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Debut album from Ben Platt is emotional, well paced

Quartet of videos, emotional lyrics power project from Broadway wunderkind

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Ben Platt, gay news, Washington Blade
Ben Platt has conquered Broadway. His vocal abilities are on solid display on is debut pop album. (Image courtesy of Atlantic Records)

Needless to say, the bridge between Broadway and Music Row is well traveled. Sara Bareilles and Brendon Urie are only the most recent examples of pop artists who have gone on to work successfully in the world of musical theater. But Ben Platt is one of the rarer examples of someone taking the opposite direction — from Broadway to a pop album. His debut album “Sing To Me Instead” attempts to bring together these two very different worlds.

The 25-year-old openly gay Platt made his Broadway debut in “The Book of Mormon” as Elder Cunningham. He later starred as Evan Hansen in “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway, for which he won a Grammy (Best Musical Theatre Album) and a Tony (Best Actor in a Musical). Add to that the role of Benji Applebaum in the “Pitch Perfect” movie franchise.

Platt sits right at the happy junction of Broadway songwriting and gay pop performers. Gay pop artists are still something of a rarity, though their presence has been steading growing with performers like Troye Sivan, Years & Years, Jake Shears and Sam Smith. Yet Platt finds himself in the even smaller company of out singers who use gender-specific pronouns for their love interests.   

The album opens with Platt accompanied by a slightly out-of-tune upright piano, singing the somber tune “Bad Habit.” He sings in a clear, powerful baritone, resorting to falsetto in the final choruses. The reason for his extraordinary Broadway success becomes quickly apparent. And while no doubt he is an excellent singer, he has an incredible ability to communicate emotionally with the listener. Saying so seems banal, but Platt pushes this communication far beyond the regular boundaries of pop music.

So far four music videos have been released to promote the album, for singles “Ease My Mind,” “Bad Habit,” “Grow As We Go” and “Temporary Love.” The video for “Ease My Mind” centers on the break up of a gay relationship, a theme Platt touches on in a number of the new tracks. It is a beautiful song, which could almost be categorized as gospel, complete with a blues organ and vocal humming. It may be the best song on the album. The videos already have almost five million views combined, a good start for a debut album release. 

The single “Grow As You Go” is another great track, with an acoustic sound. One can’t help but be reminded of recent tracks such as Family of the Year’s “Hero.” And the lyrics are especially touching: “If to change is what you need/you can change right next to me.” Platt is one of the rare artists whose lyrics are completely absorbing.

The album has much in common with Sara Bareilles’ 2007 album “Little Voice” with its piano-driven uptempo songs and numerous ballads, though “Sing To Me Instead” is lacking an equally chart-ready single like Bareilles’ “Love Song.” Platt’s “Temporary Love” is perhaps the closest thing to a typical pop single on the album, a well-produced song about proving one’s love to a partner. It’s catchy, uptempo and soulful. And though decidedly baritone, Platt makes good use of his range and his falsetto has plaintive, breathy quality to it. 

Some of the best tracks are saved for the tail end of the album. “Share Your Address” has a charmingly theatrical quality and it’s almost hard it to picture it off-stage. “In Case You Don’t Live Forever” is one of the best songs on the album. Like Platt’s other songs, it is perfectly paced and has the remarkable yet rare capacity to take the listener on an emotional journey. The story-driven songs are both compelling and catchy.

Like songs from most contemporary Broadway, Platt appeals to the most universal human stories. And unlike so much of pop music, the relatability of his music does not come at the expense of their quality. If anything, he is lacking somewhat in the charisma one associates with a typical pop artist. But what he lacks in charisma, he makes up abundantly elsewhere.

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Music & Concerts

New dance single pays tribute to Town Danceboutique

Local musicians pen ‘Town’ in honor of shuttered club

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Bryce Bowyn (Photo by Clarissa Villondo)

The closing of the LGBTQ nightclub Town Danceboutique in the summer of 2017 was heartbreaking to local musician Bryce Bowyn. He and his Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter friend Lexie Martin decided to honor its legacy in their new single, “Town.”

For Bowyn, who moved to the District about a decade ago to attend school at American University, the memories he has from Town Danceboutique are endless. And when it closed, it was a massive loss to Bowyn and many others. 

“It was such a cool space,” Bowyn said. “It was just disappointing to see a place that brought so many people together become part of the landscape again.” The building Town Danceboutique used to be housed in is now home to upscale apartments and a CVS. 

Town Danceboutique was a formative place for Bowyn and Martin, and it was Bowyn’s first experience in an open and accepting LGBTQ environment. His favorite memories at the club were always on Halloween, he said. Patrons, including Bowyn, would go all out with their costumes to look their very best. 

