Charlie Puth: “Voicenotes” (Atlantic Records)

  Charlie Puth is constantly on everyone’s radar, even if you don’t know it. Since his first song back in 2015 (the smash hit and Paul Walker tribute, “See You Again,” alongside Wiz Khalifa), to his debut album, Nine Track Mind in 2016, Puth has been all over. When I say all over, I mean the radio, the media, and — in a recent development found out through the lyrics of his latest album — the Hollywood party scene.

  His seemingly immediate success stems directly from the hard work he puts in to create memorable beats and catchy hooks. He sings, writes, produces, performs, and plays multiple instruments; all of which lend a helping hand in the excitement that is fame. Puth is a Jersey native, a boy from a small town who dreamt of stardom, and, unlike so many others, actually seems to have made it. It is within Voicenotes, his sophomore album, that he documents his time in L.A. and the trials and tribulations that come with being the star he always wanted to be.

  Romance, especially for those in the spotlight, is difficult. This, too, is documented throughout Voicenotes. Puth’s crystal clear voice croons about the loss of a love interest — an older woman — on “Boy”, the eighth track on the record. It’s devastating, but not pained; similar to Hollywood in itself — at least in his eyes. The creation of the album is almost completely his own, from writing to producing, so I think it is safe to assume that these stories he tells are truly his very own experiences.

  Right from the get-go, Charlie Puth is ready to get personal on this album. Seriously, he is so raw about his life that one of the main hooks found in the opening track is “[…] you can either hate me or love me, that’s just the way I am.” Thus, setting us up for a whirlwind journey that only he knows how to explain. Further into the record is “Empty Cups,” a sultry gem that is reminiscent of Nine Track Mind’s stylings, but the lyrics are in a whole new ballpark due to its edginess. He sings about how he is ready to have some fun with a girl who has a boyfriend and yet is coercing her “upstairs” with him, regardless of her relationship. Why? More like, why not? It’s Hollywood, it’s youth, and it’s all right in front of him.

  Although, you cannot talk about Voicenotes without bringing up all of the amazing collaborations on it. Daryl Hall and John Oates co-wrote the ‘80s-esque “Slow It Down,” making for a nostalgic, synth-heavy pop song that doesn’t necessarily fit the album’s overall style, but fits beautifully within Puth’s own wheelhouse. You can’t forget that Boyz II Men, Kehlani, and James Taylor’s collaborations brought their own uniqueness and inspiration to this record, too. The song “Change” features Taylor and, in my opinion, is by far one of the best songs off of Voicenotes. It clearly shows Charlie’s versatility as an artist and a musician due to the song’s effortless and timeless qualities.

  The small town kid still swirls within him, and he uses it to his advantage. The truth in Puth’s songwriting makes him stand out against many of the other Top 40 hit-makers, for he has yet to be brainwashed by the sunshine, green juice, and backstabbing that LA can be known for. His creativity has yet to waver, nor has his dedication to music. Nobody can sit Charlie down and say “These lyrics are too candid, nobody wants to know about your sexcapades.” He will simply get up and leave. Music is a dog-eat-dog world. He understands that and is therefore letting his dream live out the way he wants it to — whether it ventures too far into his personal life or not.