Though we all want to be in the “The Room Where it Happens,” most Binghamton University students will not have the chance to see “Hamilton: An American Musical” on Broadway in the near future. But thanks to the soundtrack, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical masterpiece is accessible to everyone with a phone. If you’re looking to download new tunes as awesome as the 11-time Tony Award-winning “Hamilton,” Pipe Dream compiled a list of cool, contemporary musical soundtracks that are groundbreaking in their own way.
1. “In the Heights” (2008) — Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lin-Manuel Miranda first achieved Broadway success with his 2008 production of “In the Heights,” winning seven Tony awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama nomination. The show, which takes place in Washington Heights, focuses on the lives of its residents. Miranda brought rap and hip-hop to the stage in “In the Heights,” paving the way for the wild success of “Hamilton: An American Musical” and creating an exciting and dynamic soundtrack.
2. “The Last Five Years” (2001) — Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Though Brown’s “The Last Five Years” doesn’t excite with hip-hop, it takes a fresh look at the classical music of Broadway. Listening to the soundtrack may evoke some tears — it follows a failed marriage, the story told backward by one partner and forward by the other. The two meet in the middle of their wedding song, and we hear them sing to each other for the only time of the show. Listening to the soundtrack from beginning to end gives the same heartbreak as Alexander Hamilton’s death.
3. “Once” (2011) — Music and Lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová
While many know the Academy Award-winning song “Falling Slowly” from the 2007 film of the same name, the “Once” album offers many more songs worth listening to. Though it’s certainly not a hip-hop musical — Hansard and Irglová give passion and plot to songs reminiscent of Bon Iver — the soundtrack takes a new approach to modern musical writing, using alternative and indie sounds.
4. “Next to Normal” (2009) — Music by Tom Kitt, Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Kitt and Yorkey’s powerful show about a woman living with bipolar disorder examines the family dynamic, especially in a time of grief. The soundtrack is often loud and jarring, both literally and emotionally, but each song adds a new layer to the already-complicated characters. Yorkey and Kitt capture the essence of musical theatre in “Next to Normal”: the dire need to sing to express emotion.
5. “Dear Evan Hansen” (2016) — Music and Lyrics by Pasek and Paul
“Dear Evan Hansen” is orchestrated by Alex Lacamoire, the Tony Award-winning orchestrator of both “Hamilton: An American Musical” and “In the Heights,” and has the same complicated and thematic undertones found in Miranda’s shows. The show, which follows a high school tragedy, became a huge hit immediately following its opening this fall. Ben Platt — the actor who played Benji in the a cappella-themed film “Pitch Perfect” — stars as the lead, offering his smooth, rich vocals to the voice of Evan Hansen.