the ultimate definitive list of the top 10 hamilton songs

Here's why all other lists are wrong and mine is absolutely the definitive one: because I say so.

#10: FARMER REFUTED

Don't modulate the key then not debate with me!

Yep. That's right. Out of the forty-six songs that make up Hamilton's soundtrack, I've chosen what's arguably one of its least popular ones. Why? Because of that sweet, sweet counterpoint, baby.

Counterpoint is probably one of my favourite techniques both within and outside the world of musicals, and Farmer Refuted makes gorgeous use of it. The song features Samuel Seabury - a loyalist known as 'a Westchester Farmer', hence the song title - and Alexander Hamilton, a rebel against Britain's hold over America. These men are the polar opposites of each other, so what better way to represent their differences than by using a cheeky bit of counterpoint?

I'm not a particularly musically literate person, but counterpoint is basically two melodies that are played or sung over each other in harmony, but featuring a different rhythm and lyrics. Think 'Confrontation' from Les Mis or 'Prima Donna' from The Phantom of the Opera (or basically any song with Christine, Raoul and the Phantom on stage at the same time). In musicals, counterpoint is mostly used to represent conflict, but Hamilton takes it one step further and turns it into a musical pun. Samuel Seabury is trying to persuade the rebels to obey their king, while Hamilton is arguing against him. What's another word for argument? Counterpoint. Tasty, I know.

The best part of any counterpoint is that brief moment where the opposing melody, rhythm and lyrics briefly sync in time - but Hamilton makes sure he completely destroys Seabury's argument before they have a chance to properly sync. The song begins with Seabury singing by himself with a pompous string-and-harpsichord accompaniment that perfectly reflects his old-fashioned views (this accompaniment also features whenever King George is on stage but we'll get to that later). This is the first time we hear 'traditional' instruments in Hamilton as opposed to more modern instruments like the drum, bass guitar and, uh, the beatboxing of Hercules Mulligan.

 

It's also important to note that rather than rapping, Seabury chooses to sing in this song. Now, singing in a musical isn't usually something that's worthy of pointing out, but Hamilton - up until this point, at least - is predominantly rapped through. Seabury interrupts with his harpsichord and over-enunciated vocals, but Hamilton doesn't let the interruption last long. After Seabury's first verse, Hamilton steps in with his counterpoint - both musically and literally. Their lyrics sync on a few words, but it only takes Hamilton one verse to unravel Seabury's argument. As Seabury's scripted speech falls apart, he's reduced to just singing one random word in between Hamilton's suffocating counterpoint. In a desperate attempt to silence the non-musical Hamilton, Seabury uses another musical theatre trope and changes key, but even that's not enough to make Hamilton shut up, prompting the excellent line: "Don't modulate the key then not debate with me!" Seabury, however, is incapable of debating. He's been sent to Congress with a speech that he's committed to memory, and is unable to do anything but repeat what he's been taught as Hamilton continues to counterpoint with increasingly intricate rhymes and smack-downs. In the end, the only thing that stops Hamilton from completely annihilating the messenger is a message directly from King George III himself, which totally silences the entire cast - including the indomitable Hamilton himself. 

But we'll get to that later.

#2: WASHINGTON ON YOUR SIDE

Let's show these Federalists who they're up against: southern motherfuckin' Democratic-Republicans!

Of course this is my number one choice. It’s a villain song masquerading as a break-up song, for God's sake, and if you genuinely believed any other song had a chance at the number-one spot in my definitive list, then you don't know me at all. This song is literally all of my favourite things mashed into one song: bouncy melody, a villain, and ridiculing the British monarchy. It's my heroin.

But You'll Be Back didn't get the top spot simply because it's a villain song. Yes, I love villains (or rather how they're portrayed rather than the villains themselves - being evil is bad, kids!) but I also love just how well-calculated the song and its reprises are. It's not a silly song simply for the sake of lightening the mood (although it does an excellent job at that) - it's a silly song with delicious layers of wordplay, subversiveness and history. And that bloke from Glee singing with a funny accent.

 

Let's begin with the historical aspect. You'll Be Back is sung by George III, also infamously known as Mad King George in his later years. As Hamilton is set approximately forty years before George's death, it would be historically inaccurate to depict the king as a mad one at this point in time - but that doesn't mean they can't allude to it. Aside from the not-so-subtle 'I'll be mad' line, the hints aren't necessarily in what he sings, but how he sings. 

 

Take 'oceans rise, empires fall', for example. You'd expect 'rise' to land on a high note and 'fall' to, well, fall, but he does the opposite: he switches the two around with an entire octave in between. It's tastily subtle, but just in case audience haven't picked up on this tiny detail (or haven't listened to the song over 700 times like me), we are then presented with the most gloriously bonkers moment of all: King George casually threatening to slaughter his American subjects before immediately bursting into a series of tap-dancing da-da-da's. Trust me, I know art when I hear it.

 

Another detail I absolutely love is just how strikingly different You'll Be Back and its reprises are in comparison with the rest of the soundtrack. Hamilton almost exclusively features hip-hop, soulful showstoppers and complex raps packed with inter-rhymes and euphemisms. This is because the American revolutionaries have to rely on their wit and clever wordplay to prove their intelligence and gain their people's trust. But King George? Oh, honey. He has no need for that. He's the most powerful person the world. If he wants to rhyme 'see' with 'sea', he absolutely goddamn will. Hell, he doesn't even sing any actual words for half the song. Why? Because he's the king and you're not.

