Charlie Puth Got Famous. Then He Got Great.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — inside modernist home here where Charlie Puth has lived since December, an Aston Martin sits inside garage, the ceilings are tropical-forest tall, the living room is actually sunken with leather couches, as well as also also the toilets raise their lids to greet you.
On a Sunday earlier This particular month, This particular was midafternoon as well as also also Mr. Puth hadn’t eaten yet, nevertheless he was in his modest home studio, with its racks of vintage synthesizers, working out some brand new ideas with the songwriter Johan Carlsson. He hopped on a keyboard that has a distinct early-1990s vibe, gooey as well as also also a little cold, as well as also also began playing snippets of older songs: Toto’s “Africa,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money,” SWV’s “Weak.” He hit upon a sound that will made him happy — “like mixing Jodeci with Tears for Fears,” he said.
This particular was a few days before the Discharge of “Voicenotes,” his second album, as well as also also the first one not quickly microwaved to completion inside immediate aftermath of an out-of-nowhere megahit. In 2015, Mr. Puth was an up-as well as also also-coming songwriter when he rocketed into the pop troposphere with the Wiz Khalifa collaboration “See You Again,” a moist lump of treacle via the “Furious 7” soundtrack. some other big hits followed, nevertheless none felt quite right to him.
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“I was trying to figure out who I was musically in front of millions of people,” he said, seated by the pool inside back of his house. He wore a Puff Daddy T-shirt tattered with attitude, yellow Adidas sweatpants as well as also also chunky Alexander McQueen sneakers. His hair was flamboyantly shaggy, as if a clean swoop had hit a wind tunnel.
“Voicenotes” is actually a confident, impressive pop album, with ironclad melodies as well as also also frisky takes on 1980s funk as well as also also 1990s soul. This particular turns out that will Mr. Puth is actually not the maudlin crooner who entered the spotlight, nevertheless rather a sophisticated pop marksman that has a gift for spare, pointed arrangements — he produced almost the whole album himself — as well as also also detailed, vulnerable lyrics. He gets wronged by an older woman on “Boy,” as well as also also “LA Girls” is actually about how a whole city, as well as also also everyone in This particular, can break your heart. On “If You Leave Me at This particular point,” he duets with Boyz II Men, as well as also also on “Change,” with James Taylor. His falsetto, on “How Long,” “Somebody Told Me” as well as also also more, is actually appealingly supple. All in all, This particular makes for one of the boldest pop albums of the year.
Getting here was not easy, though. For Mr. Puth, 26, the couple of years following “See You Again” were a juxtaposition of intense public success as well as also also equally intense private struggle. “A little bit of success, you think that will I could be over the moon,” he said, “nevertheless quietly, This particular was genuinely hard for me.”
He had several smash singles, including the treacle 2.0 of “One Call Away” as well as also also the sensuous Selena Gomez duet “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” as well as also also his debut album, “Nine Track Mind,” went platinum. nevertheless This particular was rushed: “For the most part This particular was just filler,” he said. Decisions were happening rapidly. In a particularly cruel example of record label alchemy, a type of his song “One Call Away” was released featuring the Mexican starlet Sofia Reyes, the ur-country gentleman Brett Eldredge as well as also also the salacious R&B crooner Ty Dolla Sign. (Yes, that will is actually a real song.)
as well as also also for someone who grapples with anxiety issues, being suddenly thrust into the spotlight was disorienting. “I’m already a very in-my-head anxious person,” he said. “I don’t genuinely do well when I’m alone a lot because I’m alone with my thoughts which is actually not Great. This particular gets very freaky. The big misconception is actually when you get more famous you have more friends. I find that will I’m alone more than ever at This particular point.”
He cried on Norwegian television. At a concert in Dallas, while singing “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” he cursed out Justin Bieber (Ms. Gomez’s ex) in absentia, prompting love triangle speculation. He flirted with two married “Access Hollywood” hosts. (“The Puthinator became available to play,” quipped the Australian gossip site Dolly). He was captured by paparazzi with the Hollywood wild-child Bella Thorne on a Miami beach, then, after she posted a picture with her ex, melted down on Twitter just a few days later..
