Universal Studios / Interscope Records
Release Date: September 24th 2021
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Waving Through a Window (feat. Ben Platt & the Dear Evan Hansen Choir)
- For Forever (feat. Ben Platt)
- Sincerely Me (feat. Ben Platt, Colton Ryan & Nik Dodani)
- Requiem (feat. Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Adams & Danny Pino)
- If I Could Tell Her (feat. Ben Platt & Kaitlyn Dever)
- The Anonymous Ones (feat. Amandla Stenberg)
- You Will Be Found (feat. Ben Platt, Amandla Stenberg, Liz Kate, DeMarius Copes, Isaac Powell, Hadiya Eshe, Kaitlyn Dever & the Dear Evan Hansen Choir)
- Only Us (feat. Kaitlyn Dever & Ben Platt)
- Words Fail (feat. Ben Platt)
- So Big / So Small (feat. Julianne Moore)
- A Little Closer (feat. Colton Ryan)
- You Will Be Found (feat. Sam Smith & Summer Walker)
- The Anonymous Ones (feat. SZA)
- Only Us (feat. Carrie Underwood & Dan + Shay)
- A Little Closer (feat. Finneas)
- Waving Through a Window (feat. Tori Kelly)
Dear Evan Hansen released to the cinemas yesterday. Based on the award-winning musical of the same name, Dear Evan Hansen tells a story about a teenager named Evan Hansen suffering from anxiety and isolation. A high-school student who is longing for somewhere to belong and feel affiliated towards, Evan’s social awkwardness and inability to create meaningful connections with people his own age, means for him to undertake tasks designed by his therapist, to allow him to cope with difficult situations. The play (and in turn, the movie) starts with Evan embarking on an assignment given to him by his therapist- writing a letter to himself detailing how each day would be a good day. The movie progresses towards the finding of one particular letter by Connor Murphy- another loner and outsider in the local high school. What transpires from this, forms the basis of the movie- Evan is informed by the school principal that Connor’s parents want to see him, and he then is told that Connor committed suicide, and that the only thing found on him at the end, was Evan’s note. Because no one really knows that Evan writes letters to himself (as part of an exercise for his therapy class), everyone assumes that Connor wrote the letter instead, and thereby assumes that both Connor and Evan are friends. Evan seems to go along with this ruse, fabricating a story about how he has been friends with Connor for a while. The movie then opens to to ask pertinent questions, about acceptance, identity, mental health, and whether people should lie to others…for the right reasons, of course.
While I won’t give you the whole plot-line of the movie, I will say this- that since the release of the stage production of Dear Evan Hansen back in 2016, the play has been nominated for a variety of awards- the Tony Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, Grammy Awards, Laurence Olivier Awards; and has been received quite well by critics and lovers of stage plays and theatre alike. So I guess when it was revealed that there was going to be a movie adaption to the beloved stage musical, it was met with eagerness and trepidation, with excitement as well as apprehension- many of the criticisms that came with Dear Evan Hansen the movie was to do with lead actor Ben Platt’s age- with the character of Evan being 17, the movie tried to hide the fact that Ben himself the actor, was 27- and while from the trailers and every other image available, it can be seen that the studio tried to hide Ben’s age, there’s still people out there that seem to base the movie as a whole, solely on the fact that Ben may not be the best fit for the movie role of Evan, because of said age. Nevertheless, with the movie release of Dear Evan Hansen in full swing, Dear Evan Hansen: Original Motion Picture Soundrack also debuted to iTunes and Spotify concurrently, featuring standout songs like ‘You Will Be Found’ and ‘Waving Through a Window’, alongside new songs (especially for the movie) ‘The Anonymous Ones’ and ‘A Little Closer’. The movie soundtrack also features covers of these beloved songs- English singer-songwriter Sam Smith brings their interpretation to ‘You Will Be Found’, while Tori Kelly offers up her own way of delivering ‘Waving Through a Window’.
This ‘review’ (if you were to call it one) is to examine the 11 songs (and 5 covers) that make up this movie soundtrack. While it would make more sense to people listening to the soundtrack to have either seen the movie or watched the play beforehand, I still firmly believe that these songs can still exist independently of the movie (and play), and still be emotive, poignant, heartfelt, and compelling. While it is very much ideal to have seen the production of the musical prior to listening to these songs in full, one cannot deny these songs and their impact, regardless. My family and I didn’t see any stage production of the musical, so watching the movie was an eye-opening experience for me- the film (and play as well) touches on issues that face a lot of young people today, mental health and suicide being some of the things people need to have open dialogue about. Which makes this play and movie, quite possibly one of the most relevant pieces of work anyone should see, especially if you want to connect with the younger generation.
