Some Thoughts On... Hamilton's Non-Stop
Hellooo! A while back I posted a kind of analysis of Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story from the musical Hamilton, which I loved writing! As theatres are now able to reopen their doors, I thought I would get in the stagey spirit and have another go at writing my thoughts in an analysis style with another song from Hamilton, Non-Stop. I love this song and although I haven't yet seen the show in person, I love how the song is performed in the Hamilton film on Disney Plus!
A record scratch opens Non-Stop, serving as a divider to split it from the previous track in the musical, Dear Theodosia. The bold drum beat sitting behind the lead vocals sets the rhythm for the track and drives the song forward, which is also the same rhythm that drives Wait For It, linking Burr's influence on the two tracks. In the opening lines, Hamilton repeats Burr’s lines, showing how at this point, they are at the same point in their career however, Hamilton is still trying to add to Burr's statements and ensure he is seen as better than Burr.
Once Hamilton starts to explain the full story to the jury in a case they are working on, Burr interjects with "co-counsel" to correct Hamilton's "assistant counsel" label for Burr. This label shows that Hamilton sees himself as above Burr, rather than his equal. Burr then goes on to finish Hamilton's introduction with a succinct statement, rather than the full story that Hamilton was going into. This reflects how Hamilton has a passion for writing whereas Burr prefers to get straight to the point. Burr then goes on to repeat the line "why do you assume you're the smartest in the room" to vocalise his internal frustrations.
The verses where Hamilton raps feel faster paced than the verses sung and rapped by other characters, reflecting the speed at which he works. I love how the line "every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies" is written and how it is delivered by Burr.
I love how the pace changes when Hamilton visits Burr at his home. I also love the piano melody behind the lead vocals, with lyrics including Hamilton's recognisable "Aaron Burr, Sir". When Hamilton states that Burr is the better lawyer, Burr agrees with a simple "Okay". It is interesting that Hamilton chooses to admit that Burr is the better lawyer and is also aware that he "talks too much". At this point, Hamilton becomes increasingly frustrated with Burr refusing to "take a stand". Following this, Burr sings a verse in the style of Wait For It, where he tries to justify his decision to stay quiet.
I love the arpeggiated piano melody that introduces Angelica's verse, which follows Burr's verse. The verse itself follows the same melody as Satisfied and leads into Eliza's verse, which follows the melody of Would That Be Enough. Eliza's verse is at a faster speed than Would That Be Enough, as though she is trying to quickly say her piece to Hamilton while she has the chance to. This also highlights how Eliza has to speed up to keep up with Hamilton when compared with her normal pace.
Burr takes the lead as the narrator again, moving the story along and I love the delay on the piano line that plays behind his vocals. Burr's verse leads into a section where the ensemble join in to sing along with Burr. They repeat the line "how do you write every second you're alive" before the song pulls back to just piano, strings and Washington's vocals. Washington then proceeds to try and persuade Hamilton to join him however, Hamilton interrupts him to query which position he wants to offer him. This further emphasises the speed at which Hamilton works.
Hamilton uses Eliza's lyrics against her with the line "look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now", as though he is trying to get her to see his side by using her words. Eliza responds with "helpless", prompting Hamilton to sing the line "they are asking me to lead", repeating Washinton's earlier statement and also placing the blame on someone other than himself, as though he doesn't have a choice in the matter. I love that Eliza joins Angelica by harmonising on Satisfied, showing the sisters united in their frustrations with Hamilton.
At this point, everyone is singing their own tracks at Hamilton, with Eliza singing Would That Be Enough, Angelica singing Satisfied, Washington singing History Has Its Eyes on You, Burr singing his "why do you assume you're the smartest in the room" verse from the beginning of Non-Stop and the ensemble singing Non-Stop. I love the multiple layers of vocals and they are all perfectly balanced in the studio recorded version of the song. Everyone is giving Hamilton their opinions of him and what he should do, building up to the whole cast harmonising on "history has its eyes on you". Hamilton then cuts through this with the line "I am not throwin' away my shot", showing that he has made up his mind and will not be swayed by the opinions of those around him. He then confidently states "I am Alexander Hamilton", which holds a lot of weight behind it before he ends the song with another "I am not throwin' away my shot". Hamilton sees the opportunity Washington has offered him as his "shot" that he was has been working for and will not turn it down for anyone around him.
I'm sure I have missed plenty of other subtle references and hidden meanings in Non-Stop but these are some of my thoughts on the song! It is the perfect end to Act 1 of Hamilton and the musical is definitely at the top of my list of the shows I want to see in person.
Thanks for reading and stay safe!