Whether it’s playing through AirPods during a rainy car ride or through the speakers at Wilbur Dining, Ben Platt’s music is something out of a dream — ranging from energetic pop to soft ballads, his songs can leave you on your feet or in a state of melancholy. Ben Platt is known for his range; he’s held a wide variety of roles, including Evan in the Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” Benji in the “Pitch Perfect” trilogy and Payton in Netflix series “The Politician.” His sophomore studio album, “Reverie,” was released Aug. 13. It is reminiscent of his older music from the album “Sing to Me Instead,” but also incorporates newer themes related to nostalgia. On Nov. 23, the Daily attended a Telecom conference highlighting Platt’s album and upcoming tour, which is scheduled to come to Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater on Apr. 5.
The pandemic shaped this album – Platt wrote it mainly in his “childhood bedroom,” which is unsurprisingly a song title, given the album’s thematic focus on nostalgia. After releasing his one-off single “Rain,” he began writing with collaborators Michael Pollack and Alex Hope, hoping to release something less theatrical and more progressive for his style. While he took a creative pause at the beginning of the pandemic, once he had the opportunity to write again from quarantine in that childhood bedroom, he let the space take over. According to Platt, “being surrounded by [his] old posters, clothes and yearbooks” made the room a very fruitful, inspirational place for him to write.
“I think that’s what brought sort of the late eighties, early nineties, nostalgia kind of a sound [about],” Platt said. “Sort of like a Peter Gabriel, kind of Phil Collins feeling because that’s a lot of the music that I grew up listening to my older siblings play in their rooms. That’s just where it naturally went.”
He also added that the pandemic made him want to articulate a sort of fantastical and escapist feeling, as quarantine created a seemingly endless mundanity. He’s glad and beyond grateful for his role as an artist creating work that resonates with fans. Platt said that music was crucial to his sanity during the pandemic, providing him with a safety net and a cathartic outlet. He explained that it is incredibly rewarding to see how his art impacts others.
“Whenever you release original music, you’re sort of letting your baby out into the world and releasing your ownership of it. And so when someone else takes real meaningful ownership of it in turn, that’s the closest thing I feel to closure when I put something out,” Platt said.
As a Broadway alum and Grammy performer, he is no stranger to live performance and is as prepared as he is eager to begin his tour. While he is grateful for musical theater’s influence on his work, Platt is eager for the greater liberty that comes with performing his own work as opposed to playing a character. He’ll be performing as Ben Platt rather than “Evan Hansen.” While there is ownership in an individual’s portrayal of a character, the experience of sharing your music, thoughts and emotion with an audience is very different.
“You take [performance to another] degree when it’s your own music and you’re performing as yourself,” Platt said, “because there is really no netting other than the netting that you create for yourself.”
Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater is one of the many venues that are excited to host Platt as he journeys across the country.
“We’re thrilled to have Ben open our 2022 summer season at Frost,” said Executive Director of Stanford Live Chris Lorway. “He has such a broad fan base due to his work on Broadway and TV, and we know he’ll put on an exciting show that will have something for everyone.”
Students at Stanford eagerly await the tour as well. Super-fan Shawn Kang ’24 describes himself as “obsessed” with Platt and his work. While Kang enjoyed Platt’s newest releases, he also looks forward to moments in the shows that showcase his first album “Sing to Me Instead,” which is Kang’s favorite.
According to Platt, performances at different venues will feature different setlists. Fans can expect the repertoire to balance energetic sounds with emotional ballads. Visually, while Platt wants to maintain the element of surprise, he plans to include theatrics within the production elements to give each a special moment in the show.
“I think that a lot of those songs really lend themselves beautifully to the kinds of spaces that we’re getting to play,” Platt said. “But of course, there’ll be some favorites from the last album as well, a [surprise] cover or two in there, maybe like a musical theater moment.”
As live concerts slowly return during the ongoing pandemic, there is still much uncertainty as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Regardless, Platt will hopefully still be able to do his live shows. Platt loves the vulnerable, uneditable and unique variations that live performance creates, and he looks forward to the feeling of “togetherness” that arises from sharing a space with his audience.
“I think that this has always been this shining beacon at the end of the tunnel of something that I not only love to do the most, but I just feel that it’s what I have the most capability to do,” Platt said.
I actually had the chance to ask Platt about the song he is most ecstatic to perform. Funnily enough, it was my personal favorite from the album, which is “I wanna love you but I don’t,” a song that perfectly captures a bittersweet version of 80s pop bliss.
“I just really love that song,” Platt said. “I think it’s always felt to me like a Springsteen, big arena kind of moment.”
As he prepares for what’s ahead, the panel asked Platt what his past self would think of all his accomplishments. Platt noted he would be shocked yet proud and excited, as he feels like his career took an unexpected turn from theater.
“I think that might really overwhelm [my past self] in a good way, hopefully, and I do hope that in some ways he’s kind of present, whenever I’m performing, given [the album’s] nostalgia.” Platt said. “I certainly try to think of all the places that I’ve been and the ages that I’ve been so hopefully he’s in some way there as well.
With energy drawn from both his memories and his ongoing trajectory, Platt will surely take “Reverie” to new heights with what comes next. “Reverie” is out now and available on all music-streaming platforms.
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.