Following a five-month delay, Charlie Puth’s sophomore album, “Voicenotes,” finally hit the market on Friday, May 11. Since its release less than a week ago, the album has already attained gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, selling over half a million albums in the United States alone.
“Voicenotes,” named after the iPhone app that the singer uses to record rough cuts and sounds for his tracks, solidifies Puth’s place in the pantheon of YouTube-born musicians who have grown out of the medium. Before he gained widespread popularity for his music, Puth spent years aggregating a following of fans, known as “Puthinators,” by uploading cover songs to his YouTube channel.
Then, in 2015, the New Jersey native gained mainstream attention with the release of “See You Again,” a heart-wrenching tune for the “Fast and Furious 7” soundtrack that found him performing alongside rapper Wiz Khalifa.
“Nine Track Mind,” Puth’s debut album, was a disappointment to critics and Puth personally. The album included an abundance of slow love ballads that the artist felt didn’t fully represent him.
Upset with the ways in which Hollywood tried to control him creatively, Puth took matters into his own hands with his sophomore album, entirely writing and producing “Voicenotes” by himself. According to Rolling Stone, the DIY artist put the album together using little more than a Pro Tools rig, a MIDI keyboard and a microphone.
The album begins with “The Way I Am,” a self-proclaiming, catchy tune that works to set the precedent for the piece of work. He exclaims throughout, “Imma tell them all, you can either hate me or love me, that’s just the way I am,” essentially telling critics and the world that this album is completely him, and it doesn’t matter what others think.
As an anthem of self-love, the song expresses not only a disregard for critical reception, but a newfound confidence in Puth and his creative vision.
“Attention,” the second song on the album, was initially released over a year ago, in April 2017, as a single, and has since achieved platinum status three times. Despite being an overplayed radio hit, the song has not yet lost its spark. Puth’s clear and concise vocals, alongside a strong bass line, accurately portray his laidback style for the album.
Following two great openers, “LA Girls” does not disappoint. A funky guitar pattern and flurry of whimsical “oohing” carries the tune. Though slower and more relaxed than the first two tracks, “LA Girls” manages to fit into Puth’s uplifting vibe. A New Jersey native, the young musician finds himself yearning for his girl from back home, feeling off-put by the relationships he’s had in Hollywood.
Like “Attention,” “How Long” has already achieved a great deal of success as a single. In the song, Puth finds himself asking his lover how long she has been involved in other relationships.
Despite the circumstances of the situation, Puth is able to keep an upbeat tempo that practically forces you to sing along with the artist. The sound is quite similar to that of “Attention,” which Puth claims was an intentional choice, telling the Rolling Stone that “How Long” was meant to be a lyrical continuation of “Attention.”
Though the album is primarily an upbeat set of hits, “Patient” offers more of a ballad in which Puth reveals his true ability to evoke emotion. However, this tune adds little to the overall album and in the middle of the album loses listener’s attention.
“Done for Me” is the first of three features present on “Voicenotes.” Newcomer Kehlani’s vocals add a much needed diversion from Puth’s strong, but sometimes dull vocals. This track is an R&B jam that can and should be played on loop.
“If You Leave Me Now” spices things up a bit with an unexpected Boyz II Men collaboration. Incredibly different from anything on the album, the track is a definite homage to the ’90s. Performed acapella, the song is fresh and so easy to listen to. Puth’s vocals do get lost in the mix at times, but this track was brilliant musically and lyrically. It is a definite stand out of the album.
The final collaboration of the album was with the legend, James Taylor. Titled “Change,” this song came across as a failed “We Are the World” with Puth incessantly asking “Why can’t we just get along?”
The purpose of the song is incredibly important in a world where so much wrong is happening, so one is able to overlook the poor attempt at an inspirational tune and appreciate it for what it is. This song also didn’t feel cohesive to the entirety of the album.
The 12th track on the album, “Empty Cups,” is more sensual than any of the other tunes. “Hands on your body like there’s no one at the party, just me and you and these empty cups,” Puth sings. This song will translate strongly to radio and would definitely be a great summer hit.
Puth concludes the album with a reflective piece titled “Through It All.” The song offers nostalgia to listeners and is such a sincere and authentic piece where Puth recalls all of the hardships he endured throughout his 26 years.
“Through It All” is stripped down to Puth’s vocals, background vocals and a piano, offering a more mature sense of confidence than that of the introductory track. It’s a wonderful conclusion to an overall fantastic album.
Overall Thoughts on “Voicenotes”
Overall, Puth excelled in his ability to make multiple hits for his album. This was proven already through the success of “Attention” and “How Long” that were released prior to “Voicenotes.” However, many of Charlie Puth’s songs on the album came across as quite repetitive in terms of sound, but this did allow for a strong feeling of cohesion for the album as a whole.
With that said, “Voicenotes” is a huge step up from “Nine Track Mind.” Puth’s ability to produce, sing and song write on this album is a true testament to his talent and an indicator that he isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Puth has plans to tour this summer to promote his new album. He will be headlining the 2018 Honda Civic Tour visiting locations all around North America. With an album like “Voicenotes,” his concert is one to make sure not to miss.