Hamilton has only been out for a little over a week on Disney+ and it’s already setting the world on fire. The musical version of the American Revolution and the political tumult that followed it, Hamilton has seen some of the best download numbers for Disney’s streaming app since it launched, with a staggering 74% uptick coming with the arrival of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit.
With a massive tracklist of 46 songs, there are a lot of favorites that fans have cherished since the show launched back in 2015. Even narrowing it down to a mere 15 was a challenge in and of itself, so apologies in advance if your favorite was left off. This was not a task we took lightly.
There’s no need for us to make you wait for it any longer, though, so, without further ado, below is our list of the best songs in Hamilton.
15. The Story of Tonight
Short but sweet, the drinking song that Hamilton and his revolutionary cohorts sing in the tavern where they imagine their illustrious futures is bittersweet in its hopefulness. Lines like “tomorrow there’ll be more of us” are tempered with lines like “I may not live to see our glory”. Still, the idealism of these founding fathers is on full display here, a fact that makes the later infighting and intensity of the second half of the story all the more heartbreaking.
One of only a few numbers that contain the harmonizing of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan and Anthony Ramos, “The Story of Tonight” is the first song in the show to lean into the emotion behind the heavy historical and political stakes of Hamilton, and for that reason alone it makes a distinct impression.
14. Take A Break
A song as sad as it is touching, “Take A Break” is Alexander’s turning point as a character, where he goes from hopeful hero to a man defeated by his own ambition. As Eliza and Angelica implore him to join them for a summer vacation, he fears it will cost him his job… unfortunately his decision not to join them costs him even more.
With a stirring back and forth duet between Renee Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo that culminates in gorgeous harmony, and a declaration of sorrowful determination, “Take a Break” is surprisingly charged for its mostly light content.
One of the many moments that allows Phillipa Soo’s incredible vocal talent to steal the show, “Burn” sees Eliza Schuyler finding out about Hamilton’s infidelity at the same time the rest of the world does, with his well-meaning (if ill-advised) Reynolds Pamphlets.
With no one to steal her fire, Soo sets the stage ablaze with her embittered sorrow and unbridled rage. Betrayed, alone and pitied by the world, Elizabeth Schuyler hopes that Alexander will burn. If you can’t feel the heartbreak behind her words, and the way she herself is burning up inside, you need to listen again.
12. The World Was Wide Enough
The penultimate song of the musical sets Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr at odds for the final time in this story. With more changes in rhythm than maybe any other song in Hamilton, it feels almost like a collection of vignettes set during the tumultuous day of the titular character’s death.
The only extended spoken word section also occurs here as Hamilton accepts his death, bids farewell to his wife and raises one last glass to freedom. The regret that Burr feels after he pulls the trigger is also palpable with his scream of “Waaaait!” and his understanding of how far he has allowed his hubris to take him, and the price of that pride.
11. The Room Where It Happens
Another moment for Leslie Odom Jr. to shine as Aaron Burr comes when he meets with Hamilton before an eventful dinner with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. As the three high ranking politicians meet inside, Burr obsessively imagines the events from the outside and decides next time he wants to be in the room where it happens.
One of the strongest vocal talents of the show, Odom Jr. nails the emotional exultation of “No!” along with Burr’s political awakening. The old noir style infusion that joins the song also offers it a conspiratorial tone that really puts you in Burr’s shoes as he begins to see himself as someone who doesn’t just deserve to be in the room, but someone who needs to be there.
10. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
The final song of Hamilton is one tinged with regret but also layered with hope. Ultimately Alexander spent his life obsessed with his legacy and the mark he might leave on history. The fact that the song begins with George Washington’s warning from all those years ago that you have no control over “who lives, who dies, who tells your story” makes it the thesis of the song as quickly as it’s uttered.
As Madison and Jefferson’s presidencies are recounted, following Hamilton’s death, an elderly Elizabeth Schuyler tells her long dead husband about her life without him as she prepares to finally join him on the other side. Once again Phillipa Soo’s beautiful voice sells the emotion of the character, making you feel every inch of her life as a widow. If you can get through this one with dry eyes, you’re a stronger stalwart than this writer.
9. What’d I Miss?
Thomas Jefferson is introduced into the story with one of the most fun songs in all of Hamilton. The bouncing ragtime beat, along with Daveed Diggs’ effortless charisma, make the audience want to like Jefferson the minute he shows up, even as he finds himself almost immediately at odds with the protagonist of the show.
“What’d I Miss?” also has some of the funniest lines in Hamilton. When Jefferson responds with “Uhh… France” after Madison asks where he’s been, like a scolding teacher, it’s impossible not to let out a chuckle. There’s truly no other song in the musical like “What’d I Miss?” and it makes an easy, lithe figure of a man who, as the audience will discover, is also incredibly devious.
8. History Has Its Eyes on You
For the first half of the show, Hamilton pines again and again for the chance to fight and be placed in a position of command. As the Battle of Yorktown looms over the horizon he finally gets his chance, but not without a warning from George Washington.
George finally lets his surrogate son know why he’s held him back for so long: he wants to protect him from the pain of history. As Washington accounts his own failings, Christopher Jackson lets his soaring vocals do the heavy lifting, leaning into the nuance of what it means to be at the forefront of history.
