In partnership with Warner Bros.
Adapted from the award-winning stage musical of the same name, In the Heights is one of this year’s most uplifting films. Set in the vibrant neighbourhood of Washington Heights in New York City, it follows ambitious bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) as he saves for a better life while serving his close-knit community. The jewel in the movie’s crown are the brilliant original songs by Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda; here are seven that are destined to become the soundtrack to your summer.
The one to play at your Sunday barbecue
‘In The Heights’
The film’s rousing opening number shows Miranda’s gift for blending rap rhymes, Latin rhythms and musical theatre melodies. It also throws us right into the bustle of Washington Heights. “Now, you’re probably thinking: ‘I’m up shit’s creek! I’ve never been north of Ninety-Sixth Street!’” says Usnavi, poking gentle fun at Manhattanites who never venture as far as his neighbourhood. It’s a clever, catchy and infectious crowd-pleaser.
The one to play on your way to work
Blending dancehall and hip-hop, this banger begins with a similar swagger to Eminem‘s ‘Lose Yourself’. Miranda’s tight rhymes and clever wordplay are on full display as he rhymes “braggadocio” with “Pinocchio”, “rodeo” and “Tokyo”. The “96,000” in the song’s title refers to dollars, so it’s one to whack on before a hard day’s hustle.
The one to play if you’re feeling anxious
Beautifully sung by Leslie Grace‘s Nina, this ballad is a wistful ode to coming home. It’s also a song about worrying you won’t live up to expectations when you get there. “Straighten the spine, smile for the neighbours,” Nina sings towards the end. “Everything’s fine, everything’s cool.” Though the song is rooted in Nina’s specific story – she’s a high achiever who doesn’t want to disappoint her parents – it captures a universal sentiment in a relatable and comforting way.
The one to get the party started
‘Carnaval Del Barrio’
This salsa banger raises the gang’s spirits during a blackout. Seeing that her friends are hot, bothered and exhausted after days without electricity in the sweltering New York heat, Daniela (Daphne Rubin-Vega) offers a solution: an impromptu block party. By the time she sings: “Just make it up as you go, we are improvisando!” your own party will be popping too.
The one to keep the party going
With nimble salsa rhythms and breakneck wordplay, this song soundtracks the film’s thrilling club scene. The lyrics have some tension baked in – Usnavi gets jealous when his date Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) attracts attention from other guys – but the energy is completely uplifting. When Benny (Corey Hawkins) suggests doing shots, you’ll probably want one too.
The one to play during a gym sesh
The film’s most bombastic number captures the sudden chaos of a blackout in the neighbourhood. With rock guitars, hip-hop parts and explosive vocal hooks, it’s the song to reach for when you need some motivation or a quick blast of energy. Consider it musical caffeine.
The one to play when you need some inspiration
‘It Won’t Be Long Now’
Miranda has often talked of Dominican artist Juan Luis Guerra, whom he calls “one of the best songwriters alive” – and this elegant merengue number bears his influence. It’s a song about wanting to better your position in life, infused with a hint of feminism. “If I’m in the mood, it will not be with some dude who is whistling ’cause he has nothing to say,” sings Vanessa as she shuts down a catcaller. Topped off with a killer chorus, it’s a true showstopper.
‘In The Heights’ is in UK Cinemas from June 18