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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Forget the old Charlie Puth. You know, the one who launched his career from a YouTube channel. No, Puth wants us to know that the real deal has now stepped forward.

This New Jersey native just dropped his second studio album, Voicenotes. He says it represents who he really is, perhaps even drawing from his rumored flings with high-profile celebs such as Selena Gomez and Bella Thorne.

The result is a smooth combination of pop and R&B, featuring guest performances from voices as diverse as James Taylor and Kehlani (as well as one track cowritten by Hall & Oats). Songs center around relationships and romantic difficulties, as well as reaching for what you want in the moment.

Pro-Social Content

On “The Way I Am,” Puth isn’t afraid to reveal his real self, regardless of what anyone may think: “You could either hate me or love me/But that’s just the way I am.” He also recognizes that opening up emotionally to another person can be scary: “Maybe I’ma get a little anxious/Maybe I’ma get a little shy/… All I wanna do is just hold somebody.”

“Through It All” tells us that heartbreak won’t keep him from pursuing love again: “I’ve already loved more than I thought I could love someone/I’ve already felt my heart break, yeah/I’ve already fell so many times, but I got back up.”

“Change,” a duet with legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor, challenges listeners to embrace love and unity instead of division: “Why are we looking down/On our sisters and brothers?/Isn’t love all we got?/… The day we know we’re all the same/Together we can make that change.”

In “If You Leave Me Now,” Puth tells the woman he loves that he’d be a mess without her: “‘Cause girl, if you leave me now/If you give it up and just walk right out/You will take the biggest part of me.” Similarly in “LA Girls,” he admits his fault in a failed relationship that he still wants to make work. “Attention,” meanwhile, tells of a guy who knows he needs to keep his distance from a manipulative ex (even though he doesn’t quite succeed): “You just want attention,” he realizes. “You don’t want my heart.”

In songs such as “Patient” And “Done for Me,” Puth admits that he will do anything to keep the one he loves. “Patient” pleads, “Please be patient with me/I know that I’m not what you need/But baby I’m gonna be.”

Objectionable Content

“Empty Cups” finds Puth drunk and dancing with a woman who has a boyfriend. But that “little” detail won’t stop him, because he has bedroom plans: “Ooh, the way that you dance on me makes me not wanna leave/You wanna go upstairs, but you don’t wanna sleep.” Those plans apparently come to fruition, as he later sings suggestively, “We’re in the rhythm.” He also tells her, “Your boyfriend’s no competition/Turn off your phone and blame it on your battery.”

“LA Girls” suggests that Puth only missed an ex after sleeping with several other women and belatedly realizing that he wasn’t that into them: “Where was Nicky, Nicole, Tiffany and Heather/But there’s only room for you in my world.” And on “Slow It Down,” Puth gives in to a younger woman who seductively entices him to stick around: “Oh the more that I tell her I’m not staying over/The harder she makes it to go/Oh the more that I try to convince her this won’t work/The faster she takes off her clothes.” He claims he’s being manipulated, saying, “She knows what she doing/She f—ing with my head.”

On the other hand, Puth isn’t opposed to having a sexual relationship with an experienced older woman; he just asks that she treat him like a man: “You tell me I’m too young but/I gave you what you wanted/Baby, how dare you treat me just like/Like a boy” (“Boy”). And there’s still another reference to an unwise tryst in “Attention.”

“How Long” admits infidelity (“I’ll admit/It’s my fault”) but longs for a second chance (“But you gotta believe me/When I say it only happened once/I tried and I tried, but you’ll never see that/You’re the only one I wanna love, ooh, yeah”). Similar sentiments are heard in “Patient.” And on “Done for Me,” a girlfriend wants her man to beg her to stay with him.

“Through It All” admits that tough life experiences have “made me question my faith” and have gotten the singer in trouble, too.

Summary Advisory

Charlie Puth popped up as a pop sensation pretty quickly. After being discovered on his YouTube channel, he put out several hits that dealt, primarily, with women and his love-hate relationships with them. Like many a pop star, things haven’t always gone well in this department.

Puth doesn’t like it when they cheat on him. That doesn’t seem to stop him from returning the “favor,” however. Yes, he can be sweet, soft and sentimental. But other times, his understanding of what fidelity actually requires of him gets a bit fuzzy.

That inconsistency—combined with bouts of drinking and profanity—leads me to sound a note of warning about Voicenotes, especially when it comes to Charlie Puth’s younger fans.

Kristen Smith
Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, loving raising their little guy, Judah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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