For many fans, the drawn-out release of Charlie Puth’s sophomore album, Voicenotes, was excruciating. He debuted the lead single, “Attention,” more than a year ago, and the delays that followed were aplenty. But it was worth the wait.
The poppy 13-song disc (out Friday, May 11) is impressively crafted and a far cry from his soul-driven 2016 debut, Nine Track Mind. This time around, Puth, 26, doles out hit after hit, most of which he produced himself, on a project that’s perfect for summer.
Voicenotes opens with the feisty “The Way I Am,” which blends electric guitar riffs with an upbeat melody. “I’mma tell ’em all that you could either hate me or love me,” he warns. The radio-friendly single “Attention” follows, and its lyrics are brazen and mature (“I know that dress is karma, perfume regret / You got me thinking ’bout when you were mine”). In fact, it’s quite possibly the most grown-up song from Puth’s catalog thus far, barring “Empty Cups.” But more on that one later.
“L.A. Girls” and “How Long” are equally catchy. On the former, Puth yearns for a lover on another coast and repeatedly croons, “I miss my baby.” The latter finds him calling out an unfaithful ex, a theme he again explores on “Somebody Told Me.”
He effortlessly showcases his smooth-as-butter vocals on the midtempo ballad “Patient” and the finger-snapping, straight-from-the-’90s Boyz II Men collaboration “If You Leave Me Now.”
The synthy standout “Slow It Down” — which features writing credits from Daryl Hall and John Oates, better known collectively as the duo Hall & Oates — is best played with the volume all the way up and the windows rolled down. “Girl, you gotta slow it down,” Puth begs during the chorus. “I’m not trying to fall for you.”
The seduction continues on the aforementioned “Empty Cups,” on which Puth seductively sings, “You wanna go upstairs, but you don’t wanna sleep / Oh, right now we’re in a rhythm / Your boyfriend’s no competition / Turn off your phone and blame it on your battery.”
The album’s strongest point is the addictive “Done for Me,” which is sure to become a hit due to its insanely infectious chorus (“I lie for you, baby / Die for you, baby / Cry for you, baby / But tell me what you’ve done for me”). The dancey track finds the singer-songwriter trading verses with R&B singer Kehlani, who adds the finishing touch to an already exquisite number.
Voicenotes ends on a tender note with “Through It All,” a coming-of-age piano ballad sonically reminiscent of Puth’s earlier singles “See You Again” and “One Call Away.” He sings about remaining fearless through the good and bad, even paraphrasing the late Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which Puth once called “one of the best records of all time.” In the second verse, he reflects, “Maybe it’s my recklessness that got me in trouble / But at least I did it all my way.”
And doing so works for Puth because he just proved that he’s here for the long haul.
3 stars (out of 4)
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