Sing to Me Instead
Atlantic Records · March 29, 2019
Ben Platt was climbing an uphill battle before his debut album was released. Transitioning from Broadway to pop music is not an easy move; the few known success stories go in the other direction (see Brenden Urie or Sara Bareilles). Platt’s advantage is that we are well aware that he has a near perfect voice, as evidenced by a Grammy and a Tony from his Broadway career. Unfortunately, Sing To Me Instead gives little more than expected. Instead there are endless piano ballads and although sometimes Platt pleasantly veers from his Broadway roots, at other moments the listening becomes too dense for a single album.
An undeniably beautiful voice is not the only thing you need to create a great album and rarely does Platt fully realize this on Sing To Me Instead. Although Platt’s voice truly does sound other-worldly over a soft piano, basically two thirds of the album ends up being this constant sound. For the majority of Sing To Me Instead, it seems as if track after track flows into one another without uniqueness. The sad part about this is that separately each song isn’t bad, they’re all written with intense vulnerability. However, trying to listen to the record all the way through is exhausting due to the monotony. Take the oh-so-similar belting in the choruses of “In Case You Don’t Live Forever,” “Older,” and “Honest Man.” It becomes stale quickly and as we know from musicians like Adele it’s possible to keep an album full of ballads interesting.
When these piano ballads do land it seems like he could stand along the likes of Sam Smith or Adele. On standout track “Grow As We Go,” Platt suggests him and his partner could change for the better together. The track is a tear jerker and the accompanying video adds to this emotional response with Platt looking directly into the camera while singing beautifully written lines like, “if to change is what you need, you can change right next to me.”
When Platt breaks out of his stagnancy he shows he may be more than just a Broadway voice. On “Share Your Address” he sings of wanting to be in a committed relationship over a bouncy piano and drum. It’s a refreshing break in an album that feels dense. The same can be said about Platt’s breathtaking falsetto on “New” accompanied by a fuller band. In this case we even see Platt do something many out gay singers are too afraid to do, use gender specific pronouns (for context, even Sam Smith didn’t dare to do this on his debut).
Sing To Me Instead is a commendable debut effort by a Broadway original. But as a complete album it becomes stale through its 44 minutes. The few songs that do take chances give hope for Ben Platt to be more than just a great voice.