With tracks that hearken to Marvin Gaye and Paul Walker vis-à-vis the Fast and Furious Franchise, Charlie Puth sat pretty comfortably on the charts in 2015, hoping that Nine Track Mind gives him much more of a reason to stay there. From acoustic cover singer on YouTube to millennial chart topper, Puth’s career so far has been one long ride, but is Nine Track Mind the destination?
Hard to say, but for what it’s worth, at least the boy has pipes. Love songs with the bad boy-good girl formula are aplenty these days and this album is loosely strung from tracks that fit Puth’s vocal register, but do little to elevate him to the likes of Bieber and Timberlake.
Enough has been said about his chart toppers See You Again, Marvin Gaye and Some Type of Love, but the originals leave room for a lot more to be desired. The album’s opener One Call Away is the perfect introduction to anyone who’s never heard of Puth. A formulaic pop ballad, One Call Away has passable lyrics, simple instrumentation and a too good to be true vocal execution, making it a perfect introduction to anyone who wanted to know who sang the hook on Khalifa’s chart-topper. And then there’s Dangerously, an experiment that sought to be rule-breaking, but falls short of expectations.
Puth, or rather his producers, punctuate the album regularly with some good jams to make up for the lacklustre tracks that form it. On Losing My Mind, Puth pipes his harmonies from start to finish, but it’s easier for the listener to lose his/her mind just listening to this track. Luckily, this trainwreck comes to a temporary halt with We Don’t Talk Anymore (ft. Selena Gomez). The pop duet salvages the mess we’ve heard so far, making the track an excellent example for why Puth, with his unique register, has much promise. With another artist on his track, Puth feels the need to pull his weight, but plays fair giving both himself and the featuring artist a chance to shine, making him the artist of choice to collaborate with. On this note, it’s probably in the best interest of the you, the reader, to list out all the best jams on this album, because the rest of the tracks are a bit of a bore.
Suffer finds Puth share a vocal style akin to Robin Thicke and The Weeknd and shines on the barbershop quartet styled single. To put this track on an pop album was wise, although RnB is where Puth shines best and may want to consider a pure RnB sound so people can take him more seriously. The same vein flows through in As You Are ft. Shy Carter with a breezy tune, simple lines and effortless execution from both the artists on the track. If Puth goes through the track with ease, Carter’s rap verses add a dash of the chocolate boy swag, never taking away from the feel of the song.
There’s some experimenting with tracks like My Gospel, but the quasi-rap styled singing style sounds nasal and like a poorly executed Boyfriend by Bieber, if we have to make a comparison seeing that the two of them are YouTube stars with talent that rode them to the top of the charts.
Puth’s higher notes are textbook perfect, but with the wrong song feels wasted. Up All Night feels more boy-bandish with the structure of the song specifically designed for, let’s say, One Direction. Having to play out a collection of curated voices over three and a half minutes is a task and Puth endures till the end. On first listen, Left Right Left sounds like a slowed down version of Cee Lo Green’s Forget You, especially in the verses and chorus with just the bridge differentiating the two. The high pitched vocals make a return on Then There’s You and makes up for a decent attempt at adding a little more range and depth to the album.
Puth’s debut is a hit-and-miss attempt at introducing the singer to an audience that has never heard of the doe-eyed boy. He is navigating the music industry with the wrong pair of oars, going with a more pop sound to be desirable, when he could join the likes of Miguel and The Weeknd with some experimental RnB or even pop/RnB. There are tracks on the album that show promise and I’d suggest you give them a listen before you dismiss Puth as yet another YouTube star.
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