Here's Why Payton's Emotional Song "River" In 'The Politician' Sounds Familiar


Ryan Murphy certainly loves a musical moment. For six seasons of Glee, Murphy's series that chronicled the over-the-top drama of a high school glee club, he gave audiences countless memorable covers of popular songs. Now, Murphy's latest show The Politician isn't exactly a musical, but it is filled with some incredibly touching songs. In the pilot episode, for example, Ben Platt's cover of "River" is one of The Politician's most memorable moments. Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for Season 1 of The Politician.

Season 1 of The Politician is all about Payton Hobart's cutthroat and over-the-top campaign to become his elite high school's class president. The drama on the show really went to an extreme level pretty quickly (cough, assassination plot lines in dramedy about high school), but one of the standout scenes is actually one of its quieter moments. It's after Payton's (Ben Platt) friend/political rival/occasional lover River (David Corenswet) died by suicide in front of Payton. The school held a memorial service for River, and that's when Payton sang a song in his honor. River's name is right in the title of the song, which is a 1971 classic by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell from her album Blue.

Mitchell's song tells the story of a breakup, and it's filled with heart-wrenching lyrics like: "I wish I had a river so long/ I would teach my feet to fly./ Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on./ I made my baby say goodbye." Aside from the fact that River's name is repeated throughout the song, the lyrics evoke a sense of longing and loss that make it a perfect choice of song for Payton's character during this scene.

The emotional ballad was also supremely bolstered by Platt's performance. He has a storied history with musical performances; in 2017 he won a Tony Award for his titular role in Dear Evan Hansen, and his debut solo album Sing To Me Instead was released earlier this year. Going into production of The Politician, Platt knew music would play an important part in the series, but he wanted to make sure the music was also organic to the storytelling. He told Newsweek:

I was very intense as an executive producer as well on making sure that the music was adding to the narrative organic to the story and wasn't sort of elbowed into the piece. I never want to just sing as a gratuitous reason to sing as much as I love to sing. And much like the musical moment in the pilot, he found really organic and beautiful ways for it to feel entirely earned.

Platt's rendition of "River" makes The Politician an even more emotional watch than it already was. And bonus: It has also likely given a whole bunch of fans a new favorite throwback song to sing (or cry) along with.

Season 1 of The Politician is on Netflix now.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.