Though the phrase has since become a rallying cry for protesters and political watchdogs, its original meaning here is still insightful, powerful and impactful.
7. The Schuyler Sisters
The Schuyler sisters enter the fray of Hamilton with the best introductory song of any characters in the whole show. The thumping Motown beat and soulful sound of “The Schuyler Sisters” is the perfect theme for women of substance and ambition like the Schuylers, women who have a desire to be a part of history and not just a footnote in it.
The way the back and forth start of the song eventually culminates into maybe the best vocal harmony in the musical, with Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Jasmine Cephas Jones positive vibrating with the line “in the greatest city in the world” at the end, makes “The Schuyler Sisters” an immediate force to be reckoned with while also establishing them as the most eligible bachelorettes in New York City.
6. One Last Time
One of the most pivotal moments in Hamilton comes when George Washington steps down as president. As Alexander laments the decision, George stands firm, hoping to “teach them how to say goodbye”. The foresight of this decision still radiates today, with term limits, but that doesn’t make the palpable emotion of the song any less evocative.
As Lin-Manuel Miranda recites the farewell address that Hamilton has written for George, Christopher Jackson eventually joins in, giving his best vocals of the show. Again, this song took on a second meaning, in reference to Obama stepping down after his second term in office in 2017, but, even without that additional context, it’s one of the most stirring songs in the entire musical.
The most exciting song in Hamilton comes after the revolution is over and the war is won. With a world full of possibilities unfolding before them, Hamilton and Burr begin to clash for the first time, even as one steps into his ambition and the other fades into the background.
Eventually Angelica and Elizabeth Schuyler join the fray as well, the former bidding farewell to America and the latter lamenting Hamilton’s unyielding ambition, when she finally thought he could be content as a family man. George Washington is the final person to join the song, placing himself at odds with Eliza with his wistful line “they’re asking me to lead”, a line soon echoed by Hamilton.
All five players are present in the astounding final section, their emotions and ambitions at odds even as their voices weave in and out of each other in harmony. Finally, the aggressive, near battle cry tone of “Hamilton wrote the other 51!” is an incredible moment in the show, and the one that comes closest to showing how hard the eponymous protagonist worked in his lifetime.
4. Dear Theodosia
Certainly in contention for the most emotional piece in the show, “Dear Theodosia” is one of the greatest songs ever written about the experience of being parent. With the war over, Hamilton and Burr speak to their newborn children, imagining a brighter future for them based on the sacrifices they’ve made along the way.
More powerful still, these intellectual titans, and founding fathers of America, find themselves shaken by the weight and power of being a father. Lines like “when you smile, it knocks me out, I fall apart, and I thought I was so smart” show how seeing their children for the first time has changed these men, especially after their close brushes with death.
Finally, they promise to do better, not just as parents, but as the men in charge of building the new country their kids will grow up in. “You will come of age with our young nation, we’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you”. This one doesn’t leave a dry eye in the house, and it’s not hard to see why.
As Alexander and Eliza meet for the first time at a winter’s ball, the latter finds herself immediately smitten with Hamilton. Like the great R&B songs of the 90s, “Helpless” lets Eliza’s love song flow, and gives Phillipa Soo her most joyous moments in the show. While her intonations of “I do, I do, I do” are originally couched with self control, by the end of the song she’s belting out her declaration of love for the whole world to here.
The interim that allows a rapping Miranda to offer his love in return, taking on a distinct Ja Rule growl at the end, is just the cherry on top. Wildly catchy and filled with the zest of young love, “Helpless” is one of the best and brightest tracks that Hamilton has to offer.
2. It’s Quiet Uptown
The only song in the show that can match “Dear Theodosia” in terms of raw emotion, “It’s Quiet Uptown” is a gruelling descent into the grief of losing a child, and the grace that Alexander and Eliza are able to find in their closely following reconciliation. Renee Elise Goldsberry carries this one, and it’s a lot to carry. Narrating as her sister and brother-in-law face “the unimaginable”, she captures the heartbreak of their loss as well as the solace of their reunion.
Even Hamilton rival James Madison is in tears when the next song starts, much like most of the audience will be during this crushing song. An utterly shattering piece of what a lifelong commitment must face, the loss of loved ones and eventually each other, “It’s Quiet Uptown” finds something to hold onto amid the chaos of life and death, and its power is paramount because of it.
1. Wait For It
Who would have thought that the villain of the story, Aaron Burr, would be the man with the best song in the entire musical. Burr’s thesis, couched as it is in a life full of unpredictable changes and tragedies, emerges as a defense mechanism that has kept him going through all these years. Leslie Odom Jr’s incredible vocal talent lends the song all of the emotional heft it needs to explain Burr’s hesitance to get involved in things he can’t predict the outcome of, while also showing his growth as a character.
Further, the inspirational tone of “Wait for It” can’t be denied. Particularly as we live through a dark time of change amid several different avenues of our society, “Wait for It” reminds us that we’ve still got something to hold onto, and a world on the other side well worth seeing.
Even divorced of these meanings, “Wait for It” is just an incredible ballad, and the kind of song that even non-fans could easily find themselves nodding their head to on the radio. It’s just that good.