Best part of this song? King George III isn't even on stage with the rest of the cast of Hamilton when he starts singing. He executes the ultimate power move by interrupting Farmer Refuted - which has the full cast on stage - from 3,000 miles away. Specifically, he interrupts Hamilton himself - the man who is notorious for never knowing when to shut up. Of course, we all know George's power move doesn't last long. Hamilton ignores his warnings and succeeds in securing America's independence, and George loses all control of the colonies. In his reprises following America's win over Britain, he resorts to mocking the Americans ("Awesome! WOW!") because he knows he can't resort to tangible threats anymore. He becomes the very caricature of a bitter and pathetic ex-lover, and for that I must bow down to Lin-Manuel Miranda. He portrays the British monarchy as what it really is: redundant, ridiculous, and dependent on subduing others rather than having any substance other than a fragile ego.

I could go on and on for the rest of time about how badly I want to run away and elope with this song and what it represents, but I'll end it here before I start an anarchist revolution.

Showstopper lyric:

DA-DA-DA-DAT-DA DAT-DA-DA-DA-DA-YA-DA DA-DA-DAT-DAT-DA-YA-DA, EVERYBODY!

Mared Jones is a writer and goblin whose hobbies include dissociating, luring cats into her garden, misplacing her tea, and writing about herself in the third person.

#1: YOU'LL BE BACK

DA-DA-DA-DAT-DA DAT-DA-DA-DA-DA-YA-DA

DA-DA-DAT-DAT-DA-YA-DA, EVERYBODY!

Of course this is my number one choice. It’s a villain song masquerading as a break-up song, for God's sake, and if you genuinely believed any other song had a chance at the number-one spot in my definitive list, then you don't know me at all. This song is literally all of my favourite things mashed into one song: bouncy melody, a villain, and ridiculing the British monarchy. It's my heroin.

But You'll Be Back didn't get the top spot simply because it's a villain song. Yes, I love villains (or rather how they're portrayed rather than the villains themselves - being evil is bad, kids!) but I also love just how well-calculated the song and its reprises are. It's not a silly song simply for the sake of lightening the mood (although it does an excellent job at that) - it's a silly song with delicious layers of wordplay, subversiveness and history. And that bloke from Glee singing with a funny accent.

 

Let's begin with the historical aspect. You'll Be Back is sung by George III, also infamously known as Mad King George in his later years. As Hamilton is set approximately forty years before George's death, it would be historically inaccurate to depict the king as a mad one at this point in time - but that doesn't mean they can't allude to it. Aside from the not-so-subtle 'I'll be mad' line, the hints aren't necessarily in what he sings, but how he sings. 

 

Take 'oceans rise, empires fall', for example. You'd expect 'rise' to land on a high note and 'fall' to, well, fall, but he does the opposite: he switches the two around with an entire octave in between. It's tastily subtle, but just in case audience haven't picked up on this tiny detail (or haven't listened to the song over 700 times like me), we are then presented with the most gloriously bonkers moment of all: King George casually threatening to slaughter his American subjects before immediately bursting into a series of tap-dancing da-da-da's. Trust me, I know art when I hear it.

 

Another detail I absolutely love is just how strikingly different You'll Be Back and its reprises are in comparison with the rest of the soundtrack. Hamilton almost exclusively features hip-hop, soulful showstoppers and complex raps packed with inter-rhymes and euphemisms. This is because the American revolutionaries have to rely on their wit and clever wordplay to prove their intelligence and gain their people's trust. But King George? Oh, honey. He has no need for that. He's the most powerful person the world. If he wants to rhyme 'see' with 'sea', he absolutely goddamn will. Hell, he doesn't even sing any actual words for half the song. Why? Because he's the king and you're not.

Best part of this song? King George III isn't even on stage with the rest of the cast of Hamilton when he starts singing. He executes the ultimate power move by interrupting Farmer Refuted - which has the full cast on stage - from 3,000 miles away. Specifically, he interrupts Hamilton himself - the man who is notorious for never knowing when to shut up. Of course, we all know George's power move doesn't last long. Hamilton ignores his warnings and succeeds in securing America's independence, and George loses all control of the colonies. In his reprises following America's win over Britain, he resorts to mocking the Americans ("Awesome! WOW!") because he knows he can't resort to tangible threats anymore. He becomes the very caricature of a bitter and pathetic ex-lover, and for that I must bow down to Lin-Manuel Miranda. He portrays the British monarchy as what it really is: redundant, ridiculous, and dependent on subduing others rather than having any substance other than a fragile ego.

I could go on and on for the rest of time about how badly I want to run away and elope with this song and what it represents, but I'll end it here before I start an anarchist revolution.

Showstopper lyric:

DA-DA-DA-DAT-DA DAT-DA-DA-DA-DA-YA-DA DA-DA-DAT-DAT-DA-YA-DA, EVERYBODY!

FOLLOW ME (FROM A DISTANCE)

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