High Notes 2018

Song for the New Year: ‘Wait For It’ is beautifully distressing lament (but also brings hope)

Scroll staffers pick their favourite tunes.

Wait For It from Hamilton

Original Broadway Cast Recording


The entire Hamilton album, a complete recording of the phenomenally successful Broadway show telling the story of one of America’s founding fathers through more modern music styles, is a treat. Because Hamilton is a sung-through musical, meaning there is hardly any dialogue and all of the story is told through song, listening to the cast album is as close as you can get to actually experiencing the show without buying a ticket to the US and another – equally expensive – one to the show itself.

The album is like a box of special chocolates, with each song arranged by Lin-Manuel Miranda – a composer destined to reach Sondheim and Lloyd Webber heights of fame – worth examining carefully first and then devouring in full. It is also a remarkably engaging way of experiencing history, with cabinet meetings transformed into rap battles and a balladeering King of England spouting menacing love songs to the American people.

The characters, a band of freedom fighters trying to win independence from the British, introduce themselves in the very first few songs, and so it is easy to follow the narrative through its 2-hour-20-minute running time. But the album really hits its heights midway through the first half, with a song that could easily be a hit single even if it was not attached to such a successful property. Wait For It is sung by Leslie Odom Jr playing Aaron Burr, who plays foil to the titular Alexander Hamilton and, by the end of the play, (19th century spoiler alert) ends up killing him in a duel.

In Wait For It, Burr offers his philosophy to life with a refrain that is literally counter to the ambitious Hamilton’s “just you wait,” in a song that has been described as a “tender pop ballad” with dancehall influences. Burr compares his modest career to Hamilton’s incredible rise to the top and, though he insists that he’s willing to wait for it, he can’t help but wondering what life might be like in the more successful man’s shoes.

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it

Odom’s voice takes the song to incredible heights, delivering a showstopping tune that is as moving as the rising tones of the Hamilton’s cri-de-cour song, My Shot. The composition leans heavily into the theme of the song, using silences and quieter notes where one might expect a big flourish, almost imploring you in the audience too to “wait for it”. As we enter 2018, watching unseemly ideas and dangerous ideologies continue to gain power, Burr’s beautifully distressing lament is sadly fitting for our times and might even give us some hope (even if things did not quite work out for Aaron Burr himself).

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