“He was put into a very difficult position ’cause the song [‘See You Again’] was bigger than he was,” said Kara DioGuardi, the hit songwriter as well as also also onetime “American Idol” judge who taught Mr. Puth songwriting at Berklee College of Music. “I don’t think he was prepared for that will.”
Usually This particular takes pop stars decades to recant their ways as well as also also lament the falsity of fame; for Mr. Puth This particular took about 18 months. “I can’t pretend that will I can go on being that will guy when I truly, truly wasn’t,” he said. “I’m the nerdy musician who likes to make mixtapes for girls in 7th grade. at This particular point I’m just older, as well as also also I’m still doing that will.”
By the time of the Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden at the end of 2016, he’d begun to unravel a bit. At the show, he was beating his piano like a drum kit as well as also also jerking his body theatrically like the Incredible Hulk breaking out of Bruce Banner’s square slacks.
A few months later came “Attention,” the slick, lithe, panting funk vamp that will announced Mr. Puth’s rebirth. This particular snarled, full of resentment about a woman attaching herself to Mr. Puth for the wrong reasons.
He at This particular point wonders if, during his brief flirtation with public life, his high-profile romances were more transactional than they felt inside moment. “I think I got — I’m trying to say This particular inside right way so I don’t get in trouble — This particular was more about the idea of me than actually wanting to be with me,” he said, “as well as also also I got that will confused with actual love as well as also also romanticism.”
For all his success, there is actually something still tender about Mr. Puth. He carries himself softly, behaves considerately. In school, he was an eager student. “Driven, driven, driven,” Ms. DioGuardi said. “Always ready to answer a question, expound on why he thought something was Great or bad. He stood out. He was quirky as well as also also funny.” When he talks about the work Babyface did on TLC’s “CrazySexyCool,” he notes how the intro is actually in B minor as well as also also then the next song, “Creep,” shifts to C minor. During the interview, when he heard a bird chirping in his backyard, he squawked back, “B flat!”
He learned piano via his mother, as well as also also commuted via brand new Jersey to the Manhattan School of Music before heading to college at Berklee. During high school, he wrote jingles for YouTube stars, as well as also also later, in college, was briefly signed to Ellen DeGeneres’s record label after a YouTube cover he did — a duet type of Adele’s “Someone Like You” — took off in 2011. When “See You Again” became a smash, he was producing his way as a behind-the-scenes force: Lil Wayne’s “Nothing nevertheless Trouble” began as Mr. Puth’s song lamenting Instagram designs; he wrote Trey Songz’s “Slow Motion”; as well as also also he produced “Broke,” a madcap collaboration by Keith Urban, Jason Derulo as well as also also Stevie Wonder. (Again, yes, a real song.)
nevertheless even though he’s been working at becoming famous for so long, he’s still growing into his pop star presence.
There was a brief flicker of the 2015-16 Puth around the Discharge of “Attention.” He went on “The Voice” to perform the song, in a tight red shirt, surrounded by flexible female dancers. The “Voice” judge as well as also also brand new friend Adam Levine texted him afterward that will he felt the performance wasn’t a true reflection of his artistry.
Mr. Levine was right. “This particular was fake,” Mr. Puth said. “This particular was an invention in my mind, a hypothetical that will could work.” The next time he performed the song on television, he stripped This particular down with the Roots on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“You can have a career like Bruno Mars as well as also also not be seen everywhere,” Mr. Puth said. “I’m getting back my tortoise shell.”
as well as also also doing so is actually maybe allowing him to put his heart on the line again. inside studio with Mr. Carlsson, instead of getting mired inside skepticism as well as also also frustration that will define “Voicenotes,” he was writing about how a brand new crush tingles:
I love the way
Those letters feel
When I write your name in my phone
Write your name in my phone, babe