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Which ‘Hamilton’ Song Will Be a Classic?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Hamilton, the wildly expensive smash-hit musical, is going to win a lot of Tonys tonight. Congratulations in advance! Hamilton is great! So great, in fact, that we’re moving past tonight’s awards and jumping straight to the Hall of Fame phase. Our question: Which song will be a classic 10 years from now?

"Wait for It"

Chris Ryan: They’re doing this at the Tonys because it’s the one. "My Shot" and "Alexander Hamilton" are the calling cards, "Helpless" and "Satisfied" are lovely, "You’ll Be Back" is hilarious, and "It’s Quiet Uptown" is heartbreaking, but "Wait for It" is the earthquake — that’s the one where you hold on tight and gasp, "What was that?"

Hamilton’s hip-hop roots show more obviously in other songs, but "Wait for It" internalizes the cadences of rap and marries them with something Max Martin would write. I’ve been wondering for months why the line lifedoesn’tdiscriminatebetweenthesinnersandthesaintsitakesandittakesandittakes works. It’s because it’s not a line — it’s a bar. Leslie Odom Jr. spits it like an MC, you just don’t notice because all the fireworks are going off.

"Wait for It" comes about a quarter of the way into the show. By that point, your head is spinning from the historical facts and footnotes. Even the more emotional fare like "Helpless" feels rooted in the courtship rituals of the day. But then the choruses of "Wait for It" act as a defibrillation that brings you back to today. Or any day.

According to Rebecca Mead’s New Yorker piece on Lin-Manuel Miranda, the melody for "Wait for It" hit him on a train ride to Dumbo, and he wrote the rest of it on the train ride back. That scans — the song sounds like an epiphany. The crazy thing is that he gave it away. Miranda had originally considered playing Aaron Burr, the character who sings the number. Why would you ever want to play anyone else in Hamilton but Hamilton? "Wait for It" is a pretty good reason.

"Helpless"

Allison P. Davis: When I think of the Rent songs that really stuck in pop culture, I don’t think of the big, emotional songs like "One Song Glory," or the opening-closing numbers like "Seasons of Love." I prefer the songs that mimic radio hits — fun, catchy, flirty jams that make you want to do a little two-step when no one’s looking or grind someone at a club. For Rent, that was "Out Tonight," for Hamilton it’s "Helpless," the bright, bouncy R&B love song from the first act.

The song is like a perfect stew of past and current pop-R&B elements: a little ’60s girl group doo-wop, Beyoncé’s "Countdown," an easy, dance-hall light beat copped from Rihanna, smooth-as-butter Monica-era melodic runs, and catchy hooks that are a direct callback to SWV’s hit "I’m So Into You." When Lin-Manuel drops his verse to woo Phillipa Soo, it’s reminiscent of every hot Ja Rule-Ashanti, Drake-Rihanna, or Bey-Jay duet. If you stuck this song on your "Ladies R&B Jamz" playlist 10 years from now, nobody would bat an eye.

"Satisfied"

Juliet Litman: All the great musicals need a song of deep longing and pain. West Side Story has "Somewhere." Rent has "Goodbye Love" (and "I’ll Cover You (Reprise)" and "Without You"). You’ve probably heard an annoying, earnest, teenage girl belt out a version of Les Mis’s "On My Own." (On the off chance you haven’t, you’ve got Joey Potter to fill that void.) The entire score of Hamilton is filled with wanting, but "Satisfied" is the official song of the relationship that can never be. It’s an ode to love that is also filled with resignation. It’s the best!

While ostensibly giving a toast at the nuptials of her sister Eliza and Alexander Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler belts and raps the story of how she met him first. It’s stuffed with educational lyrics about class in America in the 18th century, but more importantly, it’s an impassioned declaration of semi-requited love. Angelica made the executive decision that even though she maybe loved Alex, he was better suited for her sister. The song comes about one-third of the way into Act 1, and it’s truly a showstopper. Renée Elise Goldsberry grabs the mic and forces us to feel the hurt of a Colonial woman forced to marry up. To quote her, she was "the oldest and the wittiest … And Alexander is penniless." The social-climbing conundrum may not be universal, but the song is delivered with so much pathos that you can’t help but ache for the "bastard, orphan, son of a whore" yourself.

"Satisfied" is a mortal lock to become the musical theater ballad of choice at all high school talent shows for the next 15 years. Teenage girls may not encounter a ton of awe-inspiring Founding Fathers, but they do know heartache. Angelica Schuyler feels their pain.

"My Shot"

Amanda Dobbins: Well, sure. "My Shot" is the Hamilton sample platter: AP history cheat codes ("I’m just like my country / young scrappy and hungry"); rap nerd references (Eminem, Prodigy, Biggie); emotional wallop (that "I imagine death so much it feels like a memory" verse); Daveed Diggs’s French accent. "My Shot" is the neatest summary of Hamilton’s many, much-discussed achievements, and also, it bangs. Put this song on and try not to jump on a table and yell at someone about how you want more for your life.

"The Room Where It Happens" might get more burn as a political rallying cry, and "The Schuyler Sisters" will be the lasting anthem for third wheels (and feminism), but "My Shot" is the key text. Put another way: It’s the "One Day More" of Hamilton, thematically and spiritually. SEE YOU ON THE PBS BARRICADE.