Various Artists: Hamilton: Original Broadway Cast Recording

Lin-Manuel Miranda turns his groundbreaking Broadway smash into a cohesive, exhilarating pop experience

"Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?" Anyone would be lucky to have Broadway innovator Lin-Manuel Miranda tell his or her story, and this time founding father Alexander Hamilton is the fortunate son. Miranda has created an exemplary piece of musical theater in his smash hit Hamilton. This album, created with help from the Roots, pulls off something even more impressive: It proves that a cast soundtrack LP can work as a powerful, cohesive, exhilarating pop experience in the 21st century. 

This presentation of Hamilton is a textured labor of love, showing and not simply telling how its title character went from "young, scrappy and hungry" to "an Icarus [who's] flown too close to the sun." Miranda's music and lyrics smoothly fuse Nineties hip-hop, girl-group R&B, British Invasion pop and more into classic theatrical forms, and dramatic highlights like "My Shot," "Stay Alive" and "Ten Duel Commandments" are as stirring on record as they are onstage. Act One stunner "Satisfied" might be Miranda's finest moment, with costar Renée Elise Goldsberry dipping in and out of Nicki Minaj-style rhymes and Bernadette Peters vocal runs in a heartbreaking performance as Hamilton's sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler. Tickets to the show may be sold out until approximately forever, but this album is an excellent replacement.