In 2017 I was at work and the radio was playing. The first lines of the song “Attention” by Charlie Puth began and I thought nothing of it until this dirty booming funky bassline began and from that day forward Charlie Puth has been an artist that I have struggled to ignore.
This is the same Charlie Puth who brought us dismal tracks such as “Marvin Gaye” and provided the chorus on the 2015 hit “See You Again” with Wiz Kalifa which was one of the most nauseating songs of that year.
But “Attention” changed everything and even Puth himself admits that this particular track shaped the entire album as this gave him a push in a particular music direction that had been lacking on his previous effort.
The second album is usually the difficult one but after such a terrible debut things needed to change and they have changed in an extraordinary manner.
“Voicenotes” is full of songs which any could be big pop hits. It’s breezy pop music where lyrically he might fall down but production, arrangement, instrumentation, and melody he does not. He excels and I think this is a highly enjoyable piece of work.
“The Way I Am” (no not a cover of the Eminem track!) kicks off the album. A guitar rift begins proceedings and already this a world away from 2015’s “Nine Track Mind”.
Puth admits that he is insecure and that fame might be entirely for him. He knows he will not be liked by many but that is just the way he is. Cliched lyrical content is something you’ll have to get past if you are to enjoy this album because it’s full of it but if you like your melodic pop music then this type of track is going to be for you.
I like this song and found myself singing along after only a couple of lyrics due to it’s infectious arrangement.
“Attention” is the second track and the song that gave us the new Charlie Puth. This song made my Top Songs Of 2017 and I still haven’t got bored of it. That groovy bassline and almost impossible falsetto vocal. His diction on some of the lyrics is a little poor at times and there is one point where you think he has said “Turtle on my name” instead of “Dirt all on my name”.
But apart from that minor gripe this is a BIG song and I love it.
After two strong opening tracks can Puth continue to push this forward? He can indeed with “LA Girls“. His ability to create such catchy pop music and create a darker and sexier tone is surprising as his image seems contrary to this.
“La Girls” is bouncy, funky and fun.
“How Long” was the second single taken from the project and it’s easy to see why as like “Attention” it is just infectious. Listen to this song 2 or 3 times and I guarantee you’ll be singing the chorus. The song lyrically is basic once again with Puth defending himself after he has cheated on his partner.
Puth has some excellent range to his vocal and he shows different sides to it on “How Long”. The deeper side of the vocal is refreshing as he sings a lot of songs in his trademark falsetto. He also displays a bit of a rasp in his voice during this track which gives it a bit more maturity.
“Done For Me” I first heard in a taxi in America. Again, like many of the tracks Puth is putting out lately it gripped me instantly.
This is a song with American singer Kehlani. As Puth complains about his relationship she offers the other side of the argument and her vocal performance works well as it is understated and to the point which is what the song requires.
The theme of the track has of course been done before with Janet Jackson previously offering this perspective on “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”.
I like that we get the response from the other person in the relationship (like we did on Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” with Kimbra”) as it makes the song more interesting than a usual moan about how someone doesn’t feel as though they are being treated right. There are two sides to every story!
“Patient” is the first slow track we come across on “Voicenotes”. It is a very 90’s R&B throwback which is certainly a nice smooth track to have on the album. It’s a little formulaic for me and doesn’t really pack much of a punch. Nothing particular wrong with it but it loses it way half way through.
“If You Leave Me Now” is a song where Puth brings in 90’s R&B giants Boyz II Men. This song is entirely acapella and a showcase of Puth’s vocal and of course wonderful harmonies and solos from Boyz II Men. I still find Puth’s diction a little difficult to understand as he overdo’s some of his words.
This is one of those songs I would love to see performed live. I’d probably be nodding my head in approval at seeing some brilliant vocal displays. But on this album it’s a song that quickly found me reaching for the skip button.
There is no skip button required for the next track “BOY”. This is the best song on the album in my humble opinion. The production on this track is just outstanding and that synth pop sound is music to my ears.
I have tried to seek out the instrumental for the song but haven’t been able to find it at this point. This is just so groovy and it’s no doubt going to make my top 10 songs of 2018.
Lyrically Puth talks about being with an older woman who will not take things seriously with him because he was ‘Born in the 90’s”. It’s a little cheesy but its still such a great pop song.
“Slow It Down” is the 9th track and continues to display a penchant for crafting melodic pop music. Containing a interpolation of “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall & Oates this song has a very 80’s vibe with Puth’s vocal giving it that modern edge. This has such a summer vibe and I get images of driving down Hollywood boluvard in a convertible. Cheesy thoughts? That’s what this album is doing to me!
“Change” is a duet with the legendary James Taylor. A real departure from many of the songs that are offered up on “Voicenotes” and is perilously close to being the wrong side of Charlie Puth’s cheesy nature. It’s a pretty song but lacks the punch that I had been getting used to on this project.
The performance from Taylor does add something to the song although I am not sure both vocals go well together.
“Somebody Told Me” (No not a cover of the Killers song!) is one those very American sounding teenage pop songs. This is the most uptempo song on the album where it is very deliberately set out to produced a certain sound. Melodically it’s just rich with those pop music formulas from days gone by. I think there is a bit too much auto tune at times (well I can hear it anyway) and I would be intrigued to see him do this song live.
The penultimate track “Empty Cups” is good fun. It’s bouncy beat and funky bassline sees Puth swoon over a girl at at party that has ended and they find themselves alone.
It’s a bright and breezy singalong track. It’s another solid solid and could have easily been a hit single.
We end “Voicenotes” with “Through It All”. Puth admits that this song was meant to be the orignal sound of the album. I for one am pleased it was not and that is not to say it is a bad song but too many of these piano ballads would have had my ears bleeding.
It’s a nice track but it’s all be done before. It adds something different to the album and for the sake of diversity it is a welcome addition but there are so many better tracks on the album.
I really enjoyed this album. If you had told me two years ago that I would be sitting here praising a Charlie Puth album I would have thought you were crazy but this is a funky, synth pop delight and one of the best albums I have heard this year.
I feel no shame in saying that either.
It doesn’t reinvent the wheel and lyrically it offers little in the way of new perspectives to love and life but it’s produced really well (all by Puth I might add) and it sounds brilliant.