Napoleon: A VMFA Original Song

Inspired by Broadway’s Hamilton: An American Musical, VMFA created an original song and video about the exhibition Napoleon: Power and Splendor, now in its final weeks. France’s Napoleon Bonaparte was no Alexander Hamilton, but the two men had much in common. Both men emigrated from small islands in search of opportunity. Both joined the military to further themselves. Both men rose up in the midst of a revolution. And both men changed the fate of their respective countries, securing for themselves a permanent place in history.

After reading Napoleon: Life, Legacy, and Image by Alan Forrest, Lucy Grey, the museum’s Marketing Content Strategist, says she became even more excited about the exhibition. Reflecting on ways to share its compelling narrative with the public, she made the Hamilton connection and wrote lyrics for a Hamilton-inspired song: “Napoleon’s story resonated with me in an unexpected way, and the lyrics are just my way of expressing that.” The song is performed by Micah “Bam-Bamm” White, public speaker, comedian, singer, and board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. Dr. Jon Bibbs, CEO of Richmond Prep, and Nya Joy provide backup vocals.

While there is no Broadway musical about Napoleon—at least not yet—the exhibition at VMFA is an immersive experience that features more than 200 works of art commissioned either by or for the Emperor. It is a stunning display of the exquisite paintings and decorative arts that crafted Napoleon’s image and the Imperial Household that supported his audacious rise to power.

To produce the video, which features only a snippet of the song, VMFA invited Richmond-area children to participate, including kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond. The video project, created by VMFA’s Briget Ganske, was a fun collaboration between Micah and the children, including many who are involved in performing arts and have a passion for music. As Micah explains, “If there was ever an artistic way to engage an audience, this was it. I’m just so happy that I could be a part of it!”

Listen to the full-length version of the song, recorded at C & R Studios in Richmond.

As the museum’s Director for Audience Development, Paula Saylor-Robinson, explains: “For the Communications Division at VMFA, it was a matter of trying to make a connection between Napoleon and a modern audience. Riding the wave of all the Hamilton hype out there is our way of making a historical figure more relatable while reaching a younger, more diverse audience. This original song—a first for VMFA—and its video are an imaginative way to do just that.”

The exhibition closes September 3. Get your tickets now!

Napoleon: A VMFA Original Song

Your hip-hop Hamilton may be a hit
But this song’s all about the art
That crafted my fame and acclaim
‘spite the shame
It’s how I branded my name—
Napoleon Bonaparte

At VMFA, Napoleon Power and Splendor
It’s the art at the heart of his masterful agenda
To rise on up as a legitimate contender

Well there’s quite a tale to tell
So let me set up the scene:
Born on an isle in the sea
Between France and Italy
The year was ’69, that’s 1769
I was Corsican by birth
And French by design

Refugee and immigrant—
Know what I’m sayin’?
Bonaparte had enough
Of s’il vous plait’in
Meritocracy is how I rose to the top
Military general, coup d’etat

Revolution, Rights of Man
Well that was all good
But this Emperor had it all
Conquered more than my hood

I had a mighty big reign
Most of Europe in fact
Propaganda, brand, and spin
I invented all that


Josephine was my main lady
And we liked to live large
We had palaces and possessions
‘Cause I was in charge
Were they trappings of power?
Hey, I call them nice things.
Respect, status, envy,
So much art, so much bling

For an outsider, Corsican
Who rose up out of nothin’.
At age thirty-five
I had the world in my hand
But a monarch or an aristocrat?
Nah, never that.


My hat and pose may be iconic
Like the Codes Napoleonic
But there’s so much more to tell
So RVA let’s sit for a spell
History says dictator, hypocrite, and mean
But I think of myself as ruler supreme

Modernizer, unifier, patron of art
I built my own brand,
Yet you say I have no heart
Spin, propaganda—
Don’t judge, you know it well
Image is everything, and it’s all that I sell

Exile and death
Not my final chapter
I knew what I was doing
Knew what I was after
And through art I live forever
Want to see what I’m sayin’?
Check out Napoleon—at VMFA


–Lyrics by Lucy Grey