Ben Platt debuts his first LP, Sing to Me Instead, after a long stint on Broadway as the titular Evan Hansen for “Dear Evan Hansen” as well as performing in “The Book of Mormon.”
The multi-talented actor-musician shifts his vocal talents to release a studio album that is deeply personal, telling a story of love and loss in relationships. This raw exhibition is a deeply personal look into Platt’s toxic relations and mental state.
Following an onslaught of impressive singles with equally original musical videos to depict the vulnerability of Platt’s psyche, the full album was released on March 29.
Platt, who co-wrote all the songs, worked to make this album authentic and transparent as possible, so naturally, he uses male pronouns when explaining his past boyfriends. The album tells a cohesive love story
The resulting 40 songs — which were whittled down to the 12 — are diarylike evocations of three major relationships that have shaped him. The earnest ballads and melancholy lycrism are inspired by his musical heroes Carole King, James taylor and Adele.
Released as a teaser to the full album, “Bad Habit” and “Ease My Mind” showcase his signature vibrato and guttural vocals. This collection of piano-driven ballads tell one version of love that Platt has gone through.
The first song — “Bad Habit” — serves as a prologue, where Platt sings retrospectively of a long-gone relationship. Regardless of understanding if that person is the best for them, it is impossible to ignore the hole of what the relationship used to be.
Beginning with one of the more unhealthy relationships, he utilizes a somber tune accompanied by his piano and his strong, clear baritone to express the melancholy of wanting an ex-lover who is no good. The crescendo to falsetto in the final choruses gives a punch to the emotional message he is displaying while also moving beyond the traditional boundaries of pop music.
The following song, “Ease My Mind,” explores the beginning of this tumultuous relationships to linger on the reasonings for why this began in the first place. Platt reflects in an interview: “ I started to think back, when did I really feel comforted, that my anxiety was allayed? And it was in this beautiful relationship.”
Platt is able to flaunt the wide range of his pipes by delivering soft melodies, incredible runs and a confident command throughout the entire performance. The chorus is the true centerpiece to song: “Darling, only you can ease my mind/ help me leave these lonely thoughts behind/ when they pull me under, and I can feel my sanity start/ Darling, only you can ease my mind.”
“Ease My Mind” employs a minor-key piano and soulful background chorus that creates a longing and sorrowful feel. The artistic music video that goes along with this track finds Platt in a dreamy, black-and-white clip enjoying the relationship with a boyfriend — played by actor Charlie Carver — by cuddling in bed or making dinner before they part ways with no full explanation.
Sonically, the song is lush and bluesy but this is not a simple love ballad. The lyrics recount Platt’s experiences with anxiety and depression and the journey of finding comfort in a partner;s embrace.
There are moments in the album where Platt echoes other pop/soul artists, especially Sam Smith on the gospel-soul of “Temporary Love.” This is a declaration to embrace love and have unwavering commitment rather than being afraid of it.
Fourth track, “Grow As We Go,” serves as the final third song in the story of the first relationship. A tear-jerking harmony of soulful lyrics and acoustic guitars to describe a relationship at a crossroads.
Ben Platt tweeted: “I wrote ‘Grow As We Go’ about how desperately I wanted a very special relationship to work despite knowing how much personal growth we both still needed.”
“Honest Man” and “Hurt Me Once” focus on more of the lows in Platt’s life, the former referring to dating a closeted man and the latter about an impending breakup that both partners see coming but don’t wish to admit.
“I wanted to write about this first relationship that I was in, when there was an embarrassment of kindness in the sense that I could feel him knowing this wasn’t right, but he didn’t have the courage to just tell me that, “ Platt said in an article. “So he started to remove himself in little ways that almost felt more painful, because it was like, ‘Why would you drag this out and make me guess where we’re at?’”
Following a number of slower ballads, the quicker pace and more bopping rhythm of “New” arrives next. He continues to be inspiring with his technical vocal abilities and musical rangle shining throughout every song. There is more experimentation with sound in this track by using major staccato chords on the piano and reaching a tenor range instead of resting in his typical baritone range.
“Better” slows down a bit but still maintains an adequate temp with an energetic rhythm. On the up-tempo, soulful “Share Your Address” explores a playful infatuation and the early stages of it becoming serious. “And if I’m coming on too strong/ It’s ‘cause I’ve waited far too long/ For someone just like you.”
The last three songs are more reflective and melancholy musings on life, family, and growing from love. “In Case You Don’t Live Forever” ponders romantic regrets and making sure to love people when they are still around, not just romantic partners. Platts plays an ode to two important men in his life, his father and his late uncle.
The penultimate track — “Older” — continues this train of excellence and lyrical talent that details the general regrets people have as they age; the time-old lesson of being focused with the future and not fully enjoying the present.
While “Run Away” — a tribute to his parent’s love story —concludes this albums journey with hope and the message that being alone isn’t bad, but also, true love will come around and settling down does not have to be scary.
The 25-year-old’s soulful voice proves his skill with storytelling and has made a mark with a marvelous album, smoothing the transition from Broadway to the pop canon.
His ability to be vulnerable and lay out his emotions and past in such a candor way is inspiring and humbling. There was some confusion and questioning on whether or not this was a coming out album for Platt.
However, he has been out as gay since he was 12 and discusses the importances of queer representation but not wanting it to replace the music itself.
“Seeing what that representation means, especially to queer youth, is the most beautiful, unexpected gift in all of this,” he said. “Hopefully we’re moving in the direction where we’re in the same boat and nobody’s given pressure to make announcements or proclamations about who they are, and we can just observe people’s stories for what they are.”
Sing to Me Instead is a personal look into Platt’s life in terms of love, relationships and personal growth as people. The songs work to connect with all people to bond on the different human experiences and learning from the different loves and loss that everyone will go through.
Listen to the album here:
Lauren Souza is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.