All-star charity singles have a bad reputation that is entirely earned, but Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying” (proceeds from which will benefit victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico) is unexpectedly fire. The Hamilton playwright and Moana composer brought together everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Dominican icon Juan Luis Guerra for the impassioned, dembow-driven love song to Puerto Rico—and it bangs.
Also worth a listen is “For Puerto Rico/Por Puerto Rico,” the Spotify playlist Miranda curated to tease the single, featuring all the artists involved. Spotify will make a donation based on the number of followers the playlist racks up, so it’s worth the click. As an added incentive, the songwriter has pledged that, if the playlist hits 50,000 followers, he will share an old photo of himself, dressed as Jennifer Lopez. (At the time of this writing, the count was over 70,000, but we’re still waiting for the big reveal.)
Though the playlist comprises a mosaic of styles, it’s a smooth listen. Underground rapper Dessa and L.A. producer Trooko, both of whom also contributed to The Hamilton Mixtape, seem to fit right in next to Rubén Blades. And the transitions are softened by loads of Latin pop. The selections here might be a product of who answered the “Almost Like Praying” call, but the assortment of rap, pop, Afro-Latino rhythms and, yes, show tunes could also be seen as a reflection of Miranda himself: an American composer of (mostly) Puerto Rican descent, and a self-confessed fan of both hip-hop and Disney musicals.
Either way, what comes together on the playlist is a soulful portrait of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and its diaspora in the U.S. at this moment. If there’s a commentary to be inferred, it’s that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. in more than just name—its culture is woven into the very fabric of the United States, and we’re all connected to it.