Dear Ben Folds
by Annie Schiffmann
When you listen to Ben Platt singing Dear Evan Hansen does it bring to mind a '90s band with Ben in the name? Let me jog your memory:
Did one phrase in there jump out at you as being very Dear Evan Hansen-esque? Here, I'll start the clip from the exact spot.
Now here's the freakishly similar phrase from Dear Evan Hansen's "For Forever."
There are lyrical similarities, too. In "Don't Change Your Plans" the lyric is "All I know's I gotta be" and in "For Forever" the lyric is "All we see is stars." The "all I" and the "all we" happen at the same point in the phrase with the same interval.
Okay, okay, but it doesn't end there!
"Sincerely Me." Great song, right? Super fun. Three guys in harmony with a poppy song that you can bounce along to. Remind you of Ben Folds Five at all?
Listen especially to the accompaniment. Kind of sounds like this, right?
Right? I know!
Okay, here's where I go deep down this rabbit hole.
Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are both in their thirties. The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner - the album that includes both "Don't Change Your Plans" and "Army" was released when they would have been about the same age as the high school aged characters in the show. Pasek and Paul mentioned at BroadwayCon that they had drawn on their own high school experiences to come up with the plot. Maybe they were also channeling the music they were listening to at the time?
Justin Paul has an affinity for Ben Folds. As he told Billboard.com -"I love everyone from Sara Bareilles to Taylor Swift, Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Folds -- those are the artists I’ve listened to for the past 15 years or so. We’ve always been Broadway listeners and also radio listeners; good pop writing is always of interest."
I was able to interview Ben Folds and ask him his thoughts on the matter. He said he didn't know anything about the songs, although he has met the La La Land team. “You don’t know if it’s flattering or not. I don’t know if I’m imagining it. If it is, I’m flattered. And if it’s not, then I’m just being a dick.”
Oh, one more thing: Hamilton fans, you're going to be all about this one.
Ben Folds recorded a cover of Dr. Dre's "Bitches Ain't Shit" that sounds like this. (Note: as the song title suggests this is not suitable for work.)
Does that sound familiar, sir?
Oh, and Ben Folds showed up on The Hamilton Mixtape. Coincidence? I sincerely doubt it. Especially when you realize there's another person who's worked on Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, and The Hamilton Mix Tape. Musical director, Alex Lacamoire. Perhaps he's the through line? Or, as Ben Folds puts it, the "wavelength."
Maybe it's time we see a Ben Folds Broadway musical? Clearly his influence is all over two of the hottest shows on the Great White Way!
In the YesBroadway interview with Ben Folds he tells Annie Schiffmann he has no idea that his sound is on Broadway - but he isn’t surprised.