Mediocre in tune and tone, Charlie Puth’s new album CHARLIE is largely unremarkable.
Puth’s third album, CHARLIE follows the 2018 release of Voicenotes, which peaked at number four on the Billboard 200. The self-referential post-breakup compendium is composed of twelve tracks. Puth documented his writing process on TikTok, where snippets of audio went viral long before the album’s release on Oct. 7, 2022. Produced entirely by the artist, the album seems to be an attempt at serious critical success—which Puth, despite his huge commercial hits, has yet to really obtain.
But CHARLIE’s simple writing falls flat. Its lackluster lyricism is punctuated by clichés: “the stars are aligning,” “the tables have turned,” and tears that fall “like a river.” The crooning chorus of “Loser”—“Oh, I’m such a loser / How’d I ever lose her?”—verges more on comedy than tragedy. In “I Don’t Think I Like Her Anymore,” the irritating flippancy of “Girls are all the same / All they wanna do is break my heart” is whiny and vague.
With the exception of a few worthwhile moments of sonic exploration—such as the panning in “Left and Right” and the distortion-heavy “Charlie Be Quiet!”—Puth’s newest songs have little variation. Noisy and strained, the bulk of the album lacks the rich, retro-style melodies of Voicenotes. The ballad “When You’re Sad, I’m Sad” strays from the album’s other pop-heavy tracks but comes off as dull and hackneyed.
CHARLIE is not an all-around failure: many songs maintain the singer’s characteristic catchiness. But the album lacks the emotional depth of a true heartbreak anthology. Successful writing about breakups can be simple—it can even be cliché—but above all, it must be candid. Most of Puth’s generic, untethered verses simply lack authenticity.
The few moments that work in CHARLIE are gritty and stripped-down. Beneath the tinny, oversaturated pop atmosphere, Puth manages some glimpses of real honesty. This is the singer I was hoping for: desolate, blunt, and straightforward. The singer who, in “I Don’t Think I Like Her,” can confess simply, “But damn it, I miss her.”