Far from the blockbuster pop of his 2016 debut, Nine Track Mind, or the seductive early-’90s R&B of 2018’s Voicenotes, Charlie Puth’s third LP is about the pop star’s sense of interiority. Written with what he calls “feelings first, music to follow,” it’s about the two biggest breakups of his life: a romantic relationship in 2019 and his former record label. If there is a single theme that binds the songs together, he claims it’s bitterness, but a better word might be ‘catharsis.’ “These thoughts spin in my head like a dishwasher,” he tells Apple Music. “I put them against a beat, add some melody, and when the song is finished, it’s like putting a letter in a glass bottle and sending it off into the ocean.” The overall effect is a richer sound, from the stacked ’80s synth-pop of “There’s a First Time for Everything” to the 2000s pop rock of “Smells Like Me” and the sole collaboration, “Left and Right,” featuring BTS’s Jung Kook. “I don't hold any sort of resentment for any of the people in those parties that I openly sing about on this record. I have nothing against them,” he says. “But it was important for me to get all this wording out on this album.” Below, Puth walks Apple Music through CHARLIE, track by track. “That’s Hilarious” “All of these songs come with combining an ugly and a beautiful thing together. In this song, I wanted the lyrics to be ugly and beautiful at the same time, just like I wanted the sound to be ugly and beautiful as well. It starts with pretty chords, then the pre-chorus lyric comes in: ‘You took away a year of my fucking life.’ That’s not exactly subtle. Almost at the minute mark, there’s a really low sine-wave bass that I ran through this Mike Dean plug-in that made it sound super distorted. That is representative of what was the most turbulent time in my life, where I was most uncomfortable.” “Charlie Be Quiet!” “I came up with that heavily syncopated, verselike melody as the chorus while going on a walk. I was listening to ‘The Whisper Song,’ produced by Mr. Collipark for the Ying Yang Twins. I thought, ‘Why has no one made a song where someone’s whispering?’ Then, in the second half of the chorus, you have the illusion of it getting louder for the listener, but it’s actually all mastered to the same level. You just jumped the octave.” “Light Switch” “I wrote and produced the record ‘STAY’ for Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI, so I was in a very fast mood. I wanted to make fast music, that’s where this started from. I’ve always been obsessed with Broadway plays and cartoons—how they would use music to accentuate movements on the stage. If someone’s tiptoeing, you hear a pizzicato string. I literally saw a light switch, and I was like, ‘What do you do with a light switch? You turn the light switch on.’ OK, let’s be really corny. And so, ‘You turn me on like a light switch’ was it. Maybe the Broadway songs stay Broadway songs for a reason.” “There’s a First Time for Everything” “During the time I was making this song, I was exploring new people, taking part in activities that I had never really partaken in before. I’ll say lightly, there’s the first time for everything, and you have one life. There was this sense of euphoria in my mind, just knowing that there’s an open world out there, and that’s what I wanted the record to sonically match.” “Smells Like Me” “It’s supposed to be the song that you hear in the beginning of a 2000s reality show, like The Hills. It’s a very ugly word, ‘smells,’ and it doesn't sing very well. What sound represents the word ‘smells’? So, I just screamed into the microphone and Auto-Tuned that, so it became distorted and robotic. Then came that dreamy arpeggio. It reminded me of The Little Mermaid.” “Left and Right” “This song is simple. You can’t eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant every night. Sometimes you just got to get a burger and fries from McDonald’s: three chords, fun, and not about anything super heavy. I loved that dichotomy of how BTS's music is very well-produced, very crispy, very bright, and this song is the opposite. Jung Kook’s voice is usually associated with big, bright, powerful K-pop chords, and putting it under that Red Hot Chili Peppers type of bass, grunginess—I really liked that combination.” “Loser” “This song started off with the title. I was in the shower, recalling a time where I felt like I really messed it up with somebody. I thought that I lost them forever. I felt like a loser. I’m a singer living in LA, I’m seeing too many people, and I’m a loser. I followed up with, ‘How’d I ever lose her?’ And it just happens to rhyme. It sounds like a nursery rhyme that’s been around forever. Just a self-deprecating, sad one.” “When You’re Sad I’m Sad” “This is a song about being manipulated. When you’re sad, I’m sad. If you break up with me, and you move on with someone else, and you then come back to me, saying, ‘I made a big mistake,’ I’m going to forget about all my morals, and I’m going to swallow all my pride with one huge, sodalike gulp, and I’m going to go over to your house. I'm going to console you and comfort you because I am manipulated into loving you.” “Marks on My Neck” “I was seeing someone new. I remember waking up the next morning with my neck all bruised up, from some unclipped fingernails. And I’m like, ‘Oh, my god. I got to cover this up. I’m driving up to see my parents right now.’ We lost touch, so the memory of this person started to fade away, as did the marks on my neck. They started to heal. The parallel is interesting—these marks fade the more my memory fades.” “Tears on My Piano” “I remember seeing Bruce Springsteen play Giants Stadium and his audience screaming along. Clarence Clemons played this saxophone solo on ‘Jungleland,’ and 50,000 fans were screaming, and there were no lyrics. ‘One day, I’m going to write a song where people can scream along to the non-existing lyrics, just the melody.’ And with that in mind, I came up with the melody, ‘These tears on my piano,’ where the piano melody would be singable. The piano part almost sounds a little sloppy because my fingers were wet from all the tears falling out of my eyes, hitting the piano.” “I Don’t Think That I Like Her” “Travis Barker added a really important layer of drums amongst the synthetic drums. It gave the song something that I just wouldn’t be able to do on my own. I like a singer singing something and the listener thinking the opposite. Like ‘Missing You’ by John Waite, where he says, ‘I ain’t missing you at all/Since you’ve been gone.’ Of course, you’re missing this person. You’re in denial. I’m in denial on this song, and I wanted to say that without saying that.” “No More Drama” “The album starts off bitter and self-correcting. ‘No More Drama’ is me waving goodbye to all those other 11 songs, sailing on to the next year of my life as a well-seasoned person. I’m ready to move on to the next. It’s the perfect ending punctuation for this album.”

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