As Puerto Rico continues to heal in the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria, Lin-Manuel Miranda has gathered a star-studded crew to hop on a benefit track to aid the people of the island in their time of need.
Together with Luis Fonsi, Camila Cabello, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Gina Rodriguez (yup, of Jane the Virgin fame), Fat Joe, Gloria Estefan, and the legendary Rita Moreno (more on that extra-special voice in a sec), Miranda sings a literal ode to Puerto Rico. "Almost Like Praying" name-checks cities, towns, and regions that make up the cien por treinta miles of the island.
"Almost Like Praying" borrows one of the most recognizable verses and one of its most beloved voices from West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein's musical interpretation of Romeo and Juliet set in 1950s New York City. The story centers on the tragic romance of Tony and Maria, and the tensions that come to fatal blows between Tony's gang, the Jets, and the Sharks, a Puerto Rican gang led by Maria's older brother, Bernardo. One of West Side Story's most moving moments lies in "Maria," the ballad Tony sings once he realizes he's fallen for the soft-spoken stranger. He adores everything about her, even the sound of her name: "Say it loud and there’s music playing/Say it soft and it’s almost like praying."
Miranda's throw to the verse is perfect and thoughtful, considering both the name of the hurricane and his passion for musical theater. He further strengthened the West Side Story tie by bringing Rita Moreno into the fold, too. The actress won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of the musical, and you can hear her belt out "Así es" as we near the end of "Almost Like Praying."
On top of all that? "Almost Like Praying" is, quite simply, a jam, la mejor — pick your favorite compliment in either language and praise it accordingly. Also, consider downloading it and streaming it a ton, because the proceeds go directly to the Hispanic Federation's disaster relief fund.