To call Charlie Puth an underground artist would be oversimplifying things: the 22-year-old singer/songwriter/producer and Berklee College of Music graduate has already landed himself on The Ellen Show to play for a national audience, and in fact was signed to DeGeneres' record label, eleveneleven. Unfortunately, Puth is still not getting the recognition he deserves.
As of May 2014, Puth has amassed over 350,000 YouTube subscribers and over 36,000 Twitter followers. However, these numbers, however impressive, are not in any way indicative of his talent with music or his potential as a brand. Other than a string of covers and original singles, Puth has released two albums on iTunes. The first, The Otto Tunes, was released December 2nd, 2010, and while it demonstrated promise, the album is fairly elementary in its production and song quality (it contains such memorable hits as "I Suck At Writing Lyrics" in which Puth does, comically and self-referentially, suck at writing lyrics). It is on Ego, Puth's first full-length album, where is musical prowess begins to shine.
Ego is a striking blend of pop hits, introspective ballads, and R&B tunes that showcase Puth's abilities as a vocal powerhouse and consummate professional. Released October 1st, 2013, this ten-song track list starts and finishes the same way--whimsical yet strong. The album is launched with the impossibly catchy anthem "Look At Me Now," which, with its triumphant lyrics and commanding instrumentation, proves that Puth is aware that he's hit his stride, and he is only in for more success. The next three songs show off Puth's rhythm and blues chops. "Seventeen" is gentle but percussive; "In the Dark" falls and rises from tranquil rapping (if such a thing were to exist) and smooth melody lines to electronic, record-scratching nirvana; and "Ride to Melrose (feat. Mike Ballz)" is gritty and ethereal. Charlie reminds his fans of his endearing, goofy side with "Your Name (The Ukelele)," an irresistible song about love at first sight that will have every last listener swooning and dying to play it again--also, if you have time, check out the video; it's Charlie's personal blend of absurdity and sweetness that hearkens back to his early YouTube days. "Beautiful Corruption" is a classic ballad, with such heartbreaking lyrics as "I'll try not to think of you / if you say you don't feel the same." It transitions into "Full of It," another satisfying R&B throwback with lilting instrumentation, dry lyrics, and a stunning vocal performance, one of Puth's best on the album. "Kiss Me" is another ballad that oozes urgency and the most painful kind of love; though it has relatively simple production, it is one of the most poignant tracks on the album. That tragic tune leaps somewhat jarringly to "Lights Go Out," a delightful take on the usual "stay out late/dance all night" trope, which of course Puth delivers expertly. The final track, "Tangerine Dreams," is the auditory embodiment of an early August evening, with delicious strums of electric guitar and laid-back harmonies. Ego is not only impressively written, but also demonstrates a clear mastery of production. It is easy to track Puth's growth from his early work up to Ego, and the change is reassuring and remarkable. It is clear that he is on an upward swing with no signs of stopping.
From Ego's release to the present, Charlie has only become more skillful at singing, songwriting, and producing. Some of his recent YouTube releases include "The 90s," a brilliant, bouncing hit that's wildly fun to dance to, and "Go Round," a unique, erotic, tough single that's punctuated by robotic mellifluousness. His maturity, wit, and rhythmicity are growing exponentially from track to track, and it's clear his music education has not gone to waste. He is meticulous in his preparations and consistently successful in his execution. It would not be an overstatement to say that he is one to watch in the coming years.
Charlie Puth's popularity is only going to soar from here. His next EP is in the works, and I await it with increasing anticipation. A collaboration with him someday might be farfetched, but hey, a girl can dream, right? :)