charlie puth

Pop Song Review: Charlie Puth, “Marvin Gaye” (feat. Meghan Trainor)

Piggy-backing on more popular artists: like snail gel masks and proper bantz, it’s what all the hip young kids are into these days, specifically hip young pop artists looking for an easy road to a wider audience. Case in point, today’s pop song review is “Marvin Gaye” by professional hang-on-wasn’t-he-the-one-playing-piano-in-that-Fast-&-Furious-7-song-yes-I-think-he-was, Charlie Puth, featuring Meghan Trainor who, as far as I’m aware, has not sung for any car movies to date. But the century is young.

First impressions: Oh, it’s that song. You know the one.

The music: Like a lot of Meghan Trainor’s music, “Marvin Gaye” is an upbeat, midtempo pop song whose retro-Fifties sound and aesthetic fits in well with her catalogue so far. The problem: this isn’t a Meghan Trainor song, or not technically at least. No, this is a Charlie Puth song, a performer you know so little about you’re not even sure how to pronounce his last name.

What I’m getting at here is that Mr. Puth (Mr. Pooth?) doesn’t have much of a musical personality or resumé beyond being the chorus guy on Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again.” Now admittedly that song did do very well in the charts, so on achievements alone he’s doing okay for himself, but it’s still only one song in which his contribution basically amounted to plonking out a few piano chords while doing a passable Sam Smith impression.

Speaking of that impression, I can’t say it fits the music too well here. You can tell Puth is doing his best to rein in his vocals, presumably so as not to overpower the melody, but as a result he never sounds like he’s particularly enjoying himself, which you kinda need to in order for a song this exuberant to really work. Instead he goes for this husky, yearning baritone (is it a baritone? Sounds like a baritone) that’s all out of place. He does at least employ a higher register for the chorus, but it still sounds like he’s being coerced into his performance by a hefty-sized producer with a knuckle-duster.

Is it me or is the beat really askew in Trainor’s verse, too? Puth’s verse has a decent plod to it that, while not too exciting, is at least consistent. I can nod my head to it. But then Trainor’s verse comes in and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. I mean, sure, her voice fits the music more than Puth’s does, but for a woman who sang that she was “all about that bass” there sure isn’t much of it around when she’s taking her turn at the mike.

So, some positives? Well, the chorus hook is memorable, if not terribly catchy, and the production is generally quite smooth. And, er, the video has some pretty people in it. I… look, I’m sorry, guys, but this sounds like something that was written for a Disney movie. It’s simplistic, competently produced and just pleasing enough to the ears that you won’t even realise you’re sick of it until it’s lodged in your brain like an ice pick.

And by the way, if this is supposed to be some sort of tribute to the man, it’s a weird one. I haven’t actually heard a lot of Marvin Gaye’s music beyond the hits, but the little I have heard this doesn’t sound anything like. Marvin Gaye sang sensual R&B slow jams, not bouncy bubblegum pop with a vague whiff of doo-wop.

The lyrics: “You got the healing that I want.” Oh jeez, is that what this song’s going to be? A series of Marvin Gaye puns? If it is, I’m out. I’m out, people. There’s the door, right over there, and these boots? Pfft, well, they’re just doin’ what they do. Bootz, start a-walkin’! I’m-a coming, door! I’m-a… okay, fine, let’s give it a chance.

“We got this king size to ourselves / Don’t have to share with no one else.” I… that… what does this mean? “Don’t have to share with no one else”? Was that ever a possibility? What couple shares their bed with… I’m overthinking this, aren’t I?

“Don’t keep your secrets to yourself / It’s kama sutra show and tell.” Show and tell: a school exercise, common at elementary level, in which one pupil presents a personal item to their class and discusses it for a few minutes. The Kama Sutra: a popular ancient Hindu book of sex positions popular with married couples looking to spice up their love lives. These two things are a lot like sushi and ice cream: separately, fine enough, but put them together and you create something… unspeakable.

“And when you leave me all alone / I’m like a stray without a home / I’m like a dog without a bone / I just want you for my own.” Bet you really burnt the midnight oil on that one, didn’t you, guys?

“Just like they say it in the song / Until the dawn, let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on.”

Geddit? Because Marvin Gaye sang “Let’s Get It On.”

So yes, this might just top Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” for Dumbest Pop Song Lyrics of 2015, but is there really any point in analysing it further? It’s a doofy line in a doofy song. But let’s poke it a little bit. This line is the chorus hook of the song. It’s where the perfect cadence – you know, that bit at the end of the chorus where it sounds really good and satisfying – is created by the final two notes. This is the part of the song that your ears are waiting for, the part that makes the build-up of the verse and chorus worthwhile for them, and it’s hinged on a reference to another, better song. A gold star for anyone who can point out why this might not have been a great idea.

So from what I can see, the songwriters came up with one bad joke and built a song about it. How much money did they funnel into this? That much, huh? Jeez, that’s depressing. And how much did it make back? That much? Seriously? Where’s that door again?

Also, “just like they say it in the song” is a weird line. It’s just clunky and awkward to say, let alone sing. So… yeah. Let that one sink in.

