It is a somewhat common practice of mainstream musicians taking a stint in a Broadway musical, allowing them to show off their acting chops — or lack thereof — while bolstering ticket sales for the theatre. That relationship rarely moves in retrograde, but recent years have seen a few outliers: most notably Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, Frozen) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Moana). In 2019, Ben Platt, from Dear Evan Hansen and Pitch Perfect, finally makes his bid for the spotlight. After his run as the titular character of the former production, the actor set his sights on releasing an album of original music, and Sing to Me Instead proves to be an assured collection of intimate tracks that showcase his powerful voice and pen to wondrous effect.
Sing to Me Instead is largely a rumination on relationships, both romantic and platonic; it tackles what Platt has experienced as well as simply observed, giving simultaneous firsthand and secondhand perspectives that feel refreshing from a male artist. The production of the record ranges from the simple guitar strumming on “Grow as We Go” to the bombastic drums on “New,” with the singer’s rough-around-the-edges vocals pairing perfectly. It’s a lovely affair in the vein of Adeleian balladry, even collaborating with Eg White, a frequent co-writer of hers, on “Hurt Me Once.”
The album begins with “Bad Habit,” a melancholy song about wanting an ex-lover when you know they’re no good for you, which does not give the record the introduction it deserves. Second track “Ease My Mind” is a thankful savior, a tender ballad detailing the ways a partner makes Platt feel secure in not only their relationship but as an individual person. From there, Sing to Me Instead continues through hardships, such as loving someone damaged from previous relationships (“Temporary Love”), dating a closeted man (“Honest Man”), and loving people while they’re still around (“In Case You Don’t Live Forever”). “Older,” the penultimate track, is the best of the record, detailing the regrets people have as they age; a lesson on being too occupied with the future to fully enjoy the present, it features the album’s best writing. Capped off by “Run Away” — an ode to his parents’ love story — Sing to Me Instead is sturdy debut from Platt, cementing his place in the Broadway-goes-pop canon.
Standout tracks: “Ease My Mind,” “Grow as We Go,” “In Case You Don’t Live Forever,” “Older”