he doesn’t want to be in the background. This is no different from an NBA star wanting the ball as the clock ticks down. Hamilton believes in himself, he doesn’t shy away from a challenge, he embraces it. And he’s always looking for more responsibility.

But the problem with this is you make mistakes. And those are anathema in today’s culture. Don’t let this dissuade you, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.

5

“Talk less, smile more”

Aaron Burr wants to be a friend to everybody, not go on the record for fear of alienating someone. This is the philosophy of too many entertainers today. They stand for nothing. They want to touch everybody, but as a result they barely go beyond skin-deep. You don’t make a fan by being bland, you make fans by having edges, by believing the message is more important than the fallout.

And speaking of Burr, actions have consequences. Don’t be a hothead, try to work it out. What I mean is you might get caught up in the moment and regret it. You can never erase your brain. It’s one thing to get into an argument, it’s another to snuff out someone’s life. There are lines you do not want to cross. But shy of this limit, which rarely comes into play, do not sacrifice your truth to be a member of the group, because the group does not need you, it’s only a matter of time before you’re ejected.

6

Men are ruled by the little head.

They want to go downtown and hang with the ladies.

They do things they regret.

In other words, the world revolves around sex. And it’s no different today, when the world’s richest man throws his wife overboard in pursuit of a good friend’s spouse.

7

Loyalty is everything. I do not mean you should stay loyal to someone who committed a crime, what I’m saying is associate with those with character. Marry someone who will take their vows seriously, who won’t abandon you when you least expect it, throwing your life into chaos. There are very few people you can trust, you realize this as you get older. And oftentimes the ones you can trust most have obvious flaws, but the truth is those you think are your buddies have deeper issues that they’re hiding, which will ultimately surface, to your detriment.

8

Own your mistakes. The truth will set you free.

That’s the essence of the Reynolds Pamphlet. Your enemies have no ammunition if you own your faux pas. And today, especially, what happened yesterday is forgotten tomorrow.

9

You may be paranoid, but that does not mean people aren’t out to get you.

Jefferson, Madison, Burr…

10

“Hamilton” is the story of the abused. Americans who could not cotton to British rule. This is what is happening today. It’s not only the Vichy Republicans, but the Vichy Democrats too, who want slow, marginal change, just like the Grammy organization. They say they’re going to do something, and then do nothing as the time passes.

You try to work it out, but sometimes you become overloaded and rebel.

And people don’t like it when you rebel. Wasn’t that the essence of Trump’s speech at Mt. Rushmore last night? We’re going to restore law and order, keep the peace, a peace that is not working for most people.

11

Many more lessons will pop out as you watch “Hamilton.” But the musical is not heavy-handed, the story is paramount, the aphorisms baked in. Immigrants do get the job done. Yesterday and today.

But the most impressive thing about “Hamilton” is that Lin-Manuel Miranda created it.

But it did not come out of thin air. Miranda was a fan of musicals, and of rap, from way back. “In the Heights” did not get as good reviews. He was working in darkness, with very little attention. When the spotlight shines, it’s harder to maintain that level and quality of production.

But Lin-Manuel Miranda needed this. He needed to leave his mark, to tell his story. And he did not write a verse without a chorus, the quality sustains throughout, which is even more difficult because most of the action takes place in the first act. The second act is more cerebral. The aftermath. But the big wheel keeps on turning, life goes on, every moment counts, the big game only lasts one day, what are you gonna do, what are you gonna think about after that?

“Hamilton” is subversive, even though it’s hiding in plain sight. When something is so good, and so truthful, it cannot be denied. And if you want to change people’s behaviors, it’s best to do this through art. Because when you grab people by their hearts and minds they’ll follow you anywhere.

So, can you feel the success of “Hamilton” on television?

Maybe not. But if Lin-Manuel asked you to come together in concerted action, you’d probably follow his lead.

This is today’s world. No one has complete mindshare. Trump is even sacrificing some of his, by going off the rails, by denying the effects of Covid-19. You can sacrifice belief, your heroes can betray you, it’s not easy to let go, but at some point you do. Just like you stopped buying the albums of classic rock heroes after they released two or three duds in a row.

“Hamilton” will cement the footprint of Disney+. It’s a masterstroke. To air it on TV for everybody over the holiday, instead of trying to hoover up money in the theatre and then drip it out on the flat screen as the buzz evaporates. This is a gift. This is the story of July 4th, 2020.

At first it’s kind of stilted. Watching the filming of a play.

But since it’s the original actors, the ones who sang on the soundtrack, it’s very fulfilling, like seeing Freddie Mercury instead of Adam Lambert.

Are you still going to want to see it live?

Interesting question. I’ve been lucky to be up close and personal three times. Just a few rows back in August 2015, dead center in October of 2016.

And I also saw it in Los Angeles, but I was thrown off by the cast, the originals and their voices were burned into my brain.

It’s been five years already. And the “Hamilton” flame still burns. People will still go see the stage play, but I think the TV show will hurt attendance a bit. But it won’t be long before it will be a staple of high schools and summer camps, even summer stock. You see, “Hamilton” and its legend will not die. We were waiting for the Beatles to return, little did we know they would come back as a rap-based musical.

There were no duds on Beatle albums.

Just like there are no duds in “Hamilton.”

Alexander Hamilton achieved his goal. He made a difference, and he will be remembered.

Same deal with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

If you plan to fly in this rarefied atmosphere know that success will come later rather than sooner, you’ve got to hoover up knowledge, you’ve got to make mistakes, you’ve got to find your way.

And it will take all your time.

And you still might not succeed.

But it isn’t about promotion, who you know is important, but not definitive, it’s about the WORK!

Is the work most important to you?

Then you’ve got a chance.

Put your head down. We are not

 

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