Over the past three years, Charlie Puth has proven himself commercially with the extraordinary success of four multi-platinum hits, "One Call Away," "Marvin Gaye," and "We Don't Talk Anymore" from his platinum-selling, Top 10 debut Nine Track Mind, as well as his breakout hit "See You Again" – the best-selling song of 2015 worldwide that spent 12 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, earned him three Grammy nominations (including Song of the Year) and a 9x-platinum certification in the U.S. But the New Jersey-born singer, songwriter, musician, and producer was also eager to prove himself artistically when it came time to make his second album, Voicenotes, named after the trusty iPhone app he uses to collect his musical ideas.
Puth co-wrote every song and recorded and produced the album entirely himself (barring one song he co-produced with Max Martin) mainly at his home studio in Los Angeles. A meticulously crafted game-changer replete with sparkling melodies and sleek, danceable grooves, Voicenotes decimates everything people may think they know about this musical polymath, who has not only written and produced his own massive hits, but also for other artists spanning a range of genres, including Jason Derulo, Trey Songz, Thomas Rhett, Maroon 5, and G-Eazy. On Voicenotes, Puth allows himself to truly be seen, not only as an artist but also as a human, which meant stepping out from behind the detached façade of lovelorn balladeering and being transparent about his emotions and influences.
On the lyrical front, Voicenotes is an album that is largely about Puth's struggle to find a normal relationship when his own life has hardly been normal since finding multiplatinum success, and the anxiety that pursuit has induced. "I wanted it to be a story of my travels from the East Coast to the West Coast and how my growing fame has affected my mind in good and bad ways," he says. The first three singles – "Attention," "How Long," and "Done For Me" featuring Kehlani – cover that territory. Songs like "LA Girls," "Like A Boy," and "Slow It Down" detail different aspects of the rarified life of someone who feels like he should be enjoying the glittering lifestyle of fabulous parties and ample romantic opportunities, but just doesn't – something Puth addresses on self-acceptance anthem "The Way I Am," which opens the record.
To achieve his goal of making people want to "dance and cry at the same time," Puth allowed his love for jazz and late '80s/early '90s R&B to shine through, which upped the music's sophistication level several notches. Voicenotes' up-tempo, groove-minded songs like "Attention," "How Long," "Done For Me," and "The Way I Am" are so effortlessly catchy that they seem simple on the surface, but are hardly that. His classical training is also on full display, along with his impeccable influences – which range from jazz greats Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans to R&B songwriter-producers Babyface, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Teddy Riley. Puth's musical heroes even turn up on two of Voicenotes' tracks, "If You Leave Me Now," featuring Boys II Men and "Change," featuring his idol James Taylor.