So, How Was Your Decade? is a series in which the decade’s most innovative musicians answer our questionnaire about the music, culture and memorable moments that shaped their decade. We’ll be rolling these pieces out throughout December.
Lin-Manuel Miranda began the 2010s as a darling of the theater world and will end it as a darling of, well, pop culture as a whole. Miranda’s first hit, In the Heights, premiered on Broadway in 2008 and he spent the ensuing years working as a performer, composer and lyricist on a variety of theatrical projects (Bring It On: The Musical, a West Side Story revival, Merrily We Roll Along). All the while, though, he was plotting his next show, Hamilton, a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton that would premiere on Broadway in 2015 and become the rare Broadway show to transform into a genuine cultural phenomenon.
Hamilton won an astounding 11 Tony Awards, spawned a star-studded remix album (The Hamilton Mixtape) and song series (Miranda’s “Hamildrops”) and embarked on a world tour that’s still rolling along. Miranda became a star in his own right, garnering additional accolades for his work on the Moana soundtrack, penning music for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hosting Saturday Night Live and starring in Mary Poppins Returns. He also became a staunch activist on behalf of Puerto Rico, advocating for debt relief, and donating and raising funds for rebuilding efforts after hurricanes Maria and Irma. The one thing Miranda managed not to do this decade was complete his EGOT. He’s only one measly Oscar away, though, so it shouldn’t take long at all. Miranda tells us about the people, places and things that shaped his decade.
My favorite album of the 2010s was: Beyoncé’s 4, just because it has one of my favorite songs of all time, “Countdown.” I think the surprise drop for the self-titled was the most innovative thing about the 2010s; it changed the way we exist. It was always let everyone in the world know you have an album coming, and Beyoncé upended it in one move. She basically blew up the system.
My favorite song of the 2010s was: I will refer you to “Countdown.”
The artist who had the best decade was: Donald Glover had a hell of a decade. Donald Glover has what we call a “Fosse year” in that he was being recognized for different talents in different things, all at the same time. Write the best TV show, drop the best single, and also be an incredible actor.
The craziest thing that happened to me in the 2010s was: Honestly, it’s the Hamilton wave that keeps cresting. I thought we’d do well with school groups [and] maybe run one or two years. Everything else has been gravy.
My least favorite trend in music this decade was: As soon as I say something, it’ll be someone’s nostalgic favorite in 10 years, so I’d rather not [Laughs].
The TV show I couldn’t stop streaming in the 2010s was: It’s not really a 2010s show, but I’m a big West Wing streamer, it was just sort of on for most of the decade. It’s like TV caffeine for me, the crackle of the dialogue — I feel energized after watching it.
The best new slang term of the decade was: Probably saying that something “slaps.” It’s very accurate and descriptive to how I feel when a piece of music whacks me over the head and doesn’t leave me alone.
The best live show I saw in the 2010s was: This just barely makes it into the decade, but I would have to say my wedding. We hired incredible Latin musicians, and imagine your favorite concert but everyone around you is someone you love.
The most surprising encounter I had with a fellow artist this decade was: Literally any backstage moment at Hamilton. Alex Trebek, to Bernie Sanders, Donald Glover twice, Supreme Court justices. It was like an ongoing Mad Libs.
Something cool I did this decade that nobody noticed was: I got to write a song with John Kander of Kander and Ebb [“Cheering for Me Now”]. He’s really fast and I’m pretty fast, and we just did it side-by-side… it was pretty incredible and I’m really proud of what we made.
The strangest thing someone said about me in the media this decade was: I think it was [author] Dana Schwartz who coined the term, “Find someone who looks at you the way Lin-Manuel Miranda looks at everyone.” That went very, very viral and that made really laugh because I never thought of myself that way, but she had the screen caps!
The best outfit I wore this decade was: Honestly, when I was doing the Marry Poppins junkets last year, I had Stacy London dressing me. I will not improve on that [Laughs].
The most “2010s” moment of the 2010s was: Just like, insert any news cycle of: Let’s all look at this video… turns out the video is the opposite of what we thought it was. That cycle, over and over and over. What’s the meme, we regret to inform you the duck is racist? [Milkshake duck]
My biggest hope for the 2020s is: A new president. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that.