A pair of album review from musical theatre stars singing their own songs: Ben Platt’s Sing To Me Instead and Cassidy Janson’s Cassidy
“Tell me you wanna be a better man”
When musical theatre actors turn to releasing albums, as inevitably they must, the majority opt to ransack the songbooks of musicals old and new, so it is pleasing to see a few people bucking that trend with their recent releases. And what’s more, Ben Platt and Cassidy Janson’s albums of original material feature a vast majority of songs written or co-written by themselves.
Fresh from conquering Broadway in Dear Evan Hansen and with his sights set on TV (Netflix’s The Politician) and film (Richard Linklater’s Merrily We Roll Along), Ben Platt clearly has creative juices flowing aplenty and on Sing To Me Instead they reach full expression. 12 tracks of soul-bearing, emotionally driven pop that cohere effectively into an impressive album.
Perhaps inevitably, Platt still wears his influences quite visibly and so there’s more than a smattering of Pasek & Paul here but ultimately it’s no bad thing, that ‘Older’ could easily fit onto The Greatest Showman’s soundtrack given its swooping drama and soaring vocals. Elsewhere, the spirits of the likes of Adele and Sam Smith loom large in his preoccupation with romantic travails – you imagine ‘Hurt Me Once’ and ‘Better’ could slot happily onto the charts if they were still a thing.
For me, it’s the hint of the truly personal in album closer ‘Run Away’, inspired by his parents, that really breaks through though, a song content to be heartfelt rather than insistently hearttugging as some of the production here veers a little close to. Impressively though, this really is an album that you can happily return to and in its unabashed gayness, be very proud of.
Also for me, Cassidy Janson ought to be a much bigger name than she is. She’s headlined big musicals, been part of a musical theatre supergroup, she even has Carole King writing songs for her! And on Cassidy, she reveals herself as a songwriter of no small talent. From the Fleetwood Mac-ish drive of album highlight ‘Better’ to the tender beauty of ‘Missing You’, this is classy work.
It helps when you have a voice like Janson’s too, an impressive range to be sure but utterly gorgeous when she’s in the lower end of her register, a richness of tone that you just can’t get enough of. There’s delicacy too, underwriting a delightful lyrical ease, ‘Forget To Dance’ and the swooningly lovely ‘Words’ both shine in this respect.