Bowyn and Martin met while they were both in the musical theater program at American University. Despite their years-long friendship, “Town” is the first song they have written together. They sat down over FaceTime and got to work. It was Martin’s idea to pay homage to Town Danceboutique, and the song follows the story of pre-gaming, going out, and hitting the dance floor. 

But the single also serves as a hype song for going out in any city, at any place. 

“It was important to me for the song to remain relatable and accessible,” Bowyn said. “So the whole foundation of the chorus, ‘Let’s go to town,’ can either mean Town Danceboutique, or painting the town red and having the night of your life.”

Bowyn started writing and producing his own music in 2018. He released an EP titled “A Rosy Retrospect” in 2022, and most recently released a single “A Bridge Burned Down” in June. His music is inspired by late 2000s pop and ‘80s synthpop, influenced by stars like Madonna and Charli XCX. Lexie Martin released her self-titled EP in 2019 and most recently came out with her single “SUPERPOWER” in 2021. 

Bowyn has been a lifelong pop music enthusiast. He distinctly remembers watching Britney Spears perform “Oops!…I Did It Again” at the MTV Video Music Awards when he was a kid and thinking “That was what I wanted and what I was set to do in life.”

“My heart was always with pop music,” Bowyn said. 

“Town” is available now for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.

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Music & Concerts

From Monáe to Madonna, fall will rock in D.C.

Local venues hosting array of queer artists in coming months

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Madonna’s delayed tour is slated to hit D.C. Dec. 18 and 19. (Screen capture via YouTube)

The D.C. area has many LGBTQ musical acts to look forward to this fall. Starting with pansexual and nonbinary actor and R&B singer Janelle Monáe, performing at the Anthem on Sept. 24-25 with ticket prices ranging from $135 to $301 on StubHub.

Janelle Monáe comes to the Anthem later this month. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Singer Hozier’s “Unreal Unearth Tour” is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 26-27. Tickets are available on StubHub starting at $324.

On Sept. 28 the CFG Bank Arena in Baltimore will see lesbian pop artist SZA’s “SOS Tour” with tickets starting at $165 on Ticketmaster. 

Queer indie pop singer Ashnikko is coming to the Anthem on Sept. 29 to perform their “Weedkiller Tour.” Tickets available on StubHub range from $49 to $279.

Coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., is the All Things Go Festival. Performing are lesbian singers Tegan and Sara, alt-pop singer Lana Del Rey, pop singer Carly Rae Jepson, and more. The festival will take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1 with two day passes starting at $397 on SeatGeek.  

Rock band Queen will perform “The Rhapsody Tour” at the CFG Bank Arena along with Adam Lambert on Oct. 4-5. Tickets are starting at $181 on Ticketmaster. 

Pop star and trans woman Kim Petras’ “Feed the Beast World Tour” will reach the Anthem on Oct 12. Tickets range from $72 to $817 on StubHub. 

Kim Petras brings the ‘Feed the Beast World Tour’ to the Anthem in October. (Photo by Thom Kerr)

Queer pop singer Kesha is coming to the Anthem on Oct. 29 to support her new album, “Gag Order.” Tickets go from $86 to $261 on Event Ticket Center. 

Queer pop rapper Shygirl is co-headlining with bisexual singer Tinashe for the “Nymph” tour at the Anthem on Nov. 5. Tickets range from $45 to $145 on Ticketmaster.

Indie band Men I Trust is performing at Echostage on Nov. 15. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster for $30. 

Nonbinary rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s “PINK TAPE TOUR” will be at the Anthem on Nov. 21. Tickets start at $90 on StubHub. 

Doja Cat’s “The Scarlett Tour” will reach Capital One Arena on Nov. 27. Tickets start at $100 on Ticketmaster. 

Madonna will bring her highly anticipated and delayed “The Celebration Tour” to the Capital One Arena Dec. 18 and 19. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster starting at $110.

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Music & Concerts

Tom Goss to perform at Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend

Out singer entertains at the Sands Hotel

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Tom Goss (Photo by Dusti Cunningham)

Out singer Tom Goss will perform at the Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Sands Hotel. 

He will sing his memorable songs like “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Bears,” as well as tracks from his new album, “Remember What It Feels Like,” where he sings about being a 42-year-old gay man still reeling from his husband’s infidelity who was recently conned by a lover with a secret life now serving time in prison. 

Tickets to Rehoboth Beach Bear Weekend start at $20 and can be purchased on Eventbrite

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