At the start of quarantine last March, Henry Platt (C ’21) decided that it was finally time to join the TikTok community. He began posting covers of songs and duets with his older brother, Broadway superstar Ben Platt, as a way of continuing his love for singing despite the limitations on performing arts caused by the pandemic. After a year of posts, Henry has amassed over 50,000 followers on TikTok.
“I think TikTok is very much a platform that is definitely the voice of our generation. It is very reflective of the Gen Z experience,” Henry says. “But also I love it just because it helps you connect with other people. I'll just see someone talking about their story, and it helps me learn about a new perspective on something. You get to form relationships that are united over a common love.”
Now, Henry has landed in a niche algorithm of musical theater, gay, and meme TikTok content, and he's recently started his own unique series on TikTok he calls “Bored Riffing.” Henry challenges himself to sing complicated musical riffs while lying down (often in his bed). Although his singing may appear effortless to his audience, it comes from years of practice and continual training—hard work that has led to his 942.3K likes on the social media platform.
Henry is also connected to singing through his close involvement with the Penn a cappella group Counterparts. After joining Counterparts during his first year at Penn, he became the music director for the group in 2020. He then became the chair of the A Capella Council in 2021.
“As much as I love TikTok and being able to create and share my own point of view, I also really love the communal aspect of music making that you get from an a capella group. And I love that there's something about making music with fifteen other people who are almost like family members," Henry says. He adds that it's been strange not to be able to sing normally with the group and get that sense of community in quarantine.
Although Counterparts has had a difficult time operating under COVID–19 restrictions, Henry looks forward to the upcoming release of a virtual series featuring other senior singers from the Counterparts, as well as the Counterparts album recording next month. In an emotional end to a chaotic senior year, Henry’s final song in the virtual series will be “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. On top of the song being a beautiful ballad about hope, it's also special to Henry because his father produced the musical Wicked—an iconic Broadway success based off of The Wizard of Oz—and his mother, like Dorothy, is from Kansas.
“I'm hoping that the combo of this album that I'm helping to music direct and then also this last virtual series with my senior solo on it will be the way that I say goodbye to Counterparts,” Henry says. “Those two things are sort of taking the place of what might normally be my goodbye in a normal semester.”
In addition to his work with Counterparts, Henry is also a strong mental health advocate at Penn. After being diagnosed with depression early in his first year on campus and starting treatment, Henry felt like there was a lack of open discussion surrounding mental health.
“When I would talk about [my experiences], individually or one–on–one with people, like my closest friends or someone in Counterparts, I always noticed that, even if they couldn't relate to the exact experience that I was having, there was always a part of my story that someone latched onto,” Henry says. “That got me thinking that if everyone feels this way and there are certain elements of my story that are pretty resonant with all the people that I'm talking to, why is it not something that has received more attention?”
Henry has been an active member of seeking out more mental health resources for the Penn community through efforts like meeting with Benoit Dubé, Penn’s chief wellness officer, and being a part of the Student Wellness Advisory Board.
“I've really tried to just be as involved as I can be and just be really open and candid about my experience, both in one–on–one settings and in bigger settings. If that makes one person feel more heard or if that starts to make conversations about it just more a part of our daily vocabulary, that's a mission accomplished.”
Although Henry doesn't have all of his future plans mapped out for after graduation, he's ready to step into the spotlight. His debut single comes out on April 30 across all streaming platforms.
After taking a songwriting course at Penn during his junior year, he wrote “Take a Number” and got connected to fellow Penn student Alex Graf (C '22), who has helped transform Henry’s piano recordings into a real instrumental backing for his vocals.
This song paints Henry as the protagonist in a fictional relationship where he's the vulnerable person open to a relationship, but he has feelings for a guy who's reserved and distant, the classic hard–to–get type. The song is meant to uplift people who aren't afraid of being vulnerable and who value commitment.
“I sort of flip that on its head and say, ‘Why is [being aloof] seen as a cool thing? Why isn't someone who's open and vulnerable and mature, badass?’” Henry says. “You see in media all the time that the popular kid or the one who's the coolest is the one who's the hot shot or is the player. The soundscape of the song is a very badass anthem kind of vibe for people who are not typically seen as badasses.”
With graduation rapidly approaching and his debut in the works, Henry reflects on moving forward to the future.
"I'm coming out of Penn with a much more fully formed sense of self, which I think is probably more important than anything I could have learned in a classroom setting,” Henry says. “I'm going to miss it a lot. But I'm also feeling ready. It's time to start the next phase.”