Original “It’s Quiet Uptown”:
Kelly Clarkson Cover:
So I work out a lot, and the gym I go to plays the Kelly Clarkson cover of “It’s Quiet Uptown” ALL THE DAMN TIME and it annoys me to absolutely no end.
“But Nikole!” you say, “They’re playing Hamilton at the gym, I thought you would be thrilled!”
Well I’m not. And here’s why.
First of all, it’s not *exactly* Hamilton. There is a big difference between the original song and the Kelly Clarkson cover. The cover was released on The Hamilton Mixtape last December along with other covers of the original songs and some new pieces that LMM wrote specifically for the Mixtape. They changed some words and took out the characters’ names from the original song. And I honestly don’t hate it– it’s a fairly decent cover. HOWEVER. The gym is really not the place for it.
“It’s Quiet Uptown” is the 18th song in Act 2, so it’s pretty close to the end of the show. And it comes after Philip (Ham and Eliza’s oldest son) has been killed in a duel. Oh yeah, and this is after Ham reveals to the world that he’s been cheating on Eliza (and also he was the one who gave Philip the pistols in the first place so), Eliza is definitely not a happy camper at this point in the show. The song is essentially about grieving and dealing with the loss of a child, but at the same time it’s about Ham trying to earn back Eliza’s trust after all the crap he puts her through. And then at the end she finally forgives him and they decide to work through the pain– even though the crap storm is not over and it’s just going to get worse from there.
The original song opens with Angelica singing about the indescribable grief that Ham and Eliza are going through, but shifts to Ham reflecting on his mistakes and his grief over Philip with the chorus singing about Ham as he wanders around the city. But in the Kelly Clarkson cover, she sings the whole song, so it’s kind of difficult to understand just what the heck is going on.
ADDITIONALLY there is the line,
“Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you, [Eliza]
But hear me out. That would be enough.”
She doesn’t say “Eliza” in the cover, but this is Ham’s line to Eliza when he’s trying to get her to forgive him. And it’s such a powerful moment in the show because ELIZA is always the one who says, “Look at where we are, Look at where we started” and “That would be enough.” She even sings a song called “That Would Be Enough” back in Act 1 when she tells him that she’s pregnant with Philip in the first place. “That would be enough” is sort of the phrase that they say to each other when they’re trying to get the other one to put the good of the family first. Eliza says it about a billion times throughout the play. So here he’s using her words to get her to forgive him for all the crap he put her through.
FURTHERMORE Ham sings,
“If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough.”
What he means here is that he KNOWS that Eliza wishes he was dead. And if he could take Philip’s place and be dead instead, he would because he knows that it would make Eliza happy. Ham knows he screwed up real bad. BUT EVEN AFTER EVERYTHING Eliza takes his hand and softly sings, “It’s quiet uptown,” signifying that she is willing to forgive him and work on their marriage EVEN THOUGH HE 100% DOES NOT DESERVE HER.
And yeah, the Kelly Clarkson cover is pretty decent, but all of this is lost on people that aren’t familiar with the show and when it gets played at the gym, people just get annoyed that they’re playing a really depressing song. And I mean, it is a really depressing song, but it has such much power and meaning to fans of the show and to play the cover out of context in a place where people are generally in want of upbeat, energetic music is really frustrating. It’s a song to cry to, not a song to work out to. Unless you’re into that sort of thing, but I imagine the general populace is not.
Is this going to change anything? No. And I know that. This is just my opinion.
So maybe I do secretly do get a thrill of knowing that you all are being exposed to Hamilton without even realizing it, but I do wish they would either pick a more “gym” worthy song or better yet something from the original cast album.