Helpless – Spotify

Helpless – YouTube

Don’t email me with that self-righteous attitude telling me you thought this was about the Neil Young song.

It’s not. But if you’re interested in the Prairie crooner check out his new cut “My Pledge,” it’s surprisingly good, but not as good as Gordon Lightfoot’s “Plans Of My Own,” both of which were unearthed by my Spotify Release Radar playlist.

But this is about something truly new.

That’s what’s wrong with the oldsters, they hold tightly to what once was.

But it’s hard to blame them, with the present completely incomprehensible, new material overwhelming us like a tsunami to the point we check out nearly nothing, and I’m not gonna say today’s music is as good as that of the past, that would be untrue, despite what the young wankers and the industryites trying to look hip say, music does not drive the culture the way it once did, Bruno Mars puts out an album so tone-deaf there’s no wonder we’re in trouble, the point is our country is in turmoil and if you’re singing about partying and bumping asses you’re missing not only the point, but the cultural zeitgeist.

Unlike “Hamilton.”

That’s right, despite the plethora of crap there are some standouts, not that most people have heard ’em, because we’ve got a press pushing crap…ever wonder if these news outlets that got it so wrong on the election could get it equally wrong on music? I’d say so. They’re out of touch.

So, after the “Hamilton” brouhaha I went back to the cast album.

It’s almost indigestible, it’s 142 minutes long, nearly the entire play, and the dirty little secret is albums are passe, kinda like the charts, if you entered at number one I don’t care, I only care if you STAY THERE! To sell a minimum of product and get a certain number of streams to equal a CD…is a sideshow feat with little meaning. We live in a listening culture, how can you get people to check you out and continue to do so, that’s how you get paid!

And despite all the “Hamilton” accolades, few people have seen the show and not that many more have listened to the album, but that could change.

You see there’s now a Mixtape. They’re dribbling out tracks, in December you can listen to the whole thing, and I’d be lying if I told you it was better than the original, few things are, but these tracks could bring needed attention to the original, they could turn “Hamilton” into the new “Hair.”

That’s right, there were two “Hair” albums with little impact, Off-Broadway and Broadway iterations, but then popular artists covered tunes and suddenly we were all exclaiming good morning starshine in the age of Aquarius.

Okay, I know you can’t get a ticket to “Hamilton.” And you’ve got self-centered, thin-skinned idiots like the President-to-be who say it doesn’t live up to the hype, BUT IT DOES!

That’s what is so stunning. How good “Hamilton” is. And all the lauded stuff rarely is. Every week we’re exposed to new movies that disappoint. Every musician tells us his latest album is the best and if you say something is not great you’re excoriated and then you stumble onto something excellent and you want to stand on the mountaintop and yell and tell everyone.

That’s what seeing “Hamilton” is like.

You’re overwhelmed. And inspired. How could this show start this good and stay that way? How could one person write this?

But, as I said above, most people have no idea as to the magic.

Right now I’m gonna try and change this.

Throw off your preconceptions. Cast aside your hip-hop hate. I’m opening a door to a party you’re gonna love, that’s gonna be fun.

Now the most accessible “Hamilton” cut is “You’ll Be Back,” by Jonathan Groff, the King of England telling off the insurgents in a music hall style not radically different from the British Invasion.

But the best song of the play is “Helpless.”

Look into your eyes and the sky’s the limit, I’m helpless!
Down for the count and I’m drownin’ in ’em”

Now I want you go to this page:

Helpless – Lin-Manuel Miranda

That’s right, this is the Genius page for “Helpless,” you can read along!

That’s the dirty little secret of not only rap, but “Hamilton,” it takes a while for your brain to tune in. You’ve got to hear about four “Hamilton” cuts in a row before your mind can pick out the lyrics, but Genius spells ’em out.

And above you’ve got the hook, and every hit track has got one, the one that goes through your brain over and over and OVER AGAIN! The so-called earworm.