Verdict: Again, here’s another song that isn’t overly good or overly bad but is more or less just there. It’s catchy enough but you wouldn’t miss it if they took it off the radio tomorrow, and while it might have a small nostalgic following years down the line I think even Heart FM might find it a little too sugary for their future playlist. The healthiest afterlife this song can have is as “that song that tried to make Marvin Gaye into a verb and failed.” A meh out of 5.

Today’s double-up would logically be some Marvin Gaye, but instead I’m going to go for a song that has about as much to do with the man as this song does: “Vincent Price” by Deep Purple, which at least makes the most of its own tongue-in-cheek premise. It also has a sexy nun doing a pole dance, so top that, Charlie Puth.

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Pop Song Review: Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, “See You Again”

Well, as fascinating as these Eurovision reviews have been it’s nice to pop into the Western monoculture every now and then to see what I’m supposed to be paying attention to this week. With that said, today’s pop song review is “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.

First impressions: So is this supposed to be a tribute to someone? I feel as though they’re holding back on me there.

/freaking obvious sarcasm

The music: First of all, let’s get this out of the way: yes, this song obviously has a greater emotional context to it due to its association with Furious 7 and the tragic death of lead actor Paul Walker in November 2013. That is something that is still deeply saddening and it’s actually pretty inspiring that it still sends emotional ripples through popular culture to this day. Even if he never got his chance to truly shine, I think it’s great that we can celebrate what he did offer us in his too-brief time on this planet.

That said, screw this song.

Look, it’s an unpopular opinion for sure, and I don’t expect any martyr cred for this one, but someone somewhere had to be the git to point out that this is just not a very good song at all. I get that an up-tempo, all-pistons-blazing hard rocker would have been an insensitive tribute considering the circumstances of Walker’s death but… honestly, could we not have had something with a little more, I don’t know, passion put into it?

I mean, meet me halfway here: context aside, what am I actually supposed to like about this song? The melody is predictable and yet utterly forgettable: you know what’s coming but you somehow don’t know anymore once it’s actually been and gone, which is to say that this melody actively removes information from your brain. If it strayed any further from its perfect cadence it might get the variation it needs to be somewhat memorable, but nope – as soon as it’s out it just races back to that fifth before I can get too interested. Puth’s voice is technically strong but undeniably bland while Khalifa’s delivery is his usual disinterested monotone, propped up in the verses by a skipping beat and the pre-chorus by those butt-ugly synths. And then it all drops for that chorus, just Puth and his piano, before it explodes for the ‘ah-ah-ah-oh’ bit you’ve heard in a thousand pop songs before it. Er, passionate, I guess.

(Also, do I find it a little odd that an artist whose main lyrical focus up until now has been weed and general opulence has been tasked with fronting such an emotionally-charged song? Yes. Yes I do. Thank you for asking.)

Maybe it’s because I never knew Paul Walker and have no interest in these films, but the whole thing strikes me as a little too calculated and a little too exploitative. “Oh, you’re not crying? You’re not getting the feelz? What are you, some sort of heartless monster?” Call me crass, but surely Paul Walker deserved better than a bored-sounding stoner trading vocals with a Sam Smith clone?

The lyrics: Right, I don’t want to rip on the lyrics too much because that really would be me being unnecessarily mean about this whole thing. The music is lazy but these lyrics may very well have a deep personal resonance with the subject matter… assuming they’re even about Walker.

“Damn, who knew? / All the planes we flew.” Wait, hold on, planes? When did they ever fly a plane in a Fast & Furious film? Okay, there’s my first red flag telling me that this wasn’t actually written about Walker himself but was given juuuust enough lyrical relevance to make people think it was.

“How could we not talk about family when family’s all that we got? / Everything I went through you were standing there by my side / And now you gon’ be with me for the last ride.” Okay, that’s nice. I’ll give them that.

“It’s been a long day without you, my friend / And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” I want to give this line the same props, just for its admirable simplicity and emotional rawness, but I’m still having trouble shaking the feeling of disconnect I’m getting from it. Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” might have been mawkish but at least that tribute had some emotional weight due to the close personal relationship between the two artists. Did either Khalifa or Puth even know Paul Walker?

“First you both go out your way / “And the vibe is feeling strong.” I know I’m nitpicking here, but both? Who’s this third person Khalifa’s mentioning?

“Remember me when I’m gone.” You… do know we’re paying tribute to Walker at the moment, don’t you, Khalifa? We can plan your memorial later.

Verdict: Let me just reiterate that I in no way intended to discredit either Walker or the sentiment behind this tribute with my review. That doesn’t change the fact, though, that this is a boring, generic piano ballad with no value of its own beyond its unfortunate context. It’s brilliant that they wanted to celebrate Paul Walker’s life and work – I get that completely and I’m 100% behind that – but that doesn’t mean I have to like the way it’s been done. Frankly I think he deserved better than “See You Again” but, obviously, millions of people disagree, so who cares what I think, right? 2 out of 5.

Today’s double-up is “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog.