This Charlie Puth article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
Charlie Puth’s ‘Nine Track Mind’ contains a vast amount of attempts to create hits; from pretty boy balladry to danceable throwbacks. There is a much stronger emphasis on the former, as the music world pines for yet another heartthrob. The sometimes poppy, sometimes doo-woppy 24-year-old made a name for himself by uploading his own self-written material via YouTube. So after a successful 2015, it’s time to see how strong Puth’s work is through all of the commercialism and studio polish.
Let’s slow dance right into the balladry with the light, bright opener ‘One Call Away’, it’s the kind of modern balladry you’d expect to hear in the charts or on a chart-topper’s album. It’s full of simplicity musically and lyrically, not that it’s a bad thing, but the song is nothing special. The ballads are quite soulful here-and-there, examples being ‘Losing My Mind’ and ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, but the overproduction coupled with basic, uber-accessible, ‘let’s give the people what they must want’ songwriting makes it suffer. But maybe this is – as said – what the people want.
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‘Marvin Gaye’ is one of the greatest examples of a songwriter sitting down and writing something so easy, and so run-of-the-mill that it’s bound to get some popularity from general music listeners. And it did get a lot of popularity, mainly due to its listen-ability and memorability; but is it memorable for the right reasons? Well, there is no right or wrong in music, but the recurring hook of “let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on” is just so ridiculous – bad, almost-nauseating lyricism with a flawed attempt at a clever reference. There also doesn’t seem to be any irony in the lyrics, Puth genuinely wants to “Marvin Gaye and get it on” – a sentence that if said to a partner, will lead to an embarrassing breakup. And if you think that’s lazy songwriting, what about the line “just like they say it in the song”? That’s lazier than a lazy, dog-dangling afternoon. The song also just feels like a re-hashing of ‘Just the Way You Are’ by Bruno Mars, but with that ‘60s throwback formula that has worked for a number of pop artists over the past ten years or so. The song features Meghan Trainor on guest vocals, adding very little in the process.
Anyway we can’t harp on ‘Marvin Gaye’ forever, after all, the song has been popular for a while now so there are still a few newer songs to talk about. Speaking of sound-alikes, ‘Left Right Left’ sounds like an attempt at making something similar to ‘Fuck You’ by CeeLo Green, chord-wise anyway. And as mentioned, the lyricism is pretty standard throughout, particularly on ‘Up All Night’ as Puth sings “it’s a crime how you reel me in with the games you play, then you hang me out to dry”.
It’s hard to say whether there are any real redeeming qualities on ‘Nine Track Mind’, it’s serviceable in its appeal to the casual music fan, but that’s it.
‘Nine Track Mind’ is out now via Atlantic Records.