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Charlie Puth goes for a different sound in his first new album in four years

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, singer Charlie Puth has a new album out. You may know him from his stand out hits like "See You Again" and "Marvin Gaye." The new album is called "Charlie," and it's his first one since his wildly popular 2018 release, "Voice Notes." When we caught up with the superstar whose videos have garnered more than a billion views on YouTube, he told us he was going for a different sound for his first album in four years.

CHARLIE PUTH: I'd say that the main inspiration for my album, "Charlie," was to not make an album like "Voice Notes," which came out in 2018. With "Charlie," I wasn't looking towards any genre. I wasn't researching any artists. I kind of had to live with my own feelings for two years and figure out what melodies and beats would work on top of these feelings that I had kind of shoved under the rug.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEFT AND RIGHT")

PUTH: (Singing) Memories follow left me and right. I can feel you over here. I can feel you over here. You take up every corner of my mind.

That's "Left And Right." And that is is Track 6 on my album, "Charlie." And I always start with the sonics. I always start with the sounds. And I think what made that song come about was that snare drum. It's so delightfully out of place. But I need to make sure that every sound I layer into my productions is somewhat diatonic to the key. So I had something harmonic with something that isn't traditionally harmonic going. And then I layered that bass down, that kind of - and I'm drawing a blank on that name of that Red Hot Chili Pepper's song, "Californication," something like that, (vocalizing). When I heard that bass when I was in eighth grade, I think it came out, I was really impressed with how one instrument was able to sound like a bunch of instruments. And I kind of took that approach with that kind of ambiguous-sounding instrument that starts off in the record.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEFT AND RIGHT")

PUTH: (Singing) Memories follow me left and right. I can feel you over here. I can feel you over here. You take up every corner of my mind. What you going to do now? Ever since the day you went away, no, I, don't know how, how to erase your body from out my brain. What you going to do now? Maybe I should focus on me instead. But all I think about are the nights we were tangled up in your bed. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. You're going round in circles. Got you stuck up in my head. Yeah. Memories follow me left and right. I can feel you over here. I can feel you over here. You Take up every corner of my mind.

These songs were all made for a live setting. I picture people in the audience going from the left side to the right side. It's kind of an interactive video game, this song, in a way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOSER")

PUTH: (Singing) Oh, maybe I must have been out of my mind. Now, I'm a loser. Why'd I have to lose her? I'll never recover. I'll never be fine 'cause I just might get a little too drunk, so I won't think about us. I don't think about what we could have been. And I stay up like three or four nights, so I won't dream about us. I wake up with no luck. I just can't win. I should have seen it all along. She was one in a million. It hurts whenever someone says her name.

So that's "Loser." That would be Track 7 on my album, "Charlie." That song started out with me showering. I was showering one day, kind of reminiscing about a time where I thought I had lost someone really important in my life, someone very vibrant in my life, someone that made me a better person. And I was being a moron and running around Los Angeles. And I thought I lost my chances with them. And I told myself, you're such a loser, Charlie. How'd you ever lose her?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOSER")

PUTH: (Singing) Oh, I'm such a loser, how'd I ever lose her? Oh, maybe I must have been out of my mind. Now I'm a loser.

Melodically, it's almost something like a cello, a cellist would play (vocalizing). It's haunting in a way. So you have that happy and sad sonic dichotomy and the happy and sad - it's the saddest lyric I've ever written, and it's in such a happy-go-lucky key. It's like the song that you can do your awkward dad dance to because that's how I dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIGHT SWITCH")

PUTH: (Singing) Why you calling at 11:30 when you only want to do me dirty?

Four years ago, I was in a completely different position. And when I parted ways with that prior record label, I kind of felt like I was landing a plane with no landing gear. And by the way, we were going through a worldwide pandemic. I thought my career as a touring musician was pretty much over. And the reason why that was significant for me is because that I would write my best work after getting off stage. I lost that in the pandemic. And that was my main source of inspiration, crowds and people, real-life people, feeding off the energy of that. So I turned to - in an unconventional way, I turned to the internet and try to recreate that performing element and receiving that energy from a digital way from people on TikTok, performing for them in a different way, making the album for them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIGHT SWITCH")

PUTH: (Singing) Do you love it when you keep me guessing? When you leave, and then you leave me stressing. But I can't stay mad when you walk like that, no.

MARTIN: That was singer Charlie Puth talking about a few songs from his new album, "Charlie," which is out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.