After four years full of singles and TikTok videos, pop singer-songwriter Charlie Puth released his third album “CHARLIE” on Friday, Oct. 7. The album shows off his creativity and music production skills, but lyrically it lacks the depth that would make it truly shine.
Since the start of his career, Puth has not been shy about calling himself a huge music nerd, and one look at his TikTok account confirms it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he found an outlet through TikTok, allowing him to easily share his music creation process and form a connection with fans. Puth shared in an interview with Zane Lowe that he created “CHARLIE” after discovering TikTok because the interactive aspect changed his view of songwriting.
Puth’s love for music is clear on “CHARLIE.” Sonically, the album is cohesive with an upbeat 80s pop vibe, full of synths, bright piano chords and strong percussion. Upon a closer listen though, all of the songs have details that set them apart from one another. My personal favorite is how during the chorus of “Left and Right,” Puth’s collaboration with BTS member Jung Kook, the sound quite literally moves back and forth from the left and right sides.
Puth is no stranger to hit songs – three of his songs have earned over 1 billion streams on Spotify and his debut single with rapper Wiz Khalifa, “See You Again,” spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. That type of success can be hard to top though.
That isn’t to say that his music isn’t popular anymore – two singles from “CHARLIE” have already garnered over 300 million Spotify streams – but it often feels like Puth is continuously chasing that same kind of success with each new release.
It’s obvious that Puth knows how to make strong radio earworms, but sometimes it feels like that’s all his songs are. Because the production takes precedence, the lyrics often seem to fall into the background. While there may be vulnerability behind the songs on “CHARLIE,” many of the lyrics come off as basic and superficial.
The song that seemed to me to suffer from this the most was “When You’re Sad I’m Sad.” It has an interesting lyrical premise, but I’m sure Puth could have come up with something stronger than “Baby, don’t do that ‘cause when you’re sad, I’m sad.”
“CHARLIE” also suffered from “TikTokification,” where artists market their music in an attempt to gain the next viral hit. While this is not an entirely new concept, TikTok seems to have changed how people consume music, generating and cycling through hits at a much faster rate.
Puth released six songs prior to “CHARLIE,” and I can only assume that he did that to build up hype and try to get as much attention and streams as possible. There are only 12 songs on the album though, so releasing half of the songs ruins the integrity of the album by decreasing the appeal of listening to it in its entirety. The rest are also not that memorable when compared with the others and it makes me sad that there were no hidden gems left to discover once the album was released.
The best song on “CHARLIE” by far is the lead single “Light Switch.” Puth was smart for releasing this one first because it undoubtedly catches the listener’s attention with its fast-paced beat and groovy sound effects and instrumentation.
“Charlie Be Quiet!” is also notable because of how the vocals and production ebb and flow throughout the song. True to its name, Puth starts by singing in hushed vocals but as the song progresses, everything grows louder until it culminates in the crashing drums and vibrant electric guitar of the chorus. “Smells Like Me” is most reminiscent of the 80s pop influences on “CHARLIE.” While the production is slower and more mellow, it is still a catchy tune about the pain of an ex-lover moving on.
While “CHARLIE” might not be anything extraordinary, Puth succeeds in creating a solid pop album full of fun songs that are sure to get stuck in your head.
Photo courtesy of James Davis, Wikipedia