Before I face the public uproar of those who believe the 2010s belonged to artists like Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande or Post Malone, I would like to first define what an artist is. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an artist as, “a skilled performer; one who professes and practices an imaginative art.” While it would be easy to say the artist of the decade would be the one who sold the most albums over the past 10 years, I believe the artist of the decade should be represented in an individual who encompasses the best music, showing immense talent and inspiring a cultural phenomenon.
The 2010s was the decade of Lin-Manuel Miranda because there is no other artist that can say they went from barely making ends meet as a substitute high school English teacher to becoming close friends with the Obamas and having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The key to Miranda’s success lies in one word: “Hamilton.”
Quite possibly the biggest 21st century musical to hit Broadway, “Hamilton: An American Musical” has inspired a cultural revolution. Miranda masterfully found a way to combine musical theatre with modern sounds of hip-hop, rap and R&B in a story about a little known founding father. As the composer and lyricist of the show’s music, writer of the show’s book and lead performer as the show’s titular character, Miranda has been the heart and soul of the development of this production. The musical chronicling the life of Alexander Hamilton, the United States’ first secretary of the treasury and father of the nation’s financial system, was laughed at when first performed in front of an audience at the White House. Six years later, the idea developed into a two-and-a-half hour musical that garnered a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations, taking home 11 and remaining the hottest ticket in New York City to this day. Never has the mainstream media been so obsessed with the music coming out of the Richard Rodgers Theatre, as evident by the need to take out a second mortgage on your house in order to afford a ticket to the pop culture phenomenon that is “Hamilton.”
Looking at his work from a music standpoint, very few other artists have been able to transcend all aspects of the creative process, being able to write every note and every word, as well as sing every note and every word, in the persona of a character he must develop from scratch. While many artists who top today’s charts write their own music, they rarely have to venture outside the style of music they perform. In the score of “Hamilton,” Miranda blends various styles of music, proving his expertise in both classic musical theatre and modern hip-hop. This is done not simply to make the show more lively, but rather to enhance the story being told.
Thomas Jefferson’s old-school jazz number “What’d I Miss,” for example, contrasts with the hip-hop influence of the previous songs to emphasize the character missing out on the affairs of the newly formed United States while being in France. Not only is the character behind on the political complications of the new republic but also behind on modern music, ergo his toe-tapping jazz bop to start the second act.
It is no wonder that with intricate details like these, Lin-Manuel Miranda was bestowed the highly coveted Pulitzer Prize in the same year of the show’s opening.
The success of Hamilton led to a world of possibilities for Miranda, evident in his new partnership with the Walt Disney Company. Disney appointed the artist as lead composer and lyricist for “Moana,” earning Miranda a Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song. Not long after, he starred as Jack in Disney’s 2018 film “Mary Poppins Returns,” earning him a nomination for Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a motion picture musical or comedy where he once again proved his vocal prowess.
The fact Miranda went from an individual unknown outside the theatre community to a household name and cultural icon makes him more than deserving of artist of the decade. Bravo, Lin. Thank you for not throwing away your shot at greatness; we cannot wait to see what you do next.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.