As someone who hasn't particularly enjoyed the pop reigns of 2015, especially when some of them included Charlie Puth, it's easy to get side-tracked here. But hopefully, maybe, after all, I could be convinced that I am wrong. Wrong about the pop reigns of course -- why would I be wrong about Charlie Puth? I mean, you know.
Barring the heights and success of an over-produced mess of See You Again (featuring Wiz Khalifa cause he's in almost everything now) and the "rot-in-hell" duet with Meghan Trainor on Marvin Gaye (why you'd use a soul legend's name for a title track, that I will never know), Charlie Puth hasn't really graced much attention since then. While I'm not exactly hating on the guy here, c'mon (as he sings repeatedly on One Call Away), he hasn't really done himself any justice, especially with his music.
So what does the American singer-songwriter and record producer have in store for us in his debut album? Well, it's safe to say either you've predicted the hits already, or you've probably strayed away -- and no one should be blamed for whatever side you choose.
If you've listened to Charlie's EP Some Type of Love, you more or less already got the vibe and essence of Nine Track Mind as the two are similar, considering four of the tracks on the EP are in his latest release. While I don't think that his previous release was all that bad, it was decent, and that made the trudging to this album sort of a tightrope. Was he going to stick around to that sound or overdevelop each of them?
Well, Nine Track Mind feels more safe with some risk takings dropped in here, albeit carried by sometimes too much obnoxious singing and vocal inflections that make Adam Levine feel like a saint. Not too 'bash' him per se, but you can see where the album is going when the first track on the album, One Call Away, has lyrics like "Superman got nothing on me". Yes, disingenuous and completely insincere. Now, that's not to say that the two attributes listed above are consistently embedded into every song, but there are tracks here that really feel like a landmine simply due to the production being either too chaotic or messy, or simply Charlie Puth deciding to moonlight his way out of trouble because, well, it's the easy way.
For example, Suffer's piano introduction leaves a ballad-like symphony to follow, and the song feels immediately familiar to Puth fans due to the song being on his EP. While the swift and soft finger snaps and drums hardly overtake the piano presence, Charlie Puth decides to detonate a vocal chord simply because he needed to "spice" up the track, as if he needed to over-carry a track to the finish line just because he can. And this happens multiple times throughout the album that makes it so frustrating to listen to considering the inflections are either hit way out of the ballpark or are so lackluster and so devoid of passion that it falls flat and barely contributes to anything at all.
The features on this album -- holy hell, do they really hold up. While Meghan Trainor's distasteful verse shows up to try and make the lead single of the album "cute" and contemporary, you have Shy Carter probably asking himself what the hell he is doing on As You Are ("I know when I saw you that guy was just giving me a second chance"? What?). The only one that seems to be giving any sort of effort is Selena Gomez on We Don't Talk Anymore, backed up by a very frenetic guitar strum that doesn't give any space for both artists to breathe. Due to the strumming becoming too prominent, it leaves Selena very less to work with, making the track trying to squeeze out as much emotion while trying to hold back on the vocal department. And it doesn't work well at all.
The production on the album is decent, if I'm being honest. There's a lot of problems when it comes to trying to over-boiling such as Then There's You with it's weak songwriting on a theme and situation we've heard thousands of times, it doesn't really feel all that sincere and genuine. Still, I'm glad that on others like My Gospel where there's nothing Charlie Puth "won't do" to get a love has much more toned down drum and guitar sections to let him open up the track the way it was meant to be, and this gives the track a dramatic and thematic feel to it. All in all, the production gets away scarily close. It's definitely not as bad as I had hoped.
Then we get to Charlie Puth himself. Considering he wrote pretty much all the tracks by himself, there's got to be a limit where he has to say "I can't sing this" or "I can't hit those notes", because apparently, he tries to aim sky-high and at times embarrasses himself so. Dangerously's chorus has the squeamish overlay where Puth sings "eee-eee" at the end of every line because he may have felt that it would've added weight to the song. Turns out, sometimes less is better. His vocals on others do feel much in-tune with the tracks, and this definitely shows that had Puth given himself ways in which he wouldn't be portrayed as incompetent or trying too hard on some of the tracks, it would've worked so much better.
While it may seem like there's many negatives on this record, it isn't all that bad as I had hoped, and that's not much to say for other artists. Considering he just dropped on to the scene in less than half a decade, Charlie Puth still has quite a long way to go before people work out why we should be listening to this guy over someone who tries to be sincere and genuine, but at the same time probably over-reaches and falls flat anyway. Oh wait, it's the same guy.
Overall the album is decent with Charlie Puth taking center stage (as should be) and with the tag-team production being shaky at times. It's hard to recommend the album to someone who might not love pop music as much as the next guy, but considering some of the tracks here, it's more than enough for the avid radio listener to enjoy. It strayed off the mark by a slight margin, but that's not to say that it's not a fun and at the very least enjoyable album. Just don't go in too deep expecting raw heartfelt emotion, because it's not here.
Favourite Tracks: Some Type Of Love, My Gospel, Left Right Left
Least Favourite Tracks: Marvin Gaye, Then There's You, Losing My Mind
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.