This album stands at 16 tracks; and encompasses 11 songs that were scattered throughout the film and used as a backdrop for these actors to voice their characters thoughts through song. ‘Waving Through a Window’, one of the most recognisable tracks from Dear Evan Hansen, speaks of how the persona longs to connect and bridge a gap between himself and people around him, but always feeling as though he can’t seem to make that final connection. It’s about someone who’s a misfit, who’s been labelled as an ‘outcast’, trying to make friends and socially interact in the way that he knows how, and while I myself can never really fully understand how people with social anxiety may feel when they try to make connections and friends, this movie showcased the mannerisms of Ben Platt’s character Evan Hansen quite profoundly- coupled with the first musical number in ‘Waving Through a Window’, sets the scene with Evan’s quirkiness and odd nature being placed on display for us viewers to see. ‘For Forever’ allows Ben to shine in a solo 5-minute number, as this song comes at a point in the movie where he is to give an account, by Connor’s parents, about how both Evan and Connor are supposedly friends. Evan fabricates the whole thing, telling Connors parents, ‘stories’ of how Evan and Connor were hanging by the orchard trees (which were Connors favourite place…and which never really happened at all!)- hence the song ‘For Forever’. A song that is good technically and stylistically, the message behind it is very unsettling and morbid, and it asks us listeners the question- if faced with a difficult and tight situation, what are we to do? Tell the truth and completely devastate the people that need to hear said news, or completely fabricate something, so as to not hurt someone’s feelings, and keep someone’s memory alive? That is the dilemma faced by Evan- and by now in 2021, people have either seen the musical, seen the movie, or they would’ve not even cared for Dear Evan Hansen in the first place. So, I guess, this is a warning: SPOILERS AHEAD! So, was it right for Evan to say that he and Connor were friends, and give their family a bit of hope (albeit, false though), instead of saying the truth, that he didn’t know Connor and that maybe, the Murphy’s son didn’t have as many friends as they thought? It’s a hard thing to do sometimes, to be honest, especially when it comes to mental health, suicide, teenagers, friendships, and the rest of it, and I guess this movie/play, and by extension, these 11 songs, try to make some sense to issues that people in today’s society face, maybe even on a day-to-day basis.
The rest of the album delivers musically as these movie-renditions of songs people have been familiar with via the stage, are delivered with such poise, grace, heart, and soul, as these songs are the reason why Dear Evan Hansen has received the success that it has. ‘Sincerely Me’ is a song that comes at a time in the movie where the Murphy family want to see corresponding ‘emails’ between Connor and Evan, as Ben’s character states that he and Connor have been conversing through private email accounts, when in fact, this was never the case. The song shows the funny side of creating false emails as a way to cover up the lie even more. ‘Requiem’, one of the most emotionally charged songs on the album, comes at a point in the film where Connor’s sister Zoe feels as though she shouldn’t pay her respects to her brother, because of the real side she and her family saw of him, as someone who was struggling with his own mental health, and not as someone as put-together as Evan declares he was. ‘Requiem’ the song is a moment for us to realise that often when someone dies, there’s a grieving process, and people who may have been hurt or wronged by this person, may not want to sing their ‘requiems’ to them, because they feel it should be earned rather than just flippantly given. Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Zoe in the movie, sings with such passion and fervour, and while it’s always been known that actress Amy Adams has always had a good, commanding, singing voice, it was still nice to see her sing here on ‘Requiem’, and remind us all, of just how underrated Amy really is as a singer…maybe an album of broadway songs in the works for this accomplished actress? ‘If I Could Tell Her’ shows Ben and Katelyn deliver this heartwarming and highly vulnerable song, where the character of Evan shows the character of Zoe, how much he loves her…all under the guise of ‘this is what Connor said about Zoe and I’m telling her that’; while ‘Only Us’ shows us a powerful moment where the characters of Evan and Zoe embark and a new relationship themselves, as Zoe wants her conversations with Evan to not just be about her brother, but to have something separate from Connor, moving forward. Both Ben and Kaitlyn shine well in ‘Only Us’, and this song, as much as it is tied to Dear Evan Hansen, can nevertheless exist outside of the musical as well.
‘You Will Be Found’ is sung by Ben Platt with such emotion, precision, heart, soul, and enthusiasm as this song has been a beacon of hope ever since it debuted in Dear Evan Hansen the musical. With the song being about us admitting sometimes that we need help, and that there are people around us that can help us feel as though we aren’t as alone as we think we are, Ben really delivers on this song, and reminds us that such a track can be equally as powerful if you’ve seen the movie, or play, or if you’ve never heard of anything Dear Evan Hansen-related at all. This song still has meaning and purpose, irrespective of the musical/movie…so it begs the question. Can this album be listened to if you haven’t heard of Dear Evan Hansen; and you haven’t seen anything about it? Maybe- there would be a bit more context if you’ve seen the play beforehand, but I don’t think you need to, in order to hear this soundtrack and acknowledge that good music is good music. And ‘You Will Be Found’ is an example of this.
