We gave it a B+
Judging by Donald Trump’s tweets—and the #BoycottHamilton hashtag they helped inspire—you might think Hamilton is dividing the nation. But Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash is still able to bring the people together. The latest evidence? The Hamilton Mixtape, a genre-defying collection of covers and reinterpretations of the original musical numbers performed by a jaw-dropping roster of 36 unlikely musical bedfellows. Nowhere else will you hear Common teaming up with folk-pop star Ingrid Michaelson—or Sia duetting with R&B crooner Miguel, only to be interrupted by a rare and impressive guest verse from Queen Latifah.
While the mixtape—the first of at least two, according to Miranda—is stacked with appearances, the real star is still Miranda. Reinventing his work in the context of pop music only further cements his songwriting prowess: Kelly Clarkson’s cover of “It’s Quiet Uptown” wouldn’t have been entirely out of place on last year’s Piece by Piece, while Alicia Keys’ cover of “That Would Be Enough” is better than many songs on the album she released last month. And there’s no finer showcase for Miranda’s chameleonic abilities than Ashanti and Ja Rule performing the song “Helpless,” which was directly modeled after their R&B duets of the early 2000s—it’s the best thing either artist has done in years.
Still, with 23 songs and a run time of 74 minutes, the mixtape can be overwhelming for those not already well versed in Hamilton mania. Its sheer range of material also means that, inevitably, listeners could benefit from some playlist cherry-picking. The more faithful covers might feel redundant if you still have the original cast recording on repeat, while those drawn to the pop covers can probably skip past Miranda’s original demos. Still, by providing another eye-opening entry point to his groundbreaking work, the mixtape might be what takes you from being a casual fan to a hardcore Hamophile.