A pop musician who advanced from YouTube likes to RIAA certifications, Charlie Puth has regularly achieved multi-platinum status on his own and with high-profile collaborators. Puth started a lengthy all-platinum run with the Meghan Trainor duet “Marvin Gaye” (2015) and didn’t look back, though he has regularly applied vintage sounds including early R&B, classic singer/songwriters, and the commercial end of new wave to his high-spirited contemporary pop. The singer, songwriter, and producer notched a couple additional hits prior to issuing his debut album, Nine Track Mind (2016), including the chart-topping Wiz Khalifa collaboration “See You Again.” He continued to roll through second full-length Voicenotes (2018), the guest list of which, from James Taylor to Kehlani, balanced influences with contemporaries.
Charlie Puth started formal music training at an early age in his native Rumson, New Jersey. He made a debut of sorts in the sixth grade with a Christmas album he recorded, copied, and sold on his own. In high school, he studied jazz piano in the Manhattan School of Music’s pre-college program, which led to enrollment at Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee, his social media uploads gained an early supporter in television host Ellen DeGeneres, who in 2011 signed him and duet partner Emily Luther to her Warner Bros.-affiliated eleveneleven label. Puth and Luther performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show the following year, but no studio recordings materialized from the recording contract. Puth remained active with social media as he wrapped up his Berklee studies — he graduated in 2013 with a degree in songwriting, music production, and engineering — and continued adding to his discography of self-released material.
Across 2014, Puth placed songs on full-lengths by Pitbull and Bonnie McKee, and extensively worked on Blue Sky, an album by mentor and Berklee voice professor Livingston Taylor. His career accelerated after he signed with Atlantic early the next year. That February, “Marvin Gaye,” featuring vocals from Meghan Trainor, was released as his major-label debut and began its ascent to multi-platinum status. Within a month, Puth was heard on Wiz Khalifa’s Furious 7 soundtrack contribution “See You Again,” a tribute to actor Paul Walker that went to number one in dozens of territories including the U.S., U.K., and Germany. Some Type of Love, a four-track EP, was out in May, followed three months later by true “Marvin Gaye” successor “One Call Away,” also an eventual multi-platinum single, which doubled as another preview of Puth’s forthcoming album. Throughout that breakout year, Puth racked up additional co-writing credits with material for Skizzy Mars, Jason Derulo, Trey Songz, and Cee Lo Green. “See You Again” was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year.
Nine Track Mind, Puth’s first proper full-length, arrived in January 2016. A few months after it debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, it was bolstered by the Selena Gomez duet “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” a Top Ten hit that continued Puth’s streak of multi-platinum hits as a headliner. Recording-wise, he was comparatively quiet the rest of the year, heard on Little Mix’s “Oops” and DNCE’s guest-filled version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” In 2017, Puth strode toward his second album with “Attention” and “How Long,” a pair of breezy, breathy numbers that added to his RIAA plaques. The former single became his second Top Ten pop hit as lead artist. Puth additionally charted as co-songwriter of Zara Larsson’s “So Good” and Liam Payne’s “Bedroom Floor,” and for Maroon 5 co-wrote and co-produced “Lips on You.” Collaborations with Boyz II Men, James Taylor, and Kehlani were issued ahead of Voicenotes, Puth’s second album, released in May 2018. ~ Andy Kellman