New Jersey native Charlie Puth rose to fame after penning the Furious 7 smash hit song “See You Again” with Wiz Khalifa. The music video for the track was briefly the most-viewed video on YouTube, catapulting Puth to pop radio stardom. The singer-songwriter continued breaking into the mainstream with collaborations with artists such as Selena Gomez and Meghan Trainor, leading to the release of his debut record Nine Track Mind. Though the record was met with mixed reviews, many critics recognized Puth’s potential to become a staple in pop music.
Two years after his debut, the “Attention” singer has returned with sophomore record Voicenotes. Months before its release, singles “Attention” and “How Long” reached Top 40 radio. To perfect his vision, Puth delayed the project, reshooting the cover art.
Released on May 11, the 13-track LP has few — and fleeting — moments of originality. Its lyrics are overly banal, its production too simple and repetitive and its vocals far from versatile. The falsetto Puth adopts on “Patient” is cringeworthy, and the remaining tracks continue to use the same cadence or are sung in the same key.
Puth attempted to inject some life into his songs by collaborating with Boyz II Men, Kehlani and James Taylor, but even they could not save Voicenotes from being a snoozefest. While “If You Leave Me” finds Puth giving his best attempt at a Boyz II Men impression, “Done for Me” shows the singer being overshadowed by his duet partner Kehlani.
The best moments on Voicenotes are the opener and closer. “The Way I Am” is Puth’s personal reminder to stay true to himself, even if listeners love or hate him. “Through It All” alludes to the inner turmoil the singer has faced in his rise to fame, as well as the challenges he has overcome. These two tracks succeed in authenticity and introspection, which are lacking on the rest of the album.
Unfortunately, Voicenotes is plagued with uninspiring, easily forgotten love songs that touch on the same tired topics. The ’80s inspired “Boy” tells the story of a patronizing lover condemning his immaturity; “Attention” details a vitriolic Puth calling out his ex-lover for reveling in his attention but not his love for her. The James Taylor collaboration “Change” seeks to tackle current ideological divides, but its laughably juvenile lyrics fail to command listeners’ attention or merit serious consideration.
Until Puth finds a distinct sound and a team of producers to cultivate fresh, compelling tracks, the singer will continue to be a mediocre presence in the pop industry.