Charlie Puth is more than a pretty handsome face with a pretty voice.
The 24-year-old singer-songwriter from New Jersey, who broke through with the smash “See You Again” with Wiz Khalifa, clearly has a plan on his debut “Nine Track Mind” (Atlantic).
Puth tries hard to avoid getting boxed in as a singer of teen pop, even though that’s really what he’s best at, like the yearning piano ballad “One Call Away.”
He adds some doo-wop trappings to “Marvin Gaye,” which cleverly uses the soul singer’s name as a verb and taps into Meghan Trainor’s retro vibe even before she shows up. But the more straightforward “We Don’t Talk Anymore” with Selena Gomez actually works much better, gliding along easily on its simple, acoustic, slightly tropical groove.
Sometimes, Puth gets a little too cheesy, like on the cutesy “Left Right Left” and its chorus of “Left right left right left.” But where he really gets in trouble is the messy, Sam Smith-styled “Suffer,” where his material falls short of the style.
Puth shows promise, but he can’t quite pull off everything he wants on “Nine Track Mind.”