SOUNDTRACK SATURDAY: In the Heights
by Gabriella Griffith, Marketing Coordinator
Film/soundtrack title: In the Heights
Year: 2008 (Movie to be released June 2021)
Main composer/artist: Lin-Manuel Miranda
What makes this soundtrack stand out?
Lin-Manuel’s Latin beats immediately transport you to a different place. Right away, from the moment that first song begins, the snippets of character introduction voices mixed with thoughtfully curated rap breaks make you want to listen to the entire story he’s about to tell.
The ingenious use of salsa tracks in the background remind me of Peruvian family reunions and (my favorite) the unique Spanglish lyrics make this soundtrack one-of-a-kind.
I remember seeing the musical in person for the first time as a young girl with my mom and big sister. As a proud Latina and daughter of an immigrant, the music and especially the lyrics captivated my attention. It was the first time I saw/heard characters I could really relate to and situations that felt familiar to mine. Together, every single track on this album offers a portrayal of Hispanic families and struggles that are both moving and inspiring. Truth is, the whole album still gives me all the feels when I listen today!
How does the soundtrack enhance the film?
My favorite word for describing this soundtrack is relatable. Some musicals have to tendency to feel really BIG and there is totally nothing wrong with that (I’ll jam out to Hairspray in my car like any other normal human being) only, In the Heights has the ability to feel super organic and authentic. It’s like Lin-Manuel and the rest of the characters are just talking to you the entire time.
Each track has a purpose and is telling a special story you want to listen to. Even when you’re just plugged in listening through your headphones. When I close my eyes, the constant stream of Latin inspired beats and compositions take me back to summers in Peru visiting my family. Many of the characters in the musical are Dominican but in reality, it really doesn’t matter where you’re from (and I think that’s the point), we all have something in common when you grow up in a Latin household and that’s the really amazing part.
Lin-Manuel’s lyrics have the ability to bring people together and make you feel proud of where you come from. In many ways, listening to this soundtrack feels a lot like getting a taste of home.
Is there a scene where the soundtrack takes a starring role?
YES. Although I will argue the entire thing is a masterpiece. No Me Diga is one of my all time favorites and a fantastic scene. The whole Spanglish aspect feels really familiar to me because I (like many other people) grew up speaking both. My mom would ask me something in Spanish and I might answer in English. I did this with all my aunts, uncles, grandparents, and this is how they would speak with each other sometimes too.
This scene is so great because yes, I have a lot of Peruvian aunts and yes, we all like to gossip and chat about everything all the time, oh and yes, we all have the tendency to be a little loud sometimes.
A gasp, followed by friendly nudge on the shoulder followed by “No me digas?!” is always a common theme in conversation.
This scene is hilarious and unapologetically real. Once again, the lyrics are ever so relatable and make you feel proud of your Latin roots.
What is your favorite track?
Hundreds of Stories stands out. The title alone could honestly bring tears to my eyes (okay, maybe I’m a cry baby).
The song is beautiful and inhibits all the things that made me fall in love with this album in the first place. The salsa music paired with genius lyrics featuring sayings like “paciencia y fe” and “no pare, sigue sigue,” (all very familiar) made me feel like I wasn’t alone and that my story as the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant was something to be proud of.
This track (and the entire soundtrack) continues to inspire me to write my own story and embrace where I come from; something many of us often have to be reminded of from time to time. It is our unique roots, traditions, languages, and stories that make this world such a beautiful place.
What mood, activity, and/or snack pairs best with this soundtrack?
Any mood because Lin Manuel Miranda’s lyrics make everything better. Snack recommendations include pizza of any kind.