I have never been the type to try and grab the spotlight
We were at a revel with the some rebels on a hot night

The hook is key, but it’s the groove that puts “Helpless” over the top, that gets your head shaking from side to side as the story is told…of Alexander meeting Eliza, but instead of trying to portray how it once was, the meeting is set in today’s milieu of the club, that’s “Hamilton”‘s magic, making modern what once was, illustrating the penumbra may change, but we’re all human underneath the trappings.

Then you walked in and my heart went BOOM!

It’s the accent drum that puts this seals the deal, that draws you closer.

The minimal instrumentation is key, unlike the hip-hop on the radio the lyrics sit on top and shine through, it’s all about the story.

If it takes fighting a war for us to meet it will have been worth it

That’s what Alexander says after meeting Eliza, he’s been introduced by Eliza’s sister Angelica, who’s not completely neutral, she tells Eliza:

I’m just sayin’, if you really loved me you would share him

OOOH! This is what makes “Hamilton” so great, the HUMANITY! This is how people talk, guys and girls, and in this case…there really is something between Angelica and Alexander, but…

After Alexander meets the sisters’ father, he goes into his rap, the key to the song…

Eliza, I don’t have a dollar to my name

Today the elites marry each other, they don’t start at zero, but before the billionaireification of our country America was about throwing in with your betrothed, it was all about dreams, which have been crushed, which is why Hillary lost and Donald won, she was a manager, people wanted a dreamer.

“An acre of land, a troop to command, a dollop of fame”

Never underestimate the power of fame. It can transcend not only money, but looks!

All I have’s my honor, a tolerance for pain
A couple of college credits and my top-notch brain

The self-confidence, in a society that’s all about self-deprecation, it’s endearing.

No stress, my love for you is never in doubt
We’ll get a little place in Harlem and we’ll figure it out

Figuring it out. Today, read the press and it’s about the elites failing at entrepreneurship and then dusting themselves off to spend more VC money. But the truth is most start off with next to nothing, they’ve got to truly live by their wits, like Hamilton.

So Alexander is an immigrant sans family and now he’s hooked up with one of America’s finest and the end result, the message is…

In New York you can be a new man…
In New York you can be a new man…

We want to reinvent ourselves, believe location makes a difference, that given a chance we can triumph.

Now Lin-Manuel Miranda did not write “Hamilton” in a vacuum… Rather he was influenced by the great rappers of the past. Marvin Gaye’s heirs might call it theft, but in truth we all come from somewhere and nothing is brand new.

Which is why you’re now going to watch the video, “9 Classic Rap References In Hamilton.”

It’s in the upper right hand corner of the Genius page.

But if you want a direct YouTube link, it’s:

9 Classic Rap References In Hamilton

You’ll be stunned. “Hamilton” did not come from thin air. Lin-Manuel was LISTENING! Like you did to rock. That medium you’ve been putting down for years, hip-hop, it’s got fans, acolytes, who know every word, they’re the building blocks of “Hamilton.”

Some might say you’ve got to be fluent in Destiny’s Child.

I don’t think so. I think “Helpless” stands on its own two feet.

But now it’s getting a little bit of help. You see on the Mixtape it’s remade by Ashanti and Ja Rule. And I’ll maintain it’s not as magical as the original, the extra production undercuts the essence, but…these are people the public knows. Will they get traction where Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo have not?

Quite possibly.

Actually, of the seven already released Mixtape tracks the best is “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done),” by K’NAAN, Snow The Product, Riz MC and Residente. The extra production works, they make something new out of what once was.

So let’s go back to the top.

There’s so much new music most people give up and even the best stuff goes unheard by most. And sure, a lot of it is lowest common denominator tripe, but not all. We need people to cherry-pick what’s worth hearing and serve it up to us, which is what the deejay used to do before he was superseded by research, which is what the newspaper did before it fired so many people and lost touch with America.

In this case the cherry-picking has been done by the “Hamilton Mixtape.”

The only way out of this is forward. We can lament the loss of guitars, we can listen to the oldies, or we can exalt what works today.

Like “Helpless.”

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