If you saw someone walking across campus toward The Bucket Tuesday afternoon with tears streaming down her face, it was probably me.
On Monday, playwright and all-around incredible human being Lin-Manuel Miranda released “First Burn,” the latest installment of his “Hamildrop” series.
“Hamildrops” are monthly releases of brand new “Hamilton” content, announced by Miranda at the end of 2017. “Hamilton” is the hip-hop Broadway musical written by Miranda that tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.
What was initially so special about “Hamilton” was its casting of people of color to play white historical figures, and the fact that it was one of the first of its kind in regards to being a musical about history largely told through hip-hop and rap songs.
“First Burn” is the original draft of what would become “Burn,” a song originally sung and performed by Phillipa Soo that comes at a heightened point in the musical when Eliza, Hamilton’s wife, learns of his infidelity.
“First Burn” is performed by five of the current and former women who have played Eliza in the show: Lexi Lawson (Broadway), Julia K. Harriman (first national tour), Shoba Narayan (second national tour), Rachelle Ann Go (West End) and Arianna Afsar (original Chicago company).
The first time I listened through the “Hamilton” original cast recording, “Burn” was a song that hurt to listen to. You feel every ounce of Eliza’s pain and Hamilton’s betrayal. It was a song that brought me to tears three years ago and continues to do so today.
So, I thought I was prepared for “First Burn.” Surely Miranda already put what would wreck our emotions the most into the final version of “Hamilton,” right? No new version of “Burn” could make us feel that emotional again, right? Wrong and wrong.
I think Miranda was aware that he needed to amp “First Burn” up a bit and so he called in not one Eliza, but five – all of whom earned their roles in Hamilton with their strong and powerful voices that can convey emotion incredibly well.
“First Burn” is more upbeat in comparison to “Burn,” which is one of the show’s more emotional ballads. Most of the lyrics remained the same with the exception of a few.
“I’m burning the letters you wrote me/You can stand over there if you want/I don’t know who you are/I have so much to learn/I’m re-reading your letters/And watching them burn,” Afsar sings in “First Burn.”
In “Burn,” Soo sings, “I’m re-reading the letters you wrote me/I’m searching and scanning for answers/In every line/For some kind of sign/And when you were mine/ The world seemed to/Burn.”
“Burn” is more painful and steeped in betrayal, while “First Burn” is that, but also more in your face and angry, which I love.
Perhaps my favorite line, and the other major difference between the two songs, comes from lines sung by all five Elizas: “And when the time comes/Explain to the children/The pain and embarrassment/You put their mother through/When will you learn/That they are your legacy?/We are your legacy.”
“First Burn” is my favorite of the “Hamildrops,” next to “Found/Tonight,” a “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hamilton” mashup sung by Miranda and Ben Platt that was released in March. Miranda and Platt performed the song at the March For Our Lives rally in D.C., and a portion of the song’s proceeds went to the March For Our Lives initiative.
So far, Miranda has released five “Hamildrops,” including “First Burn.” He said he will continue to release one every month through 2018.
If they continue to be as good as they have been, we are in for an exciting rest of the year.