Hamilton is the cultural phenomenon that keeps on giving.
From its original run on Broadway, to the release of the soundtrack, the mixtape, and now the filmed version of Disney+, the runaway sensation continues to find new audiences and new ways of resonating with its fans.
Far and away, I believe that “Satisfied,” the track sung by Angelica Schuyler, is the best of the whole musical. It’s close, of course, because the musical contains any number of contenders for the top spot. But despite the stiff competition, here are 5 reasons why “Satisfied” is the best number in Hamilton…
1. Lyrically, it’s the most interesting and daring
Hamilton‘s blending of classic musical theatre with hip hop is never as prominently on display than in “Satisfied.” While Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. get many opportunities to show off both singing and rapping throughout the show, Renée Elise Goldsberry does both seamlessly in the same number. The track is bookended like a ballad, with Angelica giving a toast at the wedding of her sister and Alexander. The lyrics here are playful, introducing the motif of “satisfied” that will be a double-entendre later as well as the existential longing of the characters. This introduction also cleverly uses “union” to double as the marriage union and the Union army in the Revolution – Hamilton never lets us forget the context and backdrop of every event.
When the “rewind” takes place, the song breaks down into quicker lyricism, and Goldberry raps with the best of them. She handles some of tightest rhyme schemes in the whole musical, like this one:
“So I’m the oldest and the wittiest and the gossip in New York City is insidious And Alexander is penniless, Ha, that doesn’t mean I want him any less.”
Finally, the song uses an internal list to keep momentum, similar to “Ten Duel Commendments,” through which Angelica lists “3 fundamental truths” that cross her mind “at the exact same time.” This keeps the audience engaged and listening to every word, as well as being able to self-pace through the song. It invites participation, in the same way that every preacher in the 90’s used the “3-point sermon” structure to help congregations follow along and take notes.
2. The performance is incredible
I’ve already suggested as much, but Renée Elise Goldsberry’s performance on this song is the best single performance in the show. Other performers who have multiple big numbers may come away from Hamilton with higher accolades over all, but nobody is better in any five minutes of the show than Goldsberry is here. Her rapping is more than “good enough,” where other cast members like Phillipa Soo or Odom Jr. skate by, and her singing is superior to nearly the entire case as well.
3. The song captures and embodies every prominent theme of Hamilton all at once
The most resonant themes of Hamilton are captured in the song’s final number, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” The show is about how we do history, and stands as a corrective to the way it so often performed. All of history is performance, usually done by the most powerful and victorious. Rarely in our history books do we hear the perspectives of the conquered, the loser, the bystander. Hamilton simultaneously points out how important it is to realize who is telling the story, and intentionally gives voice to those within the story to tell it themselves.
“Satisfied” is the best distillation of these themes. The track literally “rewinds” back to the beginning of the previous number and tells the same story from Angelica’s perspective. Whereas the previous track imagines the scene as one where Angelica walks over to Alexander to simply bring him over to Eliza, “Satisfied” tells how Angelica instantly fell for him but reluctantly gave him over to Eliza for strategic and tragic reasons.
The story changes based on who is telling it, and the story gets richer when you give voice to those on the edges. Being a story around the edges of the American Revolution, Hamilton challenges the way we traditionally perform American history as uncomplicated, victorious, and revisionist. I would posit that we often do the same with the Bible, and we can correct this by remembering who is telling the story and how that complicates things. (An easy example is Romans 13:1, which reads “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” If we remember that this was written by Paul who was regularly jailed and imprisoned by governing authorities, this complicates how we read this verse.)
4. Contextually within the musical, it complicates the narrative and foreshadows further trouble
The song that precedes “Satisfied” is “Helpless,” a bubbly love-story sung by Eliza Schuyler (Phillipa Soo) that could come out of almost any musical. It’s a welcome cliche at this point in the story – you’re rooting for Alexander to have some stability, especially as an orphan. This song gives the audience every reason to think that they will happily ever after.
Enter “Satisfied.” Angelica and Alexander’s connection makes the marriage with Eliza extremely complicated. It submits that Alexander will never be completely satisfied with Eliza, who offers him love and devotion and stability, but doesn’t satisfy his intellect the same way as Angelica does. While we don’t know if their relationship ever became more than this mutual longing, we see later that Alexander falls into an affair and nearly loses his entire legacy and family over it. “Satisfied” foreshadows Alexander’s downfall.
5. Lin Manuel-Miranda said so, and that’s that.
And that’s the final word on that!
Sound off! Do you agree? Disagree? Let’s hear your Hamilton takes!