“I went completely rogue,” Charlie Puth says of how he made his new 12-song album Charlie. “I was by myself when I made the album, but I involved the Internet into the creation of it, so it felt like I was in the room with millions of people.”
Puth is speaking about his flourishing social media presence, where millions of followers (including nearly 20 million on TikTok and 17 million on Instagram) have delighted in short videos of the self-confessed “audio dork” joyfully sharing how he makes music at home on his computer. There a clip of him recording a literal light-switch sound and placing it into Charlie’s lead single “Light Switch.” And there’s the snippet of him chatting with an unseen executive who, apparently exasperated at Puth missing a deadline, sighs “oh no,” which then inspires Puth to record the same lyric in the album’s second single “Left and Right,” featuring Jung Kook of BTS. (Both “Light Switch” and “Left and Right” reached the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.)
“It’s basically how this whole album came together,” Puth tells the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast (listen to his interview below). It was about “involving the energetic feelings of people that weren’t in the room with me but were online, and it felt like they were in the room with me.”
But who actually is behind those clips of Puth geeking out in his home studio? An army of social media experts and editors lurking behind the camera? Well, actually… “It’s me and maybe a ring light, or some natural light,” he says. “It’s important for it to come from me, just like it’s important for the music to be produced by me, for my own project.” Though he’s not against working with others, it’s just “right now, I might as well really show people who I am.”
That vibe carries over to how he wanted the album’s sound to be truthful to his experiences over the past few years.
“On a personal level, I went through a lot of good and bad feelings, and happy and sad feelings, during the years of 2020 to 2022. And it seemed like it was all happening at the same time.
“I took note of what I was going through and it was a bunch of happy and sad feelings happening at the same time. And I thought to myself, what does happy and sad sound like? I know what it feels like, I know what it looks like. But what does a happy and sad song sound like? … And I did that 12 times on this album. So that’s the approach that I took sonically.”
One of those songs is the set’s “Left and Right,” which boasts the album’s lone guest artist, Jung Kook of BTS. While the song was originally just a solo track by Puth, he says “I was listening to it and I just felt like it called for having another person’s perspective … What if I featured an artist that maybe doesn’t even speak English? And can pull it off in a way and emote the same thing we all feel?” And voila, Jung Kook hopped on the song and sang in English alongside Puth.
On the day the Charlie album bowed, Puth also released the set’s latest music video, for “Loser.” Puth plays dueling characters in the goofy Wild West-themed clip, which doesn’t have an altogether clear storyline. But that’s the point.
“Truly, the video makes no sense at all,” he says. “I just wanted to make it. [Laughs] There is no story. I don’t preface anything as to why the two are dueling or battling. The song, it makes zero sense [in the context of the video]. But you know what? Several famous directors have reached out to my creative director and said ‘I didn’t know Charlie acted!’ So maybe I did a good job.
“I was told that I should never make a video like that,” he added. “Because I have to be the cool artist. I gotta make a video where I’m singing to a girl. That video is inspired by movies like Airplane! and [its star] Leslie Nielsen. He was one of my favorite actors.”
Later this month, Puth will embark on a short tour, which kicks off Oct. 23 with a homecoming show in Red Bank, N.J., at the Count Basie Center for the Arts. Puth will play theaters and other similarly intimate venues in eight U.S. cities before heading to Europe for four dates in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin in late November and early December. A larger tour has been teased for 2023.
As for the theater run this year, Puth says, “I put this tour together with my team kind of not knowing where I stood as — I’ll say what no artist will ever say — I did not know where I stood as a touring artist.
“I thought at one point my career as a touring artist was over. I had no idea. It had been like a couple years since I had something on [the] Billboard [charts]. Like, where did I stand as a touring artist?”
He says he and his team got together and plotted a small tour to test the waters. “Sold out immediately,” Puth says. So it’s unlikely he’ll be playing such small venues for the upcoming larger tour in 2023, but in the meantime, he’s “taking it as an opportunity to realize I’m not really going to be able to play these small rooms anymore – and I’m fortunate enough to say that. But one of the best things about playing these small rooms is that you can connect to your fans, like I connect to my fans on TikTok.”
Also on the show, we’ve got chart news on how Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” holds firm at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” and Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” both post big gains, and how Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti ties for the most weeks at No. 1 atop the Billboard 200 albums chart in the past 10 years. Plus, Katie shares her experience of getting to see Justin Timberlake perform a packed set of throwbacks at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles 2022 Gala.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard‘s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard‘s executive digital director, West Coast, Katie Atkinson and Billboard’s senior director of charts Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)