Release Date: Jan 29, 2016
Record label: Atlantic
Fresh from committing crimes against the English language with his chart-topping single Marvin Gaye – a collaboration with Meghan “All About That Bass” Trainor that co-opted the soul giant’s name into one of the more grammatically cavalier refrains of recent times – Charlie Puth releases his debut album. But there are no repeats of such lyrical misdemeanours here – instead the 24-year-old Puth errs on the side of caution. Taking cues from classic R&B, his subtly retro record makes few concessions to the present day, and the ones that are there feel perfunctory: Losing My Mind, for example, begins with a looped soul sample that quickly recedes to make way for yet more crooning.
Having started out as a songwriter for hire, 24-year-old New Jersey native Charlie Puth got his big break with last year’s huge Wiz Khalifa collaboration, See You Again. His debut album aims for credible, vintage soul-pop but is hampered by a severe lack of personality. My Gospel and Left Right Left are basically crude Bruno Mars facsimiles, while in the inordinately embarrassing No 1 single Marvin Gaye, Puth casts himself as the male version of the song’s featured guest, Meghan Trainor.
The title suggests our singer/songwriter can't be confined to any one lane -- that his mind moves so fast, it doesn't run on one track but nine. For all this bluster, Charlie Puth essentially has two modes on his 2016 debut: balladeer and song-and-dance man. If the latter doesn't surface as often as the former, it nevertheless rules the roost on Nine Track Mind because in the bottom of his heart, Puth is a music theater kid chomping at the bit to put on a snazzy show.
Go ahead, blame Wiz Khalifa. Casting about for some kind of hook delivery system to anchor Furious 7’s lugubrious elegy “See You Again,” the guy who once apologized for sucking alighted upon Charlie Puth, a sad-eyed lad of the Pinelands equipped with a falsetto soon to set grown men blubbering in multiplexes nationwide. Aided by a video eventually topping one billion-plus views, the tune perched stubbornly atop Billboard’s Hot 100 for twelve weeks, and thus the Teflon-voiced Puth became a star.
There are 12 tracks on Charlie Puth’s debut album Nine Track Mind, which is either three or 12 too many. But no matter; the album is a smoothly executed pitch deck of exactly what will perform on pop radio in 2016, and Puth—pronounced "Pooth," and the slice through his right eyebrow is from a childhood canine attack, if you’re wondering—will do just fine. The 24-year-old Berklee College of Music graduate and former YouTube star of the acoustic-cover variety has already had three top 40 singles, all since last February: first, the demonic Meghan Trainor duet "Marvin Gaye," then, the Paul Walker Memorial Beanie Baby track "See You Again" (featuring Wiz Khalifa), then "One Call Away," an ocean of syrup that sounds exactly like "See You Again," and is the first song on the LP.