Graphic by Ria Kotak
Many people know Ben Platt for his heart-warming and gut-wrenching role as Evan Hansen in the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen. Nonetheless, Platt is a familiar face on Broadway, previously starring in The Music Man and The Book of Mormon. He also portrayed Benji Applebaum in Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2. Most recently, Platt has graced us with another stunning lead performance as Payton Hobart in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix Original The Politician.
Platt, however, recently took on a new creative challenge and released his first album as a solo artist a year ago on March 29, 2019, titled Sing To Me Instead. Sing To Me Instead has a very intimate feeling focusing on Platt’s personal experiences with love and heartbreak. Platt doesn’t hold anything back, both vocally and lyrically. Platt’s Broadway vocal style translates well into his album, and he gives a fresh pop twist to his songs to make them feel relevant and relatable. Celebrating the album’s first birthday and due to Platt’s recent ubiquity in the media, I believe it is appropriate to continue writing this review of Platt’s debut album.
Starting off with a chord progression that sounds awfully similar to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” “Bad Habit” discusses the experience of knowing someone is a “bad habit,” but you desperately need someone to have your back, so you ask them, “Can I lean on you?” Platt’s impressive vocal belts in this song are astonishing and powerful, bringing emotion to the foreground of his album. Listening to the track, it is easy to lose yourself in the lyrics. Many of us have gone through a relationship, romantic or platonic, knowing that the person is not someone cut out for you but, as Platt puts it, you “Hate to say that I love you / Hate to say that I need you / Hate to say that I want you / But I do,” especially in times of desperation and loneliness. Starting off strong, the album begins to paint an irresistible emotional picture.
Following “Bad Habit,” “Ease My Mind” describes the opposite experience: finding someone in your life that shuts out all the noise and makes you feel at ease. Simply put, the song is about falling for someone who truly understands you. Platt’s lyrics describe a person who makes you feel “put back together inside” just by talking with them or being with them. “Help me leave these lonely thoughts behind / When they pull me under, and I can feel my sanity start to unwind / Darling, only you can ease my mind,” rings in the listener’s ears as the song plays on. This second track perfectly complements the first one in its emotional intensity, gorgeous vibrato, and overall quality.
By listening to these tracks and looking at the context of the lyrics for both songs, there appears to be a strong possibility that the person that “Ease[s your] Mind” is also your “Bad Habit.” This theory is confirmed when you watch the two music videos; the same actor plays Platt’s love interest in both. The music videos themselves tell an emotional and gut-wrenching story, pulling at the heartstrings of viewers just as effectively as the music does. The videos also gained a lot of buzz from the press and Platt’s fan base because his love interest is male, seen by many as a public coming-out. Since then, it has been confirmed that Platt openly identifies as gay. Throughout his album, Platt does not shy away from using he/him pronouns when describing his love interests.
Each song takes the listener on another journey, telling its own story in the context of the album— I believe that there is nothing lackluster on this album. “Hurt Me Once” describes the rough situation where you witness your partner falling out of love with you, and you want them to “hurt [you] once,” and only once, if they have to. Meanwhile, “New” recounts the experience of feeling “so brand new” after you move on from the person that hurt you. The album ends with “Run Away,” in which Platt details his parents’ relationship that he had witnessed while growing up. He is determined that he, too, “won’t run away” from the one he loves because “to love is not to leave.” Platt’s debut album ends on a high note, literally and metaphorically.
Each song is its own emotional snapshot of a relationship between two individuals, culminating in an amalgamation of all the emotions someone could experience while falling in love, falling out of love, or dealing with the trauma of heartbreak. Overall, Platt’s album is an amazing musical achievement, and one that I would highly recommend listening to.