The album then continues with the song ‘Words Fail’, where this song is placed in the part of the movie where we see Evan’s lie becoming as unravelled as it should be. While it is unfortunate that the movie came to a climax as this, one thing does remain clear that this movie (and play before) wants to show- that no matter how good-intentioned your lie can seem about something, the truth will always come out, and regardless of the sting and hurt that is immediate after such ugly reveals, the truth will always set us free. Free from trying to keep up a façade. Free from trying to fit in and paint something glamourous when it really isn’t. Or in Evan Hansen’s case, freedom from trying to pretend to himself that he was Connor’s friend, especially when he didn’t even know him. While ‘Words Fail’ feels a little disjointed (as it should be, because this song is basically Evan’s confession to the Murphy’s and the immediate aftermath that surrounds such a harrowing revelation), Ben Platt delivers with such honesty, making this song all the more emotional. ‘So Big/So Small’ is Julianne Moore’s time to shine- no one really knew that she could sing, so I guess there’s something new that you can know every day. Julianne plays Evan Hansen’s mother, and upon hearing the truth about Evan’s ordeal, she expresses sympathy and a way in, to connect with her son. ‘So Big/So Small’ speaks of unconditional love; and admitting that though you as a parent may fail your child now and into the future, the very fact that you’re there with them, and never running away, should be something.
The movie then adds two new songs that were absent in the stage production of the musical- ‘The Anonymous Ones’ and ‘A Little Closer’ are in the movie only, and both add an extra element to the overall story. ‘The Anonymous Ones’ is sung by the character Alana Beck, and reminds us all that even people who have high status and are seemingly popular, are never immune from mental health issues, while the final song in the movie (and track 11 here in this soundtrack album) is ‘A Little Closer’, a track that reminds us all that the people that we believe can be too far gone, may not be as broken as we think they are. ‘A Little Closer’, sung by actor Colton Ryan, is the song his character Connor Murphy sings when he is in rehab- the song is played as a video montage where we see Evan trying to really learn about Connor’s life, and making amends with people that he deceived along the way when he falsely divulged that he was friends with someone he really didn’t know. The movie pans to a video with the character of Connor singing ‘A Little Closer’, and we see the importance of taking things one day at a time, and that ‘…today what felt so far away, feels a little closer…’
Dear Evan Hansen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), just like the soundtrack of the stage production that was released digitally years ago, will arguably be one of 2021’s most impactful and heartfelt. Regardless of what people can say about the movie itself, the soundtrack, for all intents and purposes, is as flawless as can be. Ben’s vocals are flawless, and every other actor and actress who sing in the movie, step up quite well to create songs that speaks to the very heart of what people of today could be feeling at this moment (and heightened because of COVID-19 and everything else that we’ve experienced in 2020/21). Even the five covers are delivered with such precision and passion- Sam Smith performs a duet with Summer Walker on the standout song ‘You Will Be Found’, while ‘Only Us’ trades the vocals of Kaitlyn Dever and Ben Platt, for the vocals of Carrie Underwood and Shay Mooney (of the country-pop duo Dan + Shay), as ‘Only Us’ evolves from a pop anthem to a country track that is uber-vulnerable (and a great fit for Carrie’s powerful vocals combined with Shay’s Rascal Flatts-esque voice). Pop-CCM singer-songwriter Tori Kelly gives an acoustic stripped-down recording of ‘Waving Through A Window’, as the song tranforms from an opening musical number, to a hauntingly compelling 4-and-a-half-minute melody that can allow us to cry from the drop of a hat- that’s how important this song is, period. ‘The Anonymous Ones’ and ‘A Little Closer’, the two new songs written specifically for the movie version of Dear Evan Hansen, are also covered, by up-and-coming singer songwriters SZA (‘The Anonymous Ones’) and Finneas (‘A Little Closer’) respectively- ‘The Anonymous Ones’ is a powerful hip-hop EDM ballad that speaks about how there are much more people that we think, that are experiencing difficulties and mental health issues that they may not show, while ‘A Little Closer’ is shown in this cover, as a light acoustic track that focuses on the lyrical content- about how people who face insurmountable odds ought to take things one step at a time, that it’s ok to move towards the light at the end of the tunnel, ‘a little closer’ at a time.
So, there you have it…Dear Evan Hansen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). An album that complements the movie quite well; but can still be appreciated and enjoyed even if you haven’t seen the movie. But seriously though- watch Dear Evan Hansen. The movie or the stage production, either is fine. But still, whenever you all have a chance, then Dear Evan Hansen ought to be not only enjoyed, but also be reflected upon, as this musical is by far one of the most important and necessary musicals of the modern era of musicals…full stop. Personally, for me, I want to watch more musicals- because I for one, believe that there is something unique about movies and music, that when combined together, can create something unique and life-changing, but more importantly…I just haven’t seen as many musicals that I would like. Shows like Wicked, Cats, Jersey Boys, Hamilton, and Rent; are just some of the many musicals that I’ve seemed to have been ignorant of, but since watching Dear Evan Hansen the movie, and listening to this soundtrack album (alongside other musicals like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables) has convinced me otherwise. Musicals are important, and if a Ben Platt movie (and album) encourages us to explore more of the underappreciated musical world, then that indeed is a very good thing. Whatever your opinion is of the movie, there’s no denying that the music is something special. Well done Universal Pictures and Ben Platt, for this soundtrack. Hoping and praying that God uses this album for His glory and our good, in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.
5 songs to listen to: Waving Through a Window, The Anonymous Ones, Requiem, Only Us, You Will Be Found
RIYL: Ben Platt, Carrie Underwood, Tori Kelly, Sam